When passionate volunteers come together with a vision, great things can happen. That’s what the organizers of Middle Waves believe. And that’s why dozens of them have spent the last year planning the two-day music festival that will take over Headwaters Park September 14 and 15.
Middle Waves first came about three years ago and it’s been growing in popularity and participation ever since. This year it will feature more than 25 performers on three stages and more than 6,000 people are expected to attend.
“2016 showed proof of concept,” said Festival Chair Katy Silliman. “2017 showed proof of viability. In 2018, we’re dreaming even bigger.”
“That speaks to the mission of the event in general – to create jaw-dropping arts and culture experiences,” said Operations Co-chair Nicholas Weaver. He and Logistics Chair Ryan Holquist both work at Sweetwater, which is the title sponsor. “Fort Wayne is a difficult community to convince to go against tradition, like having a music fest in a park that’s not designed to hold a music fest. It’s a flood plain. Everything we’re doing goes against what is considered normal.”
There are many things that make Middle Waves unique, including the fact that two of the three stages are completely free and open to the public.
“We bring artists to town that other promoters aren’t bringing,” Silliman said proudly. “We want people just to come and enjoy the music and have a good time.”
“It’s family friendly,” added Weaver. “MiniWaves for kids is from noon to three on Saturday. There are funky art installations, a llama walking around, pop-up performances from theater and dance troupes. You can hear your new favorite band and see something you’ve never seen in Fort Wayne.”
“The fact that we’re doing this at all means we’re not super prone to copy and paste,” Holquist said. “We’re always looking for a new approach or a twist on something we saw at a different festival.”
The Middle Waves kickoff party is back, featuring the 2018 Poster Show. That takes place on Thursday, September 13, from 6-9 p.m. at 1301 Lafayette St. The party is free with the purchase of a VIP or General Admission festival ticket.
Posters designed by local and regional artists will be for sale.
The fun really gets under way at 5 p.m. on Friday, September 14. The lineup includes hip-hop artist GoldLink, indie rocker Joywave, local group Streetlamps for Spotlights, and more. From noon to midnight Saturday, 16 national and local artists, including Dr. Dog, Lizzo, and the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra, will perform on the three stages. Music genres range from hip-hop to rock, to indie folk, reggae, and everything in between.
“One of the biggest strategic decisions in 2018 was that we decided to take a different tact in booking,” Silliman explained. “In the past, we spent about half of our budget on talent and the majority went to one band. This year we spread out the money. We don’t have that one big band that really packs a punch. This time we have more bands that are of a higher caliber. Ticket sales will reveal whether that’s a great strategy.”
Silliman and other organizers, who are all volunteers, say Middle Waves started as a way for people to enjoy all different types of music, but it’s had other positive effects within the community.
“We are inducing pride in Fort Wayne,” Silliman said. “So, many people, when they come to Middle Waves, say they can’t believe this is in our city. It’s really been exciting. After the first year, ‘We’re Cool Enough’ kinda became our tag line.”
“It’s attracted a strong core of community leaders,” Weaver added. “We’ve met some really sharp individuals who’ve made this event what it is, a lot of entrepreneurs and music people. It’s good to see how many new friends we’ve all made.”
Three Rivers Distilling Company, Two EE’s, and Chapman’s are among the drink vendors. Food will be available from Bravas, Lawney’s BBQ, Flora & Lily’s Mexican truck, and more.
Tickets are available online at middlewaves.com. Two-day General Admission passes are $85 and VVIP passes are $165. The VVIP passes include a catered dinner both nights, two drink tickets, deluxe restrooms and more. Single-day Friday tickets are $35 and single-day Saturday tickets are $65. Children 10 and under are admitted free if accompanied by an adult.