This week, Fort Wayne is about to make history.
In the offices of One Lucky Guitar (where I am a writer), this is the moment we’ve been waiting for. It’s taken a lot of hard work from a lot of dedicated people this year—and the past ten years or more—priming northeast Indiana’s music scene for a time such as this.
It’s time for the first-ever Middle Waves Music Festival.
Destination music festivals with national acts like “The Flaming Lips” are a hallmark achievement for any up-and-coming city. They bring thousands of visitors and hundreds of thousands of dollars into local economies.
But if you ask me, the reason to come out and support Middle Waves this weekend is more personal than economics and less flashy than the allure of big national acts. It’s the opportunity to pay tribute to northeast Indiana’s growing local music scene: The music made here, and the music coming here in higher volumes on a regular basis.
When I first moved back to Fort Wayne after college, I wasn’t sure how much my hometown could really surprise me. To be honest, I didn’t think it would. I knew that the city had good food and nice, friendly people. Most of my family lives here. But what I didn’t expect to find beneath the typical family-friendly, happy-go-lucky appeal of Fort Wayne was a soulful music scene that helped me see the city in a different light and find some peace here.
I left college and came to Fort Wayne in a difficult season of life. A close friend had died, and most of the support system I established at school was suddenly scattered all over the country. Facebook statuses told me everyone was moving on to bigger and better things faster than I was, and there wasn’t much respite from it all, working a busy job at the local newspaper.
But in the quiet hours after work, when all of the thoughts and ideas started to gang up on me, I found solace in the music that surprised me around town at hangouts like JK O'Donnells, weekend trips to Two-EEs Winery and the intimate backroom venues of places like CS3s or One Lucky Guitar. Local music seeped its way into my life, and it was the first thing that really made me feel like I could belong here.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Fort Wayne is great. My favorite Middle Waves ad is the one that says, “Yes, you are cool enough, Fort Wayne.” Because if you hear the music around town, see the art and talk to the people who are dreaming it all up, then you know that it’s true.
This really is a place for artists, comedians and untraditional ideas of all types. But when you’re new to town, that’s not always the face that greets you at the door.
When you’re new here (or returning after college), Fort Wayne largely gives off the family-friendly, #blessed vibe that everyone here has their lives together. And if you feel like you don’t have your life together, it makes you feel THAT much more out of place.
But what’s most exciting to me about Middle Waves is that it reminds us that this is a place where people of all types can belong, and it gives the untraditional side of our region the opportunity to take center stage for a while. It helps people think of Fort Wayne as more than “a good place to raise a family,” and it draws attention to what’s already happening here behind the scenes at bars and coffee shops and dimly lit venues where life plans and achievements and Facebook statuses don’t matter as much.
When you’re listening to music, you don’t have to be a parent, a student, an executive or a “young professional.” You are who you are. You’re a thread in the fabric of this culture—a head in the wave of a sea of people swaying to the sound of a single beat.
Music spans job titles, ethnicities, ideologies and generations. It’s an excuse to get out of the house, a reason to go out dancing or an opportunity to just sit in the darkness and soak it all in. It’s a wild party and a solemn nod of reassurance that everything is going to be OK.
This weekend, everything that’s been brewing in Fort Wayne’s subculture is taking over Headwaters Park, and if you haven’t gotten into the local music scene yet, then it’s a great opportunity to see what it’s all about. A lot of people have been working to make this happen for months and years, and the culture they’re creating carries with it the hope that there’s a place in this city for people of all types.
Whoever you are, whatever stage of life you find yourself in, come out, and enjoy the music. Let it wash over you, and embrace the idea that there just might be a place here for someone like you.
Middle Waves Music Festival
The first ever Middle Waves Music Festival is set to take place on Friday and Saturday at Headwaters Park in downtown Fort Wayne. This all-ages festival will feature musical acts of various genres, as well as food trucks, artists and much more.
Two-day, Friday-only and Saturday-only General Admission tickets are still available at MiddleWaves.com or at the ArtsTix Box Office, located at the Arts United Center.
$35 for Friday, $50 for Saturday, or $75 for the two-day pass.
HereSay, in partnership with YLNI, is a frequent blog about our say on what’s happening here. It is written by YLNI member Kara Hackett, and the opinions are her own. Photo by Matt Thomas. HereSay@ylni.org