New alternative rock beats on old stomping grounds

T here is a first time for everything. This time it’s the first year for a psychedelic new wave of alternative rock, punk, and indie rock, rolling through virgin bucolic farmland with all the excitement and anticipation of a blank canvas. The Bellwether Music Festival debuts on the same grounds occupied by the Ohio Renaissance […]

Bellwether Music Festival debuts in Waynesville


Saturday night headliners The Flaming Lips, led by Wayne Coyne (center, lion).

By Tammy Newsom

There is a first time for everything. This time it’s the first year for a psychedelic new wave of alternative rock, punk, and indie rock, rolling through virgin bucolic farmland with all the excitement and anticipation of a blank canvas. The Bellwether Music Festival debuts on the same grounds occupied by the Ohio Renaissance Festival on August 10th and 11th with early camping access granted on August 9th.  Co-founder and organizer, Bill Donabedian, envisioned his take on the Dayton area’s first indie rock summer music campfest.

“The Renaissance Festival takes place on this spot every year. Co-founder David Ashcraft and I wanted to do a music festival midway through the summer and chose this spot because of how big and open the land is. We partnered up in developing the field outside the festival grounds to combine festival and camping,” he says. “The brimstone and fire people and Celtic festival and the Ohio Renaissance event companies both joined forces the summer of 2017.” The Ohio Renaissance Festival itself takes up over 30 acres on the compound but the actual field is much larger. “We expect 1,000 campers with 200 or 300 campers coming in on Thursday night and staying until Sunday morning. On Friday and Saturday, we will have two video screens with eight acts playing each day,” he says.

The music is in a class of its own and includes acts from the alternative punk rock and synth-pop genres. A similar 3-day music festival takes place at Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove in Cincinnati, this year selling out with 60,000 in attendance. Bellwether Music Festival will be reminiscent of Cincinnati’s own Bunbury Festival.

Speaking Suns hail from Yellow Springs.

The lineup established for both Friday and Saturday afternoon and evening will kick off stellar performances on Friday from The Carriers and Dawg Yawp playing early in the afternoon, followed by Alex Lahey and Bob Schneider. Later on Friday is Whitney and Dr. Dawg, followed by Local Natives. Rounding out Friday night’s experience is MGMT. The Saturday afternoon stages light up first with The Cordial Sins and Speaking Suns, followed by Erika Wennerstrom, and Allah-Las. Then Japanese Breakfast takes over, followed by the iconic Psychedelic Furs, and Echo and the Bunnymen. Saturday night’s finale performance is from the Flaming Lips. A few activities have been planned, like a big screen showing of Get Out on one of the video stages, and after parties have been scheduled each night, featuring Cherry Lee & The Hot Rod Hounds, AJ & the Woods, and This Pine Box. Each morning, campers and attendees can start off the day with a Trisha Durham yoga session.

“What we find around here are many camping festivals where alternative music has country music in its lineup,” says Donabedian. “It’s a great concert but it’s country music like Tennessee’s Bonnaroo Festival. This camping festival will be the first to show all alternative rock music.”

“What we liked about the event is the multiple stages audiences have to choose from, separated by the length of a football field. When one band finishes, there will be a 10 to 15-minute break,” he says. “Then they come back into a relaxed atmosphere. Camping is there if they want to partake, with adult beverages being served. They will be able to walk within a few minutes without driving from stage to stage to see the bands.”

“There are some upgrades but it will be pretty rustic,” he continues. “We’ll see what the campers like and don’t like and we will make adjustments. There will be water stations and phone charging stations. Things are not totally in the middle of the forest. This is a primitive camping site, but attendees will have access to flushable toilets and can buy a freshen-up pass to have access to showers.

“Plus, if campers don’t want to camp they can come for just a one-day or two-day ticket and buy the camping separate.  If you live in Columbus and want to come down just for Friday’s show, you can. There will be plenty of parking. You don’t have to be a camper.”

Weekend campers can buy food from vendors, including BBQ, pizza, hotdogs, and Tweedles Donuts. Patriot Loose Lucy’s Bohemian-style apparel and Glassworks jewelry will be onsite to complete the alternative rock music festival experience. The two-day festival will have two stages and with camping and facilities options: basic tent camping; glamping (renting a 40-by-40 space with tent, cots and parking provided), and RV camping.

The Bellwether Music Festival takes place on August 10 and 11 on the Ohio Renaissance Festival grounds, 10542 East State Rt. 73, Waynesville, Ohio. Early campground access begins August 9. For festival information, visit www.bellwetherfest.com.

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