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Westlake woman put up Yellow Dogs twice during SXSW

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Michael Corcoran

Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 12, 2013

“Hey, Mom, wasn’t that group from Iran that stayed at your house during South by Southwest called the Yellow Dogs?” Eileen Pestorius of Westlake was in Maryland visiting her daughter when her son Michael called.

“Yes,” she said. Then he told her the dreadful news, that two of the band’s members, guitarist Soroush Farazmand, 27, and his brother, drummer Arash Farazmand, 28, had been killed just after midnight Monday at their apartment in Brooklyn by the former member of fellow Iranian band the Free Keys. Also killed was Iranian singer-songwriter Ali Eskandarian, 35, who was staying with the Yellow Dogs. The shooter Ali Akbar Mohammadi Rafie turned his rifle on himself after the rampage, which was reportedly set in motion when Rafie was fired from the Free Keys after selling some of the band’s equipment.

“It was such a horrible shock,” said Pestorius, the mother of Okkervil River bassist Patrick Pestorius. “They were such hopeful boys, full of so much joy. I think there was a real future for them. They loved their music.”

Eileen Pestorius met the band at SXSW 2010 after they played a showcase for Dart Music International, an Austin non-profit. “The Yellow Dogs didn’t have a place to stay and when Eileen heard about it, she offered to put them up at her house,” Dave Dart said. The showcase had been a huge success and at one point the Iranians were onstage with Israeli singer Onili, coming together through music, the stated goal of Dart Music. “The Yellow Dogs had these big, infectious smiles. They were interested in everything. It’s hard to lose somebody like that,” Dart said.

“I had six the first year and eight the next (time),” said Pestorius, who has two spare bedrooms and a den upstairs. “They were such great houseguests. They called me on Mother’s Day. We stayed in touch.” The band, along with a pair of Iranian street artists named Icy and Sot, stayed at the Pestorious house again this past March, when they played SXSW a third time, at the Dart showcase in the backyard of Austin attorney Mark McCrimmon’s law practice on Ninth Street.

“The last time we talked on the phone in the spring, it seemed like everything was going so well,” said Pestorius, a painter. After the band’s second time staying at her house, they gifted her with a watercolor from a noted Iranian artist. “I didn’t want them to give me anything, really,” she said. “It was my pleasure having them. They were wonderful boys. This is just so sad.” The watercolor was tucked away in the garage, but now it’s something she’ll cherish, like the memories of young men who came to this free country to play music and exuded such euphoria being in a town so overflowing with independent sounds in the second weekend of March.

UPDATE: This blog was corrected to say that the second time the Yellow Dogs stayed at the Pestorious house was this past March during SXSW. Also, the spelling of Pestorius has been corrected.