Five years ago, a group of largely underage UT students began working on their own idea for a festival. Fed up with the lack of options for anyone under 21, they were determined to make their own fun and make it free. Thus, West By West Campus was born.
Story by Sam Limerick
Photos courtesy of @wxwc
What: West by West Campus
Where: 21st St. Co-op, French House Co-Op, Eden House Co-Op
When: Friday, Feb. 21 – Film (6 – 10 p.m.), and Saturday, Feb. 22 – Music (12 p.m. – 12 a.m.)
West By West Campus (WXWC) is a completely free, student-run film and music festival held in the heart of West Campus. Now in its fifth and final year, the film portion will take place on Feb. 21 and the music portion on Feb. 22. This is the last chance for the community to experience WXWC in all of its glory before the festival’s organizers call it quits — and they intend to go out with a bang.
The WXWC website says the festival was founded on the ideals of DIY party-making, but that is not its only focus. It will also showcase bands with members too young to play downtown, but too good to ignore. Tessa Hunt, one of the original organizers of the festival, says starting it was a no-brainer. “We were surrounded by good bands with young members who consistently got crappy shows downtown, which was frustrating to watch. What can the 18 to 20-[year-old] crowd do, besides go out to eat and spend money?” she says.
The first WXWC materialized in 2010 in West Campus’ co-op housing units and quickly garnered support from the surrounding music and film communities. WXWC organizer William Salazar says the festival tries to stick to the same cooperative principles of co-op housing. Fellow organizer Jenni Gritti agrees. “The DIY attitude and experience has really brought the West Campus community together, and ultimately unites everyone in just having a good f–king time.”
As the festival organizers moved forward with securing sound permits and covering other incidentals for the first WXWC, they say one question loomed overhead: How were they going to fund the event? They turned to local businesses for financial support, but found many were hesitant to risk their resources and reputation on an all-ages, BYOB event. They found one sponsor, however, in the Bodega on Rio convenience store, who donated $100. “Bodega’s opening was just dumb luck; they opened over the summer and really needed customers, and we needed money,” Hunt says. Still, with many local businesses being strapped for cash, the organizers had to make some sacrifices. “I end up paying about $200 out-of-pocket each year,” she adds.
The first festival took place in the Eden House, 21st St. Co-op and House of Guys, all within close proximity of each other. It continued to grow and later added the French House to its list of venues, while still functioning as an exhibition of the co-op lifestyle and ethos. “Students and Austin residents who have not been to housing cooperatives get the chance to see another side of Austin. It also shows the power that a group of people could have to make an event like this happen is immense, Salazar says. Sticking to its grassroots aesthetic, WXWC took to Kickstarter, an online crowd-funding tool, in order to raise money for this year’s festival. Their most important demographic was, predictably, the co-op community. “I went from house to house within Inter Cooperative Council and College Houses,” Salazar says. Ultimately, the campaign was a success, raising $3,000 in just over two weeks and allowing WXWC to provide the community with one last year of DIY party-making.
Once the event was successfully funded, each venue began to announce its lineup, which features a wide range of artists, stylistically and experientially. A good deal of WXWC veterans are present for this year’s event, such as such as folk/math-rock hybrid Hikes and high-energy rock group The Hereticks, as well as newcomers to the local music scene, such as chaotic pop band Red Blue One Two.
As a testament to the power of the community–driven music and film scene within Austin, WXWC helps aspiring young artists to gain an audience that might not have been attainable otherwise. But in spite of its continual growth over the last five years, the organizers have agreed that it is time to throw in the towel to preserve its legacy and honor its original intentions. “We’re all growing older and further from the festival, both literally and figuratively,” Gritti says of herself and the other organizers. “If you can’t do anything with a full heart, it’s not worth doing,” she adds.
Although the end is near, the WXWC organizers want to give their creation an appropriate sendoff. “Instead of seeing it die a slow and painful death through apathy and time, we want to end on a high note. So, after this, that’s it. It’s done. We’re leaving a good looking corpse,” Gritti says.