KVRX fest set to be largest festival hosted by a university radio station

Denise Emerson

While many seniors worry about their impending graduation, UT’s student radio station KVRX aims to produce the largest college radio station music festival.

KVRX will host their first music festival on May 10 and 11, with headliners such as Frankie Cosmos and Drab Majesty. Gabrielle Soong, KVRX station manager and public relations senior, said KVRX Fest aims to celebrate music with a diverse lineup of both local and national acts.

“We really just focused on making sure it was all really good music,” Soong said. “Of course that involves women and people of color who are often overlooked simply for (their identities).”

KVRX adviser Robert Zimmer said the festival’s lineup was curated perfectly, with a well-rounded selection from multiple genres.

“There’s hip-hop,” Zimmer said. “There’s electronic. There’s synth pop, and for the frat boys, there’s alternative college rock. It’s for everybody.”

Soong said she and KVRX booking director and journalism senior Elise Barbin want to highlight the festival as a safe space for women and minorities, where misconduct is not tolerated.

“(Barbin) and I both wish that we had people looking out for us when we were freshmen and didn’t know anything about any of the venues and about what was safe,” Soong said.

Soong began planning the festival in 2018 alongside Barbin. Planning the festival brought a rollercoaster of emotions, Soong said.

“We would be so close to signing a contract with a band that we were really excited about, and then for various reasons, it would fall through,” Soong said. “Every day (and) every email, you never know what could happen.”

Barbin said the staff started with a master list of about 200 potential bands and later consulted with DJs to find the right mix.

“Being real about (our) intentions got us really far,” Barbin said. “We outlined why we were doing the festival and what it means to us when we were pitching for bands, and people really appreciated that sense of genuineness.”

After securing Frankie Cosmos, everything fell into place, Barbin said. However, the largest roadblock to the festival was the venue, Soong said.

A week before announcing the festival, the staff decided to change venues from Spider House, an Austin event center, Soong said. Allegations of assault and misconduct by an owner surfaced, and Soong said Spider House did not align with the core values of KVRX.

“Now that we had all of these bands booked and our budget in place, taking those two things and trying to fit them into a different venue was like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube,” Soong said.

Zimmer said it is important to have strong women lead, but Soong said she experienced issues.

“Another thing during that whole process was people not taking me seriously,” Soong said. “I don’t know if it’s because we’re students, because I’m a woman (or) because I’m not white.”

Zimmer, Soong and Barbin hope the festival will become an annual event. Soong said leaving a foundation for the next leaders will make booking bands much easier.

“A lot of what (Soong) and I talked about is just trying to cultivate joy while preserving our values and saying we can do this and still be ethical,” Barbin said.

KVRX Fest will take place at Cheer Up Charlies and Symphony Square, and tickets are $40.