Waterloo Music Festival 2018

Waterloo FestivalWaterloo 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:

  • Dancing at Waterloo Music Festivala variety of genres from rock to jam to pop, funk, and more
  • bands coming from California to Colorado to Oklahoma to New York and Georgia plus several from Austin
  • a vibe that's friendly, free spirited, and fun
  • free form jiving, dancing, and swinging to the music
  • a good mix of fans from 2 years old to fanny-packed twenty somethings to 75 year old hippie retirees - all of which make for some great people watching
  • hippie tie dye shirts, fanny packs, flowers, flowing skirts, hula hoops and dreds
  • cold beer, popcorn, and some interesting food
  • sweet smelling funny looking cigarettes

Music at Waterloo Fest

Relix Stage at Waterloo FestMain Stage at Waterloo FestWaterloo 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.

Waterloo Festival Line-up for Friday

Relix StageThe 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:

  • Mamafesta - an original groove-rock outfit that creates a high-energy wave of sound that entices and evokes the spirit of the soul
  • Big Something - a 6 piece powerhouse with a sound that is both unique and timeless, Big Something fuses elements of rock, pop, funk, and improvisation to take listeners on a journey through a myriad of musical styles
  • Montu - an Oklahoma-based jamtronica act that seamlessly fuses funk, jazz, rock, and R&B, all with the underpinning of electronic music, to create a unique sound

Mamafesta at Waterloo FestBig Something at Waterloo FestMontu at Waterloo Fest

  • Austin Groove Project - Tameca made a name for herself as the "Queen of Austin Soul," blowing minds with her tasteful and vibrant interpretations of a diverse list of artists that include Tina Turner, Nirvana, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, and more
  • Magic Beans - "Casino Cabaret", this band brings the heart, the vibes, and the feelings of those Denver nights coast to coast
  • Oteil and Friends - two-time Grammy winning bassist Oteil Burbridge has shared the stage with rock and blues legends such as Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Levon Helm, Taj Mahal, Buddy Guy, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Billy Gibbons, Chuck Leavell, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Johnny Winter, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow and Trey Anastasio.

Austin Groove Project at Waterloo FestMagic Beans at Waterloo FestOteil & Friends at Waterloo Fest

  • Perpetual Groove - from Athens, GA their genre-bending, highly original sound touches upon jazz-rock, neo-psychedelia, R&B, trance electronica, progressive rock, and anthemic arena rock
  • The String Cheese Incident - a group of live music vibe innovators recognized for their commitment to musical creativity and integrity while inventing grassroots music
  • TAUK - an all-instrumental blend of progressive rock, hip-hop, and jazz

Perpetual GrooveString Cheese Incident at Waterloo FestTauk

Saturday's Line-up at Waterloo Fest

Saturday was overcast but the music started on time at 1 PM with the following line-up:

  • Big Wy's Brass Band - a New Orleans style brass and funk band based out of Austin
  • Amoramora - they make you want to dance to a blend of psychedelic jams, funk, bluegrass, african high life and beyond
  • Tea Leaf Green - this quartet is the essence of an adventurous and playfully outlaw spirit, all of which ultimately fuels songs that resonate with classic vibrations, open-ended possibilities and radio ready charm

Big Wy's Brass Band at Waterloo FestAmoramora at Waterloo FestTea Leaf Green

  • Los Coast - their music is a punchy, psych-tinged, lyrical variety of rock and soul.
  • Marco Benevento - the Los Angles Times raves: "Benevento continues to straighten his twisted sound into the guise of an indie-rock singer-songwriter, harnessing his inventive sonic palette into rewardingly bite-size pop songs that touch on disco and soul"
  • Everyone Orchestra - an improvised set that balances the challenges of live group improvisation with triumphant tension and releases conduits of music which head deep into the soul with a performance that encourages and requires audience interaction

Los Coast at Waterloo Fest Marco Benevento at Waterloo FestEveryone's Orchestra at Waterloo Fest

