Despite the weather, Bellwether Music Festival left attendees feeling like they were on a whole different trip. (Photo by Brittany Weaver)
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Despite the weather, Bellwether Music Festival left attendees feeling like they were on a whole different trip. (Photo by Brittany Weaver)

The fest’s first year overcame rainy weather to put together an intensely vivid experience for fans.

Bellwether Music Festival proved to be successful in its first year, even with un-admirable weather. The campsite grounds were spacious and only a short walk to the festival stages. No matter where you were, the quality of the music always sounded fantastic.

With the sun peeking through the clouds, music festivities began Friday as the local band, Carriers, played at the sunrise stage. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t hold out. The storm began right before MGMT’s set, and Bellwether staff got word from local authorities that the weather was unsafe, cancelling the headliner’s show.

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Although the cancellation was a set back to the lineup, BMF still hosted a wide variety of talented musicians who all put on refined stylistic shows.

These sets made the festival one to remember.

Local Natives

On the first day of Bellwether, it seemed that as the music got better, the weather got worse. By the time Local Natives started playing, lightning strikes flashed every other minute, filling the expansive sky that surrounded renaissance park.

It didn’t rain throughout Local Natives’ entire set, so the dry lightning added a very pleasing dimension to Local Natives’ performance. The flashes seemed to supplement the rhythm of their music. The band’s set list included songs such as “Dark Days,” “Coins” and “I Saw You Close Your Eyes.”

Although the festival was plagued by horrendous weather, the music sets were still lively. (Photo by Brittany Weaver)

This indie rock band showed enthusiasm and an idol-like presence on stage by dancing and jumping — the only band to have such an outing all of Friday. Before the final song, the lead vocalist, Taylor Rice, called out to the crowd, “If it starts raining just dance even harder!” On cue, rain fell and the audience went wild.

The moment only lasted for a few minutes until the night’s headliner, MGMT, got cancelled due to the prolonged rainfall.

AJ & the Woods

MGMT posted their set list to Instagram with this note, “Oh Hi! Noooooo Maj bum, total rain out for MGMT show tonight at bellwether fest! Hope we come back soon to make it up cinciNOT2nighti.”

In terms of talent, the loss of MGMT was an insurmountable setback for Bellwether. Many fans voiced their heartfelt opinions about the cancellation on social media. Fortunately, AJ & the Woods’ set served as an up-lifter for many festival goers.

AJ & the Woods played in the camper’s village of renaissance park, under a pavilion, as an after-party act. The pavilion kept everyone out of the rain and even stationed a bar in the middle for drinks.

The folky band revitalized all Bellwether campers with their sultry sound featuring intricate guitar melodies and organic blends of passionate rock and delta blues folk. They played their songs “Gypsy” and “Adeline,” as well as a few covers from classic artists, such as Johnny Cash.

Japanese Breakfast

BMF turned out to be an intimate festival for all who came, especially for the couple hundred of campers. Positivity was in the air all of Saturday, for the sun was once again peeking through the clouds and many great acts were ready to play.

Allah-Las, The Psychedelic Furs and Echo & the Bunnymen all sounded excellent acoustically; however, it was Michelle Zauner’s solo project band, Japanese Breakfast, whose style fit the vibe of the festival. She worked a keyboard, electric guitar and all of the vocals throughout the set.

Michelle Zauner’s band gave off lively and enthusiastic vibes that left the audience feeling blissful. (Photo by Brittany Weaver)

Her act is supported by rounded out band: A bass guitarist, an electric guitarist/keyboardist and a drummer. Zauner was full of energy bouncing across the stage while singing some of her most well-received work, such as “Road Head.”

Complementary to the acoustic sound of Japanese Breakfast, the indie band uses electronic synth keyboards to add an additional element to their music. Their live performance was giddy and impressive.

The Flaming Lips

The last set of the festival, and without a doubt the best set, The Flaming Lips, put on a spectacular performance. They opened their set with a thematic bass heavy entrance.

After the fascinating opener, Wayne Coyne (lead vocalist) announced to the crowd that MGMT had left them a note, holding the inscribed letter in his hand. The band proceeded by playing the song “Kids” by MGMT while Coyne sung the lyrics written on the piece of paper.

Following the tribute, The Flaming Lips played all of their best tracks from the “Greatest Hits, Volume 1” album. To make things even more exciting, a huge inflatable robot filled up in the middle of the stage during their song “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1.”

Wayne Coyne paid tribute to the late Dabid Bowie. (Photo by Brittany Weaver)

They also played their beloved “Do You Realize??” and “She Don’t Use Jelly” as balloons and confetti shot into the audience. Their show was full of color, displayed beautiful sonics, and was characterized by moments that will never be forgotten.

At one moment, Wayne mounted a unicorn for their song “There Should Be Unicorns.” Soon after, Wayne was wearing giant hands that shot laser beams out of the palms as the band covered the National anthem.

The psychedelic rock band also paid tribute to David Bowie. Wayne got into an inflatable ball, walked to the outreached hands of the listeners and sang “Space Oddity.” Overall, The Flaming Lips ended Bellwether with a powerful, fun performance.

Writer Profile

Bradley Howlett

Grand Valley State University

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