By: Frances Molina
On a warm Wednesday afternoon, I joined UT sociology senior Zia Garza on Spiderhouse’s sun-drenched patio to discuss her plans for the upcoming West Campus Block Party, a single-day local-music festival thrown in three different West Campus co-ops. This is not our first introduction. I met Zia for the first time when I was living at Pearl Street Co-op, where Zia currently resides as Social Coordinator.
It’s her final semester at Pearl and the last few months have a been a whirlwind. When she wasn’t booking bands to play at the infamous Pearl Street parties, she was working to organize the entertainment for this year’s West Campus Block Party, communicating with several other members of the co-op community to make sure every set would be a smash. Needless to say, she’s a busy lady. I was lucky enough to snag an hour of her time and learn all about what makes the West Campus Block Party – and Zia Garza – so fucking rad.
SMEAR: To begin, tell me a little about yourself.
Zia: I’m just a student trying to figure out what I want to do. I used to be a biology major and I was trying to be a vet. But I threw a show with Walter TV at Pearl Street and it completely changed my view on what I wanted to do. I was always interested in music, but that show opened my eyes to something I could actually do with music.
S: When did you get involved with the West Campus Block Party?
Z: It started as an event hosted closer to South By Southwest called “West by West Campus,” an event for us college kids. The folks who organized the event graduated and left and couldn’t continue. So, a group of other co-opers and myself got together to form a similar music event that incorporates all the co-ops.
Jake Hiebert contacted a group from Pearl, French House and Eden House – we threw together the first WCBP back in the spring 2015. We were all excited for another music fest to happen. We were carrying on but also expanding on a tradition.
S: And this year, you’re sort of in charge of organizing the event?
Z: It isn’t just me – it’s a community effort. It’s a huge event and I didn’t want to do it alone. Not just because it’s a huge event, but I wanted to get as many people involved as possible because I think it’s community based. We’re trying to benefit all the co-op communities, to actually be “cooperative,” since [all the co-ops] never really interact with each other. I like the idea of bringing everyone together for a day of music.
S: Anyone who’s familiar with the co-ops know that they’re all pretty different from each other. How do you incorporate all the houses successfully?
Z: Yeah, each of the co-ops has their own vibe going, and it’s a nice idea to enjoy each space. We book musicians and assign them to a particular co-op venue based on their sounds. We took into account the space and where the stages would be when booking each band. Of course, the bigger artists would be at the bigger venues like Pearl or 21st Street. But I also tried to get a good mixture of genres.
S: What sort of bands and artists do you invite to play the festival?
Z: I usually book garage bands, indie, etc. There are some rap groups and a few punk groups, but I also did want to focus on promoting the music and talents of women,LGTBQ artists and people of color. That’s just something I identity with and something I find important – to help promote these people when I can. My politics play a role when I book/promote bands. I wouldn’t feel good about something I put together if the set list was all the same type of bands.
S: I get that. I personally feel like the music scene can be really homogenous at times and now with all the music festivals, very corporate. How does WCBP play a role in the larger Austin music scene?
Z: Well I can only speak for my work at Pearl Street. Everything we do is done ourselves. When we host shows, we have members working the door, doing security. It’s a very DIY attitude. It’s a lot less structured. Co-ops allow for a more relaxed aspect of music – the only downside is we don’t have a big budget because we are so DIY. And I believe in payment for artist’s work. It’s just hard working with a very small budget.
S: If the dollar signs aren’t there, what’s the incentive for the band to come and play?
Z: I just think it’s a really special environment. This specific festival has built up a name for itself for the fact that it gives artists and bands exposure. We started as a more of a local scene, showcasing local acts because we wanted to promote people who were already here making music instead of bigger touring acts. It just fits well with the DIY mentality of the co-op scene. I’m friends with a lot of these artists or they’re friends of friends, and I just feel like we are really connected in a community.
S: Where do you see this event in the next 3 to 5 years?
Z: I want to see it continue, of course. I want the festival to get its own budget, since we’re relying on donations from all the co-ops involved. So I kind of want to set up a budget selling band merch, t-shirts and posters so the WCBP can continue to grow. The biggest thing is keeping people interested - because it’s a lot of work.
The West Campus Block Party will be going on this weekend on Saturday the 22nd from 4:00 PM to midnight. Music and comedy shows will be hosted by Pearl Street, 21st Street, Eden House, and French House.