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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Billy Brooks’ WOW Fest is back and better than ever

    Hailey Eisenbach
    Hailey Eisenbach / Arizona Daily Wildcat Local talents Tinsels, Dying Bedmaker and Ocean Void play at Tucson’s new venue, Tucson Live Music Space on Thurs., September 13.

    With any luck, this weekend downtown Tucson will see an influx of beards, black band T-shirts and beer, all of which are a part of the annual Way Out West Fest.

    “Since day one, it’s never been about making money,” said Billy Brooks, who has been the festival’s organizer, promoter and MC since the first WOW Fest in 2011. “I just knew that I wanted to make something that would bring people, bring bands, to Tucson.”

    This is the third year Brooks has poured his savings into the weekend-long festival, learning as he goes. The first WOW Fest scored an impressive amount of online press, not to mention sponsorships from Razorcake and the now-defunct AMP Magazine.

    “It just blew up online, even before I really knew how or where to do it,” Brooks said. “I would go up to Phoenix, even out to California, and just hand stuff out about it. Even for the first one, we had tons of submissions to play.”

    Since 2011, WOW has only gotten more successful. Last year’s WOW Fest II brought nearly $30,000 into the local economy through hotels, transportation and beer, Brooks estimates.

    Brooks himself barely made a dime.

    “The core group of people that really makes WOW Fest what it is, the people who come every year, are just the kind of people who believe in this whole DIY music thing,” he said. “To me, that’s worth the money.”

    Though this year’s WOW Fest will only be a two-day festival, running Friday and Saturday, it is shaping up to be just as much of a communal experience as the three-day festivals of previous years.

    There will be a couple other changes to this year’s festival as well, including fewer bands.

    “There’s less bands this year, around 30, but that means that I’ve really been selective in who gets to play,” Brooks said. “Virtually every band who has played in the past asked to come back and play III.”

    Of course, getting to see more than 30 bands for a $20 pass is still a steal, especially considering the set times are staggered between The District Tavern and The JunXion Bar so fans can see as many bands as possible.

    The other major change Brooks has made for this year is the addition of an all-ages component with a Thursday pre-show and a Sunday post-show at the all-ages venue he manages, Tucson Live Music Space.

    “I love Tucson, and I like to share things that I like here with friends all over the country,” Brooks said. “Part of that is just giving people, no matter how old they are, the opportunity to hang out and make new friends.”

    He acknowledges that general attendance for events like this in Tucson is low these days, but he remains optimistic.

    “I just see the bands who are coming every year to have a weekend where they can hang out with their friends, like the music is almost a byproduct,” he said. “This is a fest about the people.”

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