Bellwether Music Festival

by Tricia Stansberry

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The Bellwether Music Festival took place in Waynesville, Ohio on August 10th - 11th. Branded as an “alternative music festival”, this was the first year for this two-day, two-stage outdoor event. Located in southwestern Ohio, this festival also offered camping, food, drinks, and vendors. Although Friday’s headliner MGMT was not able to perform due to severe thunderstorms in the area, both nights of the festival proved to be filled with great music.

Highlights of Friday:



Whitney released the lauded album Light Upon the Lake back in 2016. The Chicago band formed in 2015 with former Smith Westerns members Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich, and also includes musicians Josiah Marshall, Will Miller, Malcolm Brown, Print Chouteau, and Charles Glanders. Whitney’s unique brand of indie soul (they are self described as “country soul”) have earned them many fans and accolades, especially for being a fairly new band. They performed many songs from their debut record, including standouts “Polly”, “Golden Days”, and “No Woman”, as well as some new material from their as yet unnamed sophomore record. I am very excited to hear follow up material from this band.

Dr. Dog

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The five piece psychedelic rock band Dr. Dog played an energetic set that included standout tracks “Fate” and “Heart Killer”. The band, formed in 1999, includes members Scott McMicken, Toby Leaman, Zach Miller, Eric Slick, and Frank McElroy. Their mixture of baroque pop and psychedelic rock proved to be thrilling to hear live. Their tenth studio album, Critical Equation, was released back in April of this year.

Local Natives

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Local Natives surely put on one of the most memorable performances of the night. As the night began to fall and darkness started to pour over the festival grounds, the soft purple light shining over lead singer Taylor Rice as he began to sing was one of the standout moments from Friday night. They performed a mixture of their three studio albums, the most recent one being 2016’s Sunlit Youth. The band is rounded out by members Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, Matt Frazier, and Nik Ewing.

Highlights of Saturday:

Japanese Breakfast

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Japanese Breakfast is the solo musical project of Michelle Zauner of Little Big League. Michelle was one of my favorite artists to see and shoot, as her energy and talent were impeccable. Her vocals on “Road Head” and “Boyish” were standouts, and the set was ended with a inspired rendition of The Cranberries “Dreams”. I cannot wait to see another Japanese Breakfast show in the future.

The Psychedelic Furs

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The Psychedelic Furs were the band I was most excited to shoot, as I’ve loved them for years and have been even more enamored with them since I first saw the dance scene in Call Me By Your Name that features Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet dancing to “Love My Way”. The new wave band, formed in 1977, started out their set with well-known hits “Heartbreak Beat” and “Pretty in Pink”. Led by lead singer Richard Butler, the band also features Tim Butler, Paul Garisto, Mars Williams, Amanda Kramer, and Rich Good. Their set was an energetic, fun one, and seeing “Love My Way” live was probably my favorite moment of the whole festival.

The Flaming Lips

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I was told that the Flaming Lips put on a crazy show, but wow. Their lights, props, and confetti cannons truly left me in awe. The band, formed in 1983, features Wayne Coyne, Michael Ivins, Steven Drozd, Derek Brown, Jake Ingalls, Matt Duckworth, and Nicholas Ley. During one standout moment, lead singer Coyne started a spirited rendition of MGMT’s “Kids”, which lifted the spirits of the crowd and put a smile on my face. A giant pink blow-up robot made an appearance during fan favorite “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1” as Coyne began a crowd singalong. Later in their set, Coyne got into a large plastic bubble that surfed the crowd as he performed a rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, which was truly a moment to be remembered.

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Overall, despite the unfortunate weather situation that caused a last minute cancellation of MGMT on Friday, the Bellwether Music Festival proved to be a fun, energetic event filled with great music. I am excited to see how they will follow up next year.