Waterloo: A Recap from a Festival First Timer

Recently, Austin became home to yet another music festival — one of many across Texas’ growing festival circuit. Waterloo Music Festival had a successful inaugural weekend, with three days packed with highly talented jam bands giving their all on two stages. With this being my first music festival, I wanted to give a recap and my thoughts on how the festival experience was for a first timer.

 Photos by Nick Bailey

Photos by Nick Bailey

As someone who was never particularly interested in going to concerts (my thinking being, why pay tons of money to see a band perform once, when I could buy the album for a fraction of the cost and have it forever) I was skeptical going into Waterloo Fest. For me, this was completely new territory; going to a setting I’d never been in to listen to bands I’d never heard of, surrounded by people I’ve never met — and of course, I went in solo.

When I got to Carson Creek Ranch, the festival was just getting started for the day. The weekend brought out more than 15,000 attendees, which is impressive on its own, but what I really liked was not feeling too crowded, but more on that later.

 Items for sale from a vendor at Waterlook Music Fest. Photo by Nick Bailey

Items for sale from a vendor at Waterlook Music Fest. Photo by Nick Bailey

Originally when I talked about Waterloo Fest, all I knew to expect was a bunch of bands, but the festival had much more to offer. There are a lot of talented painters at the festival as well as a strong showing of vendors. With booths full of tie dye clothes and smoking accessories, I quickly realized what sort of festival I was in for.

Not one to pass judgement, I checked out the various vendors to see what they had to offer, and many had cool souvenirs for sale. Whether you were looking for a super comfy blanket or a new pipe to help you enjoy the festival, they had it all, including some small music instruments. I say all this to say, plenty of people enjoyed their festival experience.

 Trey Privott of Los Coast during their set on Saturday. Photo by Nick Bailey

Trey Privott of Los Coast during their set on Saturday. Photo by Nick Bailey

As for the music, I have to say...I was wrong about music festivals. Being able to be surrounded by happy people dancing and being free while musicians killed it on stage is an amazing feeling. Saturday was easily my favorite day. After hearing Los Coast’s opening set, I wasn’t sure what all to expect, but I knew it’d be good if they put this talent on the smaller Relix Stage to start the day. I’m no festival expert, but I assume the bigger Waterloo Stage was intended for bigger artists, but personally, I like the smaller stage a lot more. We could get a lot closer to the bands and it felt like a more intimate setting — and having the Colorado River as a chill backdrop definitely added to the vibe. One thing Waterloo Fest did well was staggering the performances between the two stages, so everyone could catch every band’s set, and not be stuck in the back because of front row campers — not sure if this is common practice for festivals, but I appreciated it.

My only real gripe with the festival, was the price of food and drinks. Going in, I didn’t know that it was pretty much cash only, so all I had was my card — trying to pack lightly. Drinks were pretty steep, with Gatorade being around  $4 for a 12-ounce bottle with some vendors, and funnel cakes being about $10. Adult drinks were at similar rates, with $12 cocktails served up by Sourced Craft Cocktails. Being financially responsible, I abstained from most of these options.

 Adryon de León performing on the Relix Stage. Photo by Nick Bailey

Adryon de León performing on the Relix Stage. Photo by Nick Bailey

My festival highlight overall, has got to be seeing Orgone’s set on the Relix Stage. Frontwoman Adryon de León’s vocal prowess was enough to give me chills. She left it all on that stage, and I’d happily pay to see it again. Not to mention founding guitarist Sergio Rios’s masterful passion for the craft on full display during high-energy solos that left fans in awe. I can’t even begin to explain the energy this soulful ensemble brought to the stage — I just hope I won’t spend future festivals chasing this dragon.

All in all, I’d have to say Waterloo Music Festival was a success, despite a few rain clouds. The crowd was full of positive vibes and free spirits of all ages. If you’re looking for a new festival to check out, I highly recommend making plans for next year’s Waterloo Fest early — it’s only going to get better from here.

Nick Bailey is a forward thinking journalist with a well-rounded skill set including writing, design, and photography. Nick now resides in Austin, TX after earning a degree in Mass Communication with an emphasis on journalism from Texas A&M University—Commerce.