Waterloo Music Festival is an independent festival that "celebrates the roots of the Austin music culture with three days packed full of nationally renowned jam bands and some of the best bands from Austin." The 2018 inaugural festival was held on the 60 acre Carson Creek Ranch which borders the Colorado River about 10 miles east of downtown Austin. In addition to two stages and over 25 bands, Waterloo Music Festival had pecan-tree-lined campgrounds for tent or RV camping, several food and merchandise vendors, cold beer and drinks, and 15,000 lively fun music fans. The Festival was produced by Austin event promoters, Unknown Entertainment, Havin' a Ball Productions, and Heard Presents.
From our perspective here is what Waterloo Fest is all about:
Waterloo Fest was three days and can best be described as a jam band jamboree! Nationally known acts from all over the United States and several bands from Austin jammed from early afternoon to 1 AM Friday and Saturday and ended at 11 PM on Sunday. The thirty bands played on one of two stages - the huge main stage and the smaller really cool stage that had the Colorado River as a back drop was about 50 yards in back of the stage. The music overlapped stages by 15 to 30 minutes which means you could catch most of every band's set.
If you're not familiar with a jam band, here is Wikipeda's description: "A jam band is a musical group whose live albums and concerts relate to a fan culture that began in the 1960s with the Grateful Dead, and continued with The Allman Brothers Band, and Phish which had lengthy jams at concerts. The performances of these bands typically feature extended musical improvisation ("jams") over rhythmic grooves and chord patterns, and long sets of music that can often cross genre boundaries." The Waterloo Festival bands met that definition to a tee and part of what made the music great was the wide variety of genres - bluegrass, reggae, rock, pop, funk, blues, grassroots, hip hop, jazz, and more.
The Festival music kicked off at 2 PM on the beautiful Relix stage. Grass tiers sloped down toward the stage which made it easy from everywhere to view the artists on the stage with the Colorado River as a backdrop. When we arrived it was overcast and drizzling and there was a short delay due to lightening in the area. But it wasn't long before the sky cleared and the music and good vibes started. Unfortunately, my back gave out and we had to leave early, missing several good bands. I've used a combination of my pictures as well as pictures from some of the professional event photographers - thanks for the contribution, your pictures make mine look like I was using a old film camera from the 1920's! The line-up for Friday included:
Saturday was overcast but the music started on time at 1 PM with the following line-up:
It poured most of Saturday night and early Sunday morning but by the time the music started at 11:30 it had slowed to a light drizzle. The main stage field was covered with several deep puddles of water which as the afternoon progressed turned into mud. The crowds were light for most of the early part of the day but steadily grew as the day progressed. The rain and puddles of water didn't slow down the fans - shoes came off, umbrellas popped out, and rain gear was put on. Nobody complained and the weather conditions didn't slow down the music, the dancing, and the good times. Sunday's line-up was fantastic and included:
In addition to three days of great music, there were workshops, artists painting some cool art, several food and merchandise vendors. Some of the workshops and other things to do included:
We attend a lot of festivals and Waterloo Fest had the most interesting and unique mix of food vendors. There were the normal tacos, burritos, and nachos, but also Gangstra Steak (interesting mix of sandwiches like pulled pork with mac and cheese, gouda cheese sauce, and maple bacon), beef or lamb gyros, chicken shawarma wrap, stuffed French toast, fresh fish BLT, and a variety of tasty Thai food options. There were also several vendors selling artist merchandise, clothing, jewelry, and beer, wine, and sodas.
The best way to enjoy Waterloo Fest is to camp and not worry about parking each day or having to drive home. There is tent camping, car camping, and some RV sites, some of which have electricity. The campground has it's own entrance that's very close to the main stage. The campground has restrooms, water, and some showers. The campground is always alive with campers singing and picking, cooking, playing games, and socializing.
If you don't want to go through the pain of setting up and breaking down your tent, you can rent and enjoy a European-style Bell tent in a reserved luxury camping area. The 13' by 13' tent comes complete with air conditioning, tent setup and breakdown, a 24/7 dedicated concierge desk, and one free Car Camping Vehicle Pass. They also have a camp table, 2 backpacker chairs, zBug lantern, a fan and light combo, a 50 quart hard cooler and cots with either foam topper or a queen airbed.
It costs more but from our perspective the VIP pass is worth the extra price because it includes: express festival entry, a reserved viewing area right in front of the Waterloo Stage, a shaded lounge and dedicated bar, premium, flushable, air-conditioned toilets, and a daily VIP happy hour.
As I mentioned the fans who attended Waterloo Fest were a fun mixture of everything from two year olds, young twenty some things, and retired hippies from the sixties. There were several interesting outfits, lots of tie die shirts, hippy flowing skirts, and a few interesting costumes! Everyone was friendly, outgoing, and attending Waterloo Fest for some fun times and good music. Lots of singing and dancing to the music and everybody seemed to be having a great time despite the rain and mud! Click on this link to see more pictures of the fans, camping, and more at Waterloo Fest.
The staff and security were great - friendly, helpful, and out to make sure the attendees had a safe and fun festival.
Make sure you mark your calendar for next year's Waterloo Festival.