An audacious L.A. band barely out of high school, a rootsy British singer-songwriter with a freshly-minted No. 1 Billboard Triple A hit, and one of pop music’s great polymaths beat out more than 2,000 other Showcasing Artists to take home SXSW’s 2018 Grulke Prizes. Conferred by a panel of festival staff and selected music-biz insiders, the annual award honors SXSW Music’s longtime Creative Director Brent Grulke, who passed away at age 51 in August 2012.
This year’s winners are Starcrawler (Developing U.S. Act), Jade Bird (Developing Non-U.S. Act), and Todd Rundgren (Career Act).
Before joining the festival in 1993, Grulke worked as a sound engineer, tour manager, record label manager, and the Austin Chronicle’s music editor. At SXSW, the number of performers he booked doubled in his first five years. His fingerprints are still all over the festival, whose total performances topped 2,700 across more than 100 stages this year. Of Grulke’s remarkable career, veteran music writer Michael Corcoran wrote: “first you learn to become a professional, and then you never stop.”
Those words could just as easily have been written about Todd Rundgren. As a producer alone, the Philadelphia native has delivered landmark albums across the pop-rock spectrum. Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re An American Band, Hall & Oates’ War Babies, Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, The Tubes’ Remote Control, XTC’s Skylarking, and Psychedelic Furs’ Forever Now are all his. So is the New York Dolls’ self-titled 1973 debut, the launchpad for dozens of punk and glam-rock bands in the decades that followed — including, one could easily argue, Starcrawler.