The timing has been strategically chosen to correlate with South by Southwest (SXSW), directly preceding the much larger international arts and media expo in Austin. Expo organizers hope they might catch out-of-town crowds on their way to SXSW, native-Austinites wishing to escape the madness of SXSW in favor of a more low-key arts event, and Baylor students whose Spring Break starts the day after the Expo ends.
The Common Grounds stage will host day two of the Expo, featuring Central Texas bands including Bobby Jealousy and O, Loveland.
Although Wilson, McGrath, and Palich are the proud parents of the Expo, its development, much like the event itself, has been an act of collaboration. One of the first people the friends approached was Common Grounds music manager, Wes Butler. Butler migrated from the music capital of Nashville to Waco so his wife could attend graduate school at Baylor. He, a musician in his own right, has been using his knowledge of the industry to bolster Waco's music scene from his position at Common Grounds.
It was a logical choice, then, for the event organizers to come to Butler for help. Common Grounds not only agreed to host the music portion of the event, but Butler has also been instrumental in getting the word out and booking Texas talent for the expo.
Explaining Common Grounds' decision to host the event, Butler says, "The Expo goes in the vein of what Common Grounds has always been - a place that fosters community and arts. Everything we do at Common Grounds is something we feel that people have to know about. We don't showcase talent we don't stand beside."
L to R, Ben Palich, Owen McGrath, Mackenzie Wilson, and Wes Butler hangout on the the Hippie Bus, a Common Grounds fixture.
The venue for the film portion of the event is the Dancing Bear Pub, another local favorite. "We love them. That's where we spend our time, and we love all the people who work there. They have great intent behind what they do, support Texas beers, and are deep into their craft," says Wilson, highlighting the importance that every aspect of the expo jive with local flavor and quality standards. And quality is paramount to event organizers and the future of Waco's film and music scene. "It's not just about supporting art, it's about supporting good art," McGrath emphasizes. The Expo aims to set a precedent for a culture of quality.
Music, Film, Silver and Gold Passes are available for sale at the event website. The WIME is still looking for sponsors, volunteers, musicians, and film entrants. For information about how you can join with this league of creatives, visit the Contact page on the site.
"Living in Waco, you meet the most incredibly talented people, and they don't always receive the opportunity to show what they've got," says Mackenzie Wilson, a 5th year vocal performance major at Baylor with her finger on the pulse of Waco's music scene. Wilson cites how notoriously difficult it is to get a break in the entertainment industry. "Instead of hoping opportunities would come to us, we decided to make our own opportunities," she says. And she has not only made an opportunity for herself, but also for other independent Central Texas artists who deserve to be heard.
Waco musician, Kat Dixon, of Married with Sea Monsters, performs in January. She will return to the Common Grounds stage in March to play at the Expo.
Wilson and Ben Palich, a filmmaker and 5th year film and digital media major at Baylor, began their festival production career with the 8th Street Film Festival, showcasing the work of Baylor students and other Central Texas independent filmmakers. The second biannual 8th Street Film Festival took place at Common Grounds in December. Wilson and Palich's mutual friend, Owen McGrath visited from Dallas to attend the film fest. With creativity on the brain, the three friends began throwing around ideas for a second festival that would expand beyond just film to include musical acts. The concept evolved into a two-day long music and film expo, and a Waco first.
The event organizers wasted no time. "We didn't give ourselves a chance to sit on the idea. We knew that if we wanted to do this, we had to get up and go for it now," says McGrath, who moved to Waco to be on hand for event development, marketing and production. And get going they did. By the time January 13th rolled around, a website was launched and tickets were on sale for the Waco Independent Media Expo - an event that is bringing Waco arts culture into the spotlight.
San Antonio rockers, Hydra Melody, will be one of the bands headlining the Waco Independent Media Expo.
The event will kick off Thursday evening, March 6th, with screenings of independent and student films on the patio of Dancing Bear Pub. Although music might take up a larger time block than film, the Expo is devoted to both equally. The event organizers are scouring Texas for stellar short films, and possibly a full-length feature. "Watch the Skies," a sci-fi short film directed by Benjamin Davis and co-written by Tyler Hiott, Benjamin Davis, and Jonathan Kirby is slated in the headlining spot. The music portion of the event will begin the following afternoon in the Common Grounds Backyard. Several bands on the Expo's roster are native to Waco. Other Central Texas cities have also been scoured for rising artists. The lineup, still under development, includes San Antonio's Hydra Melody, Waco's Johnny's Body, and Austin's Bobby Jealousy. Musicians and filmmakers are not charged to perform or have their work shown in the Expo.
The third and final portion of the event is perhaps most reflective of the organizers' larger goals of uniting and expanding the Waco arts community. "After" will serve as a networking event, connecting filmmakers with musicians to collaborate on soundtracks and music videos, connecting volunteers with artists to form street teams, and introducing fans and arts advocates both to artists and to each other. After will take place Friday evening. The location will remain shrouded in mystery until Friday afternoon when Gold Pass holders will receive information regarding the event's whereabouts. All Expo volunteers will also receive event entrance.