Fort Wayne, Ind.–The second year of Middle Waves Music Festival concluded Saturday, Sept. 16. The last day of the music and art celebration proved vibrant and eclectic.
Despite the heat, people showed up for Middle Waves. I arrived before the bands were scheduled to play and was treated to spirited soundchecks that made me excited for the music to come. Crowds literally ranged in age from approximately 18 months to 80 years.
Middle Waves schedule
The overall schedule at Middle Waves reminded me of the one used at academic conferences, with less overlap. Attendees still had to choose between pop-punk offered by City Mouse from Riverside, California, that started at 11:45, and chamber pop by Silbero Gomero, a Fort Wayne, Indiana band. To further complicate things, Belle & The Strange, a folk rock group from Fort Wayne, Indiana, started at 12:30, just as City Mouse was ending, but Silbero Gomero still had a half hour to go. All of this before 1 p.m. It felt quite early to have to make so many decisions.
Scene and heard at Middle Waves
The scene for Middle Waves was Headwaters Park in downtown Fort Wayne. The park is divided into east and west halves by a busy downtown street. Stages for the festival were named after the three rivers that converge near where Middle Waves took place.
The St. Mary’s stage was on the east side, where food trucks and play centers for children were set up. On the west side, the St. James and Maumee stages hosted bands. All over the smell of food–chicken wings, tacos, desserts and more, permeated the air. Because of the heat, ice cream and Italian ice were popular.
Along the park’s winding green-lined paths, vendors hawking everything from tie-dye clothing to music technology degrees and political ideologies were available. In addition, Mini Waves, was on the west side. The young and young-at-heart could get balloon animals, build things at construction junction, interact with wildlife at a petting zoo, hear stories between sets, and more.
Behind the Maumee stage, the river flowed, wide and green. The river tour boat sat docked, waiting for its next voyage. The signs that promised “good vibes and people dancing” proved true. To get to the Maumee stage, attendees had to go down a small incline. Some people sat on the hill, others stood in front of the stage.
While music was definitely front and center, art and good vibes played important roles at Middle Waves. Painted rock sculptures, a balloon collage, authentic Volkswagen vans with a heavy covering of bumper stickers that mixed rock ‘n’ roll with politics, and random plastic flamingos were among the sights. The fake water birds were stuck in the lush grass at various points in Headwaters Park. They looked real enough to attract toddlers’ attention in the festival’s “Mini Waves” section.
Middle Waves music
Among the bands I was able to see were Silbo Gomero on the St. Mary’s stage. I cannot say that I have heard “chamber” pop before. Now that I have, I get it. One song sounded as though it is about “victim blaming” with singer Hope Arthur emotionally interpreting the lyrics as she sang, I hoped the lyrics weren’t based on real events. Still, I knew the words were true for someone.
Sleeping Bag from Bloomington was a surprise. The three-piece band with a singing drummer sounded like a mix of Weezer with a touch of Catherine’s Wheel if I’m hearing it correctly. There was a nice groove in every song, but the sounds were well-mixed. It was alternative rock that encouraged dancing without ever using the word “dance.” A guy in the crowd wearing a kilt was an enthusiastic dancer.
Other standouts on Saturday included The Murderburgers from Glasgow, Scotland. The interesting pre-set story was a nice touch and seemed to rivet the crowd. They, too, appreciated the guy in the kilt. I don’t think they were expecting that in the middle of flyover country.
Three Cities, a rock band representing Fort Wayne, West Lafayette and Bloomington (hence the name) played fun and heavy rock music. The band’s outfits and stage banter made for a party atmosphere. The rocking music made people cheer, despite the heat that was growing oppressive at the time of the mid-afternoon set.
A group whose name I didn’t catch, replaced Selector Dub Narcotic, and got heads nodding as the sun was going down. As the sun went down, the vibe changed just a bit. The crowds were much thicker, and street vendors (not part of the festival)tried to cajole festival goers into buying their random items.
Still, the night ended with a much awaited set by MGMT on the St. Mary’s stage and finally by DJ Bradlee on the Maumee stage. The good vibes were still floating through the air as the last festival attendees staggered happily to their cars.
For two days, Middle Waves Music Festival changed the city of Fort Wayne. Not just in providing so much live music at once, but in challenging the mindset often found here that prides the practical over the artistic.