Bellwether Festival’s Inaugural Year Faced Some Challenges but Came Out on Top
Bellwether Festival kicked off on August 10th in Waynesville, Ohio, for its first year. Its lineup boasted some great indie and alternative rock bands, including Dr. Dog, The Flaming Lips, Whitney, The Psychedelic Furs and Local Natives. These big names helped bring a great crowd with an amazing assortment of fans to Renaissance Park. The fest is run by the same group that made Bunbury Festival but with the much-loved addition of camping.
Just like any first-year festival, there were some issues. Not everything went as planned; stuff got wet, and things got muddy, but the vibes stayed strong. I want to touch base about what went right, what didn’t, and what can be going forward.
What Didn’t Go Right
The Weather – Friday was not your ideal forecast. The skies were cloudy, the air was heavy, and the ground was damp. You couldn’t really lie in the grass and relax in between sets. Scattered showers plagued the day, but people danced right on through. Local Natives put on an absolutely stellar show even as the skies opened up.
More Bad Weather – The top-billed act MGMT were set to take the stage at 9:30 p.m. Rain showers continued after Local Natives set, but soon it got much worse. Strong lightning, heavy winds, and torrential downpours eventually lead to MGMT canceling and the grounds being cleared. Some people took to Twitter to complain, but I understand why the choice was made; it was really rough outside.
Sitting Areas, Art Installations, and Extra Stuffs – These are the main things that Bellwether lacked. There was a handful of picnic benches set up in a tent and a few outside of it. Beyond that, there was nowhere to really lounge out or eat inside the festival grounds. With the grass being wet, this was a fairly common complaint from festival-goers.
What Did Go Right
Vibes – The overall feeling in the air throughout the festival was nothing but positive. Kind people, good conversations, fun crowds and almost no garbage left on the ground. I didn’t see or hear of one fight, saw no one go to the medical tent, and just loved the vibes all around.
The Grounds – This is what a festival ground should look like: a huge sprawling grass field surrounded by gorgeous trees keeps the grounds quiet and helps make it feel like a different world. Waynesville is farm country. There’s not much nearby. Beyond a general store and a few dozen houses, it’s just you and the sky. Think Bonnaroo, just smaller.
The Flaming Lips – There is nothing in the world like a Flaming Lips show. They came out and gave us everything they had. Wayne Coyne, Steven Drozd and friends gave us all of their hits and amazed me through their entire set. It was pure magic.
The Staff/Organization – This was a very well-run festival. Parking and setting up camp was a smooth process. The staff was super friendly and helpful, even security (kind of rare at music fests)! There was a great variety of food, there was a water fill-up station, and and there were plenty of porta-potties. What else can you ask for?
Roo Chute – If you’re not familiar with Roo Chute, you should be. It’s a massive rainbow parachute (think elementary school) that pops up randomly throughout the fest. The group that runs it are the nicest people you could ever meet. They started up at Bonnaroo years ago, hence the name. When you look around the parachute you only see smiling faces overwhelmed with pure bliss. Also, there is sometimes free pizza, so yeah, it’s spectacular.
What Could Be?
I mentioned before that Bellwether Fest was held at Renaissance Park. Not only does this place offer a huge sprawling field in the middle of nowhere, it has a huge area dedicated to the renaissance festival. I hope that in 2019 Bellwether takes more advantage of this area. Throw some extra stages in there, more food stands, art, clothing, blankets, really whatever! I just hope they use it more next year.
A Bigger Line-Up/Three Days – This year the lineup only had 14 bands. I hope 2019 brings more bands, a larger variety of music, more stages, and more days of music. In my opinion, camping festivals should be at least three days long. Each day should be filled with music nearly 24/7. I know this is a lot to ask, but I hope it’s a possibility. It may take more than a year, but this place just has so much potential to become one of the most beloved festivals in the country.
Review of Bellwether Festival
- Grounds/Location – 10/10
- Lineup – 7/10
- Crowd – 10/10
- Food Choices – 9/10
- Art/Extra Stuffs – 3/10
- Potential to Become Great – 10/10
- Stage Design/Layout – 6/10
- Weather – 5/10 (Friday was terrible, but Saturday was amazing)
Overall Grade – 7.5/10
Bellwether went as smoothly as a first-year fest plagued by bad weather could go. Good spirits and a happy crowd combined with camping and amazing grounds helped keep everything positive. I am very excited to see what they have in store for 2019.