Fort Wayne’s first “destination” music festival, Middle Waves, was last weekend and a big hit with the crowd. Future festivals will only be better judging by how well the first one went.
I knew it was going to be at least an interesting festival when I walked into “The Village” area (where all the vendors were) looking for my press pass and saw this.
Deep fried chicken on a stick. I didn’t eat there. For my money, the best deal and food there was from the Vietnummy food truck. A bahn mi lemongrass chicken slider for only five bucks? I’m in. I’m in all day long.
Bahn mi slider in hand and press pass around my neck, I went to check out my first band of the festival – Nashville’s Bully. I’d only heard a couple tracks, and I liked their mix of heavy rock and post-punk.
They killed the Maumee Stage with a fierce performance that won over the crowd within minutes. Seeing them might be the closest I get to seeing X-Ray Spex in concert. It was full of wild guitar and drums, Cure-like bass, and frantic vocals. People were still talking about them the next day.
I finished Friday night like many others – by seeing Best Coast on the main (St. Mary’s) stage. I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard a lot of their material before this, but there were many in the crowd who sang to everything they played. I liked the blend of surf-psych with dream pop. The gay man going nuts next to me when they played “Boyfriend” was one of the highlights of the crowd for me.
Heavy rain hit the area overnight and through most of Saturday morning. I hoped it wouldn’t keep the crowds away, and I’m sure the Middle Waves staff was watching local weather radar like a hawk the entire day. One band was playing on a makeshift stage in the covered food vendor area when I got there due to the Maumee Stage being rained out that morning.
Luckily for all, however, the rain cleared around 3:00 and the sun came out bright and happy. The St. Mary’s stage field had straw scattered all over it to prevent massive mud pits from forming, so it soon smelled like a wet barn out there. You didn’t notice the smell once Jeff the Brotherhood began playing, because their sonic assault almost knocked us flat.
They played several tracks from their new album, Zone, which I need to get soon. A lot of it has a great stoner rock vibe that borders a bit on doom metal. It seems heavier than some of their previous stuff, which is fine by me.
I took a break after their set to drive down to Neat Neat Neat Records (profile coming soon), and they were playing Bully. The clerk and I raved about their set and I was soon walking out with three used CDs. I made it back in time to see Ft. Wayne’s hometown psychedelic heroes – Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. They put on a fine set of their sun-soaked psych on the bank of the Maumee River to a welcoming crowd. I hadn’t realized until this set how some of their stuff sounds like early New Pornographers (which is a good thing).
I took an extra long break to get in a full meal (Smoked pulled chicken, cole slaw, and potato chips for eight bucks? Sold!) before seeing The Flaming Lips. People had been camped out all day to claim spots for the show. My favorite ones were these two.
I thought, “That’s my wife and I in twenty years.”
The Flaming Lips didn’t disappoint. It was a party from the very first song.
The crowd was jumping, singing, smacking around balloons, and cheering for lizards in yellow suits and boat captain catfish.
Their light / stage show is something you have to see to fully appreciate. Strings of lights, kaleidoscopic gongs, confetti cannons, and glitter are all thrown into the mix.
Lead singer Wayne Coyne kept the crowd cheering and moving, especially when he came out in a giant bubble during the band’s cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
It was a great performance under a full moon, and a good omen for future festivals. The early afternoon rain was the only thing keeping the first Middle Waves festival from being an out-of-the-park home run, but that’s nothing the promoters and staff could control.
I’m sure the number of national touring acts will grow in the future, as all of the ones there this year praised the festival and the crowds. A master stroke by the festival is having two free stages. The Maumee and St. Joseph stages were free for everyone. The St. Mary’s main stage was the only one with paid admission. Anyone could’ve come to the festival with no money and still have seen twenty bands (including that jaw-dropping set by Bully, mind you).
Here’s to the future, Middle Waves. It looks good for you.
Keep your mind open.
[Many thanks to the Middle Waves staff and crew, and especially to Emma and Maggie for setting up my press credentials for the festival.]
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