The Bellwether Music Festival debuts on the same grounds occupied by the Ohio Renaissance Festival on August 10 and 11. The event offers multiple stages, separated by only about 100 yards. !0 to 15 minute breaks between bands offer and opportunity to grab a beer or visit the bathroom before enjoying even more music.
In addition to offering world-class headliners (MGMT, The Flaming Lips, etc.), Bellwether offers an opportunity to catch local and national up-and-comers and some unsung indie heroes. In the spirit of discovery, Ghettoblaster recommends catching these five lesser known, and perhaps overlooked, artists:
Carriers (Friday, August 10, 2:00 EST, Sunrise Stage):
Built around Curt Kiser’s sincere and dreamy songwriting, Carriers are a new indie rock band from Cincinnati, Ohio. On their debut album the sound is carefully layered, leaning on strong core songwriting, hypnotic synths, lush guitar tones from Curt Kiser (ex-Pomegranates, Enlou), with contributions on percussion delivered by Bryan Devendorf (The National), and nuanced, dynamic bass lines from John Curley (Afghan Whigs).
The strength of their live performance comes from the ability to deliver epic soundscapes while still intimately connecting with audiences. Even through they are only getting started they have already been making noise regionally having shared the stage with Damien Jurado, Big Thief, Sam Evian, Kyle Craft, The Dove & The Wolf, Harpooner, Kississippi, Anna Burch, Michael Nau and more.
Bob Schneider (Friday, August 10, 5:00 EST, Sunset Stage):
One of Austin’s most celebrated musicians, Bob Schneider, released his new album, Blood and Bones – his seventh studio album since his 2001 solo debut Lonelyland – on June 8 via his Shockorama Records imprint. Blood and Bones captures Schneider at a unique, and distinct, place. He’s re-married, has a 2-year-old baby daughter who was born over two months premature because his wife had life threatening preeclampsia. So dealing with that traumatic event while getting older and looking at death in a realistic, matter of fact way, experiencing the most joy he had ever experienced along with feelings of utter despondency, color his songs.
Recorded with producer Dwight Baker, who has worked with Schneider on six of his previous releases, the album highlights the chemistry that Schneider and his backing band comprised of some of Austin’s very best musicians.Though he has received little national press or major label support, he has managed to become one of the biggest acts in Austin, if not in Texas. Thanks to fans, Schneider has won more Austin Music Awards than any other musician, including Best Songwriter, Best Musician, and Best Male Vocals, rounding in at 54 total awards to date.
Erika Wennerstrom (Saturday, August 11, 4:00 EST, Sunrise Stage):
Wennerstrom is no stranger to Southwest, Ohio; in fact, once upon a time, Dayton was her homebase. Following a decade fronting Heartless Bastards, Wennerstrom’s debut solo record, Sweet Unknown, was released via Partisan Records. The album’s first single, “Extraordinary Love,” established the core themes of the record — journeys of self-exploration and self-realization. The album’s driving, anthemic second single, “Twisted Highway.” up the whole album in a lot of ways.”‘Twisted Highway’ describes the importance of pursuing beautiful experiences.
Sweet Unknown was produced by Danny Reisch in Lockhart, Texas, and features contributions from My Morning Jacket’s Patrick Hallahan, Kelly Doyle, former Okkervill River member Lauren Gurgiolo, Heartless Bastards bassist Jesse Ebaugh and others. There’s something somewhat frightening, yet utterly liberating when leaving the confines of a successful band to venture solo – especially a band whose latest record was called “effortlessly brilliant” by critics. Wennerstrom demonstrates her strength and brilliance isn’t passing, even as she’s standing on her own two feet, by any stretch of the imagination.
Japanese Breakfast (Saturday, August 11, 6:00 EST, Sunrise Stage):
Michelle Zauner wrote the debut Japanese Breakfast album in the weeks after her mother died of cancer, thinking she would quit music entirely once it was done. That wasn’t the case. When Psychopomp was released to acclaim in 2016, she was forced to confront her grief. Zauner would find find herself reliving traumatic memories multiple times a day during interviews, trying to remain composed while discussing the most painful experience of her life. Her sophomore album, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, which was released via Dead Oceams is a transmutation of mourning, a reflection that turns back on the cosmos in search of healing.
With help from co-producer Craig Hendrix (who also co-produced Little Big League’s debut) and Jorge Elbrecht, (Ariel Pink, Tamaryn) who mixed the album, Zauner recontextualizes her bedroom pop beginnings, expanding and maturing her sound. The sheer massiveness of the big room production on Soft Sounds From Another Planet introduces listeners to a new Japanese Breakfast. Zauner’s familiar, capacious voice will serve as their guide.
The Psychedelic Furs (Saturday, August 11, 7:00 EST, Sunset Stage):
Emerging from England’s punk scene in 1997 and led by front man and songwriter Richard Butler, the Furs have won over fans and critics alike by combining poetic lyrics, innovative rhythms and melodies driven by an aggressive, punk desperation. Through it all, the band has delivered pop-leaning, post-punk staples like “Love My Way,” “Pretty In Pink,” “Heaven,” “The Ghost In You,” and “Heartbreak Beat,” which stretch across their seven studio albums.
The band went on extended hiatus in the early ’90s, with the Butler brothers going on to create the band Love Spit Love. However, after spending most of the decade apart, the Butlers reignited The Psychedelic Furs in 2000, and have been road warriors ever since.
For festival information, visit www.bellwetherfest.com.