Eclectic mix of local, national artists to headline Wild Frontier Fest

Shane Miller

Wild Frontier Fest is the brainchild of the Vagabond Collective and will take place Saturday at Mohawk, on the corner of 10th and Red River streets. Headlined by Los Angeles electronica giant Baths and sponsored by big names such as Scion and Alamo Drafthouse, Wild Frontier Fest is an all-day event with two stages and more than 25 bands. In its first year, the festival sold out Mohawk, and last year, more than 1,000 people were in attendance for one of Emo’s final shows at its original, but now vacant, Red River Street location.

The Vagabond Collective is an up-and-coming Austin-based record label ranked by the Austin Chronicle as the 8th best in the city in 2011. Named for their tendency to wander between musical genres, Vagabond founders Ricky Valenzuela and Cory Green have redefined what it means to be a local record label. Having taken Austin pop-punk band Thieves under their wing in addition to producing for rapper Click-Clack and managing various indie bands such as Major Major Major, one would be hard-pressed to find a label involved in more genres. After starting locally, they’ve expanded and have brought bands such as surf rockers Wavves from California and eccentric Japanese entertainers Peelander-Z to Austin.

In a city branded as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” competition can necessitate a multitude of struggling musical acts and events. As expected, bands and labels form and crumble every day.

“The music industry is a constant battle,” Cory Green, co-founder of Vagabond Collective, said. “We are a tight-knit, hardworking group of friends doing what we love.”

The Vagabond Collective has managed to sidestep traditional problems and has adapted its business model to incorporate almost every aspect of the music business under one roof. Modern artists can now easily record their own work and upload it to spread on the Internet, but that’s where the need for promotion often comes in.

“We are a hybrid,” Ricky Valenzuela, Vagabond Collective co-founder, said. “We are adapting to the rapidly changing music industry and the correlating changing needs of artists.”

In addition to being a record label, the small team of five has a hand in recording, promoting, booking, designing and everything in between. The emphasis is placed on individual artists and their personal needs rather than sheer marketability for the sake of profits.

If one thinks about Vagabond as a new vehicle for music promotion, then Wild Frontier Fest is their living, physical mixtape. Formerly a two-day event, the third year of the festival has been reduced to one day. With doors opening at noon, the music will go on all day until headliner Baths takes the outside stage at 11 p.m. Put together to highlight Austin musicians, Wild Frontier Fest incorporates national acts (Baths, for example) to create a larger draw to garner attention for local bands. “We have the best artists in Austin playing, and then some,” Valenzuela said, “I’ll fight anyone that disagrees.” Each band was carefully selected to emphasize the eclecticism of the city’s music scene. Much like Vagabond’s roster, Wild Frontier Fest will feature acts of every genre from electronica to hardcore punk to indie rock, and with such a diverse spread, every attendee is sure to find at least one new band to get into.

Audience members aren’t the only ones excited though; the bands also have an equal amount of enthusiasm for the fest. “We can’t wait to hopefully gain some new listeners and can’t be more stoked about playing,” Matt King, frontman for San Antonio punk band Illustrations, said. The festival serves as a way to increase public exposure, ensuring artists will be seen by a great number of new people who otherwise probably wouldn’t have gone out of their way to see a band they haven’t heard of. “All of these bands have the potential to be the next Vampire Weekend, you know, or the next MGMT,” Valenzuela said. “All they need is just a little more promotion.” Other local bands include post-punk dancers Zlam Dunk, Mother Falcon, What Made Milwaukee Famous and Boyfrndz.

Harnessing an extremely diverse new wave of Austin talent, Vagabond is the apex of up-and-coming music, a far cry from the more traditional blues/country music that made the city famous. Against all odds, Vagabond has quickly made a reputable name for itself. “What I’ve learned from the music industry,” Green said, “is that the only person who can stop you is yourself.”

Driven by a passion for exposing local musicians for the geniuses they are, Vagabond is certainly a force to be reckoned with, and Wild Frontier Fest will hopefully remain a consistent staple that Austin can look forward to every year.