Bellwether Music Festival kicked off its inaugural year in Waynesville on August 10 (or 9 for those campers that decided to get prime spots). It was a small but stacked lineup, boasting indie rock superstars MGMT and The Flaming Lips, classic '80s new wave bands The Psychedelic Furs and Echo & TheBunnymen, other indie staples like Dr. Dog and Local Natives, rising indie artists like Whitney and Japanese Breakfast and great local acts like Dawg Yawp and Carriers.
Driving into the Bellwether campgrounds was like entering another world. Maybe it had something to do with the Ohio Renaissance Festival fairgrounds being on the edge of the venue or the fact that everybody knew they didn’t have to have a care in the world besides letting the music wash over them. More so than other festivals, I noticed the volunteers going out of their way to be helpful. I saw a them drive a camper’s cooler over to the camp she was walking to without even being asked to help out.
And on top of everything, having a small portion of the RenFest grounds available was a unique addition to the music festival, and hopefully something Bellwether expands upon next year. I'd like to see the pirate ship stage used more for smaller acts. Speaking of acts...
Cincinnati’s own Carriers started things off early on Saturday to a slowly-growing crowd. One of the Queen City's other stars, Dawg Yawp, started 15 minutes after Carriers ended. The quick turnaround was something you don’t get a ton of at music festivals. Usually you have to either rush from stage to stage, compromise the beginning or the end of an act, or miss a band altogether because there is another you wanted to see.
Whitney and Dr. Dog kept the party going with their easy-going indie sound, but with Local Natives on the Sunrise Stage, things really started to get interesting. With the sun setting and the air cooling, Local Natives were getting the crowd moving. However, their closer "Sun Hands" ironically seemed to summoned the rain. It was heavy but not enough to pull anybody away.
The rain seemed to end the second the song did and it was time for MGMT to grace the stage... which unfortunately didn’t happen. The rain came hard, stopped, and started again for the rest of the evening. Many fans tried to stick it out and wait, but it was too much for the band to play.
Many people left understandably frustrated, sad, or angry, but for an outdoor event there is only so much you can do. Bellwether knows this and is trying to make it right for everyone. Friday ticket holders were allowed back on Saturday for free and Friday and two-day ticket holders can purchase tickets for next year’s event at a large discount, which is a lot more than I’ve seen other festivals do for rained-out days.
Saturday morning started gloomy and rainy, but by the time festival grounds opened, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. It went from overcast to sunny and back to overcast throughout the day. Starting with Japanese Breakfast, there was a slow build of energy for the night to come. '80s legends The Psychedelic Furs and Echo & The Bunnymen played back to back, showing 2018 how to do post-punk and new wave right.
The stars of the night took the stage after and they never disappoint. If you want to find the most colorful, entertaining, psychedelic concert around, The Flaming Lips are it. Confetti, costumes, giant balloons, inflatable robots, laser hands, a unicorn, and more crossed the stage over the next blissful hour and a half. Lead singer Wayne Coyne even did a bit where he found a "mysterious message" left from MGMT backstage which turned into a cover of Kids. It was a nice touch.
With that kind of high energy show, the party had to go on, and the camper’s village is where most went. This Pine Box rocked it out until 1:30 AM on a literal pirate ship stage with a multiple bars available for all those that didn’t want Saturday night to end.
All in all, the inaugural edition of Bellwether was a huge success despite the weather. They are already gearing up to bring it back next year. I can’t wait to see how this festival grows. Be sure to catch us out in Waynesville in a year's time for Bellwether 2019!