Reverend Janglebones’ Soapbox: Bellwether Nails It

You never know what's gonna happen when STRFKR takes the stage. (Credit: Jimmy Ruehlman)

Ohio’s own Bellwether Music Festival’s 2nd year took place Aug. 9-10, 2019 and it would be hard to imagine a way to improve upon the experience. There were world-class musicians, an enchanting medieval village (and the wonderful food and crafts that go with it), ample amenities and plenty of space to get away in the shade from the noise for a while if you have children or elderly riding with your crew. 

The ingredients all mixed together into the perfect recipe for a well-rounded and nutritious summer fun weekend.

Rather than review the festival, let’s just say that it was perfect and you should go next year, without question. Now, if you don’t mind, let’s talk about what the music festival was about: Music.

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In my last article I mentioned a few of the bands that were to be in attendance, but there were a few acts where I didn’t know what to expect and ended up being blown away, so first I want to tip the hat to those killer queens on the up-and-up.

Sego comes to mind immediately, though I’d be hard-pressed to even attempt boxing their sound into a genre. They flew out from LA just for an hour-long set in Waynesville Ohio due to their dedicated fans in our part of the world. 

And their frontman was one of the only musicians that could be found within the crowd during the other performances, which can easily be taken as some kind of character marker. So if you like a lot of energy, honesty, sass and melodic grit, then do go listen to these guys immediately. There’s nothing else like them.

The laid back nature of the festival brings out a wide variety of awesome people. (Credit: Mark Ballard)

Caroline Rose was also incredible live. Each member of her band had such charisma that you felt blessed to be witnessing so much charm, Rose’s best friend and integral bandmate having some of the best dance moves I have ever seen. They sounded wonderful, too, and while Rose herself carries an enchanted aloofness about her, there is nothing but tact in her stage presence.

She had the audience in hysterics with impromptu jokes and false song endings. She even chased a flying bug around on stage as she played and nearly dangerously tangled herself up in her guitar cord while spinning in circles. Five stars. Highly recommend seeing them if ever given the chance.

I was also delighted by Cincinnati’s own Multimagic. They have such a heartfelt and honest approach to both their writing and their performances that you just can’t help but fall in love. The crowd went nuts dancing to their indie chants and harmonizing hooks, and this class act actually lives in our area so you won’t have to wait until next year just hoping they made the roster again. Get on their social media!

When it comes to music festivals, there are certain acts that just thrive in larger crowds. STRFKR is one of the absolute best bands to see at a festival. They always have way more members than instruments because, obviously, somebody’s gotta throw out the blow-up dolls (dressed in STRFKR shirts), dance around in full space suits homoerotically, crowd surf and even ride a giant inflatable pelican life-raft out onto the vast unknown ocean of audience members’ outstretched hands. 

Their music is really great and even better if you like to dance, plus you can tell these guys have the time of their lives doing what they do.

STRFKR getting up close and personal with fans. (Credit: Mark Ballard)

As far as some of the more well-knowns go, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that even though I have always heard Cake puts on an amazing live show, I have to take a moment here to tell you that all that praise was, in fact, kind of an understatement. 

The whole time Cake was onstage it felt as though each member of the audience was part of some giant group-therapy session where nobody signed up for it, but everybody was into it somehow. 

His flip-flop guru style rants between songs were genuinely crammed with insight, wisdom, empathy and humor. There was even a sort of guided meditation rant/exorcism with which the entire audience emphatically participated. A good time, indeed.

Black Moth Super Rainbow was also fantastic, although their set being in the hottest part of the daylight made it something of an endurance test for the audience, and probably the band as well, though you would have never known it by their performance. 

Their resident mad scientist Thomas Fec (who goes by Tobacco) closed out Friday night with a DJ set that was genuinely some of the best sounds my ears have ever tried to absorb and I will be sure to prioritize the event any time he comes near our area (and by that I mean within a couple hundred miles).

A look at the set during Beach House’s performance. (Credit: Mark Ballard)

It doesn’t even need said, but here it is. Beach House was a phenomenon. The whole audience was rapt. Entranced and fulfilled by their soothing, romantic synth waves and screeching banshee guitar work, everybody went home full of goodness and without a trace of buyer’s remorse.

I could go on and on, but I’d rather just see you there next Summer. Until then, have a stress-free first week back in class everybody. Until next time.

Brian Yoder

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