Bellwether Music Festival Brings Alternative Music Heaven To Ohio

By: Zak Kolesar

 Bellwether Music Festival logo. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

Bellwether Music Festival logo. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

Being from Ohio—or even a Midwestern state—can make those summer trips to premiere music festivals expensive affairs. With general admission tickets to such events often costing upwards of $200, packing up your van with supplies for a week and traveling through multiple states can leave you in the red for a handful of weeks post-festival; and sometimes even one mainstream festival can set your bank back an entire summer.

Don’t fret, though, if you happen to be lost in the woods of the Midwest for the time being. There’s a new solution to curing those faraway festival blues and lineup FOMO without destroying your pockets, and it’s located just over an hour outside of Columbus. What’s usually the home of the Ohio Renaissance Festival, knights and jousters will trade places with royalty of a more musical variety for the two-day inaugural Bellwether Music Festival, which will take place this Friday, Aug. 10 and Saturday, Aug. 11. The spot (10542 East State Route 73, Waynesville, Ohio 45068) is Ohio-friendly, as it is equidistant from Cincinnati and Dayton as well.

 Local Natives. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

Local Natives. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

With headlining acts such as MGMT, The Flaming Lips, Local Natives, Dr. Dog and Whitney rounding out the top of Bellwether’s billing, it’s clear that this first-year fest swung for the fences. The aforementioned musicians will be encompassing two stages (Sunrise and Sunset) positioned across from one another with 15 minutes between every set, allowing the opportunity for Bellwether attendees to catch all 16 glorious acts (including two additional late-night camping sets) on its lineup.

What. A. Swing.

First off, there is a slightly interesting divide that the lineup seems to be following for Friday and Saturday respectively, especially with the artists playing the later sets. The group of polished 2000s indie rockers that kick down the door Friday are the same ones that you would find in large print on posters for major festivals such as Bonnaroo and Pitchfork.

 Dr. Dog. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

Dr. Dog. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

Whitney, who will take the Sunrise Stage at 6 p.m. on Friday, starts the new-age alternative wave, will almost certainly fill the calm-before-the-storm role. Dr. Dog (Sunset Stage, 7 p.m.) and Local Natives (Sunrise Stage, 8:15 p.m.) will follow up after to rip through the burning night, leading up to MGMT’s 9:30 p.m. headlining performance at the Sunset Stage.

MGMT’s placement on the lineup is a prime example of how spoiled Ohio is getting with Bellwether, as the spaced-out indie punkers didn’t fully tour for its fourth studio album and only presented two somewhat viable options this year for music festival travelers from the Midwest: the 8-hour drive to Delaware for Firefly in June or the additional five hours to BUKU in New Orleans this past March. The rare and unsaturated performance schedule of MGMT just further increases Bellwether’s “it” factor by tenfold.

And then you have a truly historic alternative lineup closing out Bellwether on Saturday. Granted, you won’t want to miss what Q Magazine calls one of its “50 Bands You Must See Before You Die,” as The Flaming Lips put on a prolific production full of disco balls, confetti, costumes and its experimental take on psychedelic musical performances. However, the late ‘70s, early ‘80s psychedelic rock era will be well represented beyond Wayne Coyne and company on Saturday, with slots filled by The Psychedelic Furs (Sunset, 7 p.m.) and Echo & the Bunnymen (Sunrise, 8:15 p.m) leading up to The Flaming Lips’ closing Sunset Stage set at 9:30 p.m.

 The Flaming Lips. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

The Flaming Lips. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

Yeah, The Flaming Lips will surely be competing with lighting up the star-studded night sky of Bellwether’s grounds with its on-stage antics and MGMT will have all the 20-somethings raging back to their teenage years, but even the middle and undercard will have you picking up your jaw from the ground. Friday’s earlier shows include the citar-yielding Dawg Yawp (Sunset, 2 p.m.) and Bob Schneider’s full band experience (Sunset, 5 p.m.). On Saturday, psychedelic music again reigns supreme with Los Angeles rockers Allah-Lahs (Sunset, 5 p.m.) and indie-pop project Japanese Breakfast (Sunrise, 6 p.m.) leading the buildup to The Flaming Lips. Columbus’ own and In The Record Store favorites The Cordial Sins will get things started even sooner with the first performance of the day (Sunrise, 2 p.m.).

Although Bellwether announced that the “mini-Bonnaroo” would be reeling in festies from 45 states and eight countries, it’s refreshing to be able to tell someone that MGMT and The Flaming Lips will be playing in Columbus’ backyard, away from the bright lights of the city.

While most lineups boasting a card with this many heavyweights and no set time overlap seem worlds away from Ohio, Bellwether makes it so that alternative music heaven isn’t that far away at all for Midwesterners, both physically and financially. With two-day passes not costing more than $120 and single-day passes on sale for $65, Bellwether is the end-of-the-summer move to make in August. Onsite camping passes, which start at $140 for a six-person, 10’x30’ site, are also available for those who don’t want to book a hotel, Airbnb or off-site camping.

Campers can start loading in at noon on Thursday, Aug. 9 and must be packed up by 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 12. The entrance to the camping grounds and festival is off of OH-73. For those traveling west, you’ll cross OH-52 and the entrance will be on your right. And for those traveling east, you’ll cross Harveysburg Road and the grounds will be on your left. For more information on Bellwether Festival, visit the website HERE.

You can still purchase tickets to Bellwether Music Festival before MGMT and Local Natives kick off the festivities on Friday. Click HERE to purchase your tickets and camping and parking passes.