CU band heads to SXSW

South by Southwest in Austin, Texas is a 10-day festival with film, music and interactive portions. For upcoming filmmakers, start-ups and musicians, getting to be a part of it can be a career-changing opportunity. Boulder-based band and CU alums West Water Outlaws will get that chance this week as they head south to be part of the madness.

The band formed during their time at CU with Blake Rooker on vocals, Will Buck on guitar, Vince Ellwood on bass and Andrew Oakley on drums after Rooker walked into the wrong class.

The West Water Outlaws. (Photo Courtesy of Kyle Day)
The West Water Outlaws. (Photo Courtesy of Kyle Day)

“I knew Vince and Andrew since high school through various connections,” Rooker said. “I met Will in the dorms. We met again in a class. I actually walked into the wrong one, it was pretty silly, but he saw me and was like, ‘Hey do you still play?’”

After another guitarist missed a show in their junior year, so Rooker called Buck and that was the start of West Water Outlaws.

After making connections on trips down to Austin, the band got lucky enough to book one show at SXSW, which led to them eventually getting a slot every day, officially or otherwise. They hope to generate interest as well as future opportunities at the event.

The band, which plays a mix of blues and rock, says they owe their sound and genre-blending to the eclectic mix of music in the Boulder-and-Denver music scene.

“All the great stuff that comes through, we play a lot of genres and there’s a lot of influence,” Rooker said. “There’s good reggae that comes through, good stuff in every genre that comes through Colorado and Denver/Boulder and all of that influences us. Especially local stuff, too, everybody’s around and all pitch into the pot.”

Rooker said the local support has allowed them to keep growing and work towards opportunities like SXSW.

“There’s really great nights and really slow nights and stuff like the Boulder Theater and the Fox Theatre and all the people who’ve really supported us in those spots really keeps us going,” Rooker said. “Its fuel to the fire to keep going and try to see how far we can take this.”

While Rooker said the band has no expectations for SXSW, they do have the goal of networking and adding some “fuel to the fire” for the spring and summer, which will bring a new record and a bunch of shows. Overall, the West Water Outlaws is looking forward to the venues, music and overall experience of SXSW.

“I’ve heard a lot about it, but no one can give me a definitive answer of what it is or what it’s like, you just have to experience it,” Rooker said. “I’m excited for that.”

West Water Outlaws plays at SXSW on Friday and various other Texas venues throughout the week. See their tour schedule for more information. They’ll play again in Boulder on April 6 as part of a benefit concert at Macky Auditorium.

Check back for more coverage of SXSW this week at

Contact CU Independent Editor-In-Chief Isa Jones at

Isa Jones

This is Isa's third year at CUI. She has served as a news reporter, entertainment reporter and Breaking News Editor. She is a senior news-editorial and English major. She has a fear of contracting scurvy and being trapped in walk-in freezers, but that rarely interferes with her reporting. Isa enjoys morning runs, whiskey sours, baseball and avoiding homework at all costs. Her goal is to be able to write and travel frequently and never work somewhere involving cubicles, synergy meetings or the phrase "9 to 5." (@theisajones)

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