Photography by Sydney Scholl
Best Artist Performances of Middle Waves 2018
Fort Wayne hosted its third annual destination music festival, Middle Waves on September 14th and 15th at Headwaters Park. The festival had not only sick performances from international artists, but also provided spaces for local artists as well. Previous years have featured artists including The Flaming Lips, MGMT, and The Lemon Twigs. The Middle Waves lineup this year was more diverse than ever with artists like Joywave, Smino, Lizzo, and Dr. Dog. The following performances were only a few of the many exciting acts from this year's festival.
Best Acts From Friday, September 14th
Joywave gave a fun-filled show on the St. Mary’s Stage that had the crowd jumping one second and on their ‘feels’ the next. The audience got loud when Joywave got on stage, and they stayed loud until they left. Vocalist, Daniel Armbruster, swung around the microphone cord as he rhythmically bounced around, exploring every inch of the stage. He tossed the mic from hand to hand in between mimicking drummer Paul Brenner by playing ‘air drums’ in between verses. The enticing show had peak after peak with every song, and you could hear the fans singing along to each song
Joywave performed their very electro-alternative rock with songs like “Content” and “Doubt” from their 2017 album and “Compromise,” their new single from this year. With the last “bang” of each song, Armbruster pretended to fall backward with the fading out music, only to catch himself, and bounce back energetically for the next song. The 5-piece band put on an energetic show as a phenomenal transition into the Friday night headliner, Smino.
St. Louis born and raised, Smino surprised the Middle Waves crowd with his engaging R&B and rap performance. After some hesitation from festival-goers expecting Goldlink to headline on the St. Mary’s Stage Friday, Smino came to the rescue and gave an unexpectedly engaging set. He spoke to the audience like close friends as he introduced each song.
His smooth, emotion-ridden rapping and impressive voice hooked