  • Joe Russo's Almost Dead - this quintet play tight and vicious versions of some of the most complex songs in the Grateful Dead's repertoire, but they play them with a rawness and energy absent from the stage since the 'Live' Dead era
  • Orgone - they deliver dirty, organic, California soul with heart and music that grabs you by the collar, pulls you to your feet and makes you want to dance
  • The String Cheese Incident - Over the past decade, The String Cheese Incident has emerged as one of America's most significant independent bands

Joe Russo's Almost Dead at Waterloo FestOrgone at Waterloo FestString Cheese Incident at Waterloo Fest

  • The Motet - this seven piece group from Denver fuse fiery funk, simmering soul, and improvisational inventiveness

The Motet at Waterloo Fest

Sunday's Line-up at Waterloo Festival

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:

  • Sarah Grace & The Soul - they combine powerful vocals and rootsy musicianship to create their own original sound of blues, rock, and soul
  • Deadeye - a Grateful Dead Tribute delivered with energy and passion
  • Sour Bridges - this funky, rock-inspired group's distinct sound starts with a steady drumbeat, layers on bluegrass instrumentation (banjo, guitar, bass, and fiddle) and tops off with electric guitar, boots, and impressive harmonies

Sarah Grace & The Soul at Waterloo FestDeadeye at Waterloo FestSour Bridges at Waterloo Fest

  • Hard Proof - KUTX radio may have put it best: "This local nine-piece ensemble always puts on an electrifying live show, an absolute blowout of non-stop percussion action and blasting brass, bringing the best of both worlds to the stage by mixing classic styles and plenty of their personal panache to own the show."
  • Kalu & The Soul - they blend the powers of psychedelic soul music with the driving beat of rock and roll and the ancient rhythms of Africa.
  • Leftover Salmon - wow, these guys were outstanding and one of the great purveyors of Americana, their music comes from American roots music traditions with bluegrass picking (they call it Slam Grass), Cajun two-stepping, and the country blues

Hard Proof at Waterloo FestKalu & The Soul at Waterloo FestLeft Over Salmon at Waterloo Fest

  • Railroad Earth - they sing of our nation's changing landscape and social ills with a commitment reminiscent of Woody Guthrie, while interpolating instrumental timbres that could have been pulled from Celtic or Cajun culture and a set that was imbued with the fire-in-the-belly passion of straight-ahead, blue collar rock & roll
  • Pimps of Joytime - an intersection of Brooklyn's indie music scene, New Orleans funk and San Francisco soul
  • Easy Star All-Stars - one of the top international reggae acts with a blend of musical versatility, instrumental prowess, beautiful vocal harmonies and a premier rhythm section

Railroad EarthPimps of JoytimeEasy Star All-Stars

  • The String Cheese Incident - they have carved out a completely different approach to the business of music; they are truly pioneers of a new way of "making a band"
  • BoomBox - an electronic blend of soulful Rock and Blues based dance music incorporating Backbeat, Psychedelia and Funky House sounds, veraciously referred to as "Dirty Disco Blues"

String Cheese Incident at Waterloo FestBoombox

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:

  • Yoga classes and creative workshops
  • Slip and slide at Waterloo FestMeditation, hooping lessons and more
  • Drum circle workshop
  • Bocce ball tournament at the festival
  • Slip and slide for the kids
  • Stream of consciousness workshop
  • Fest-wide water balloon fight
  • Silent disco for campers from midnight to 4 AM
  • T-shirt heat pressing - a beautiful way to create clothing with color and meaning
  • Lots of art with some artists creating it during the Festival

Art at Waterloo FestArt at Waterloo Festart at Waterloo Fest

Camping, Food, and VIP

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.

Vendors at Waterloo FestFood at Waterloo Festvendors at Waterloo Fest

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.

Glamping tents at Waterloo FestIf 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.

Waterloo Fest Music Fans

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.

fans at Waterloo FestFans at Waterloo Festfans 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.

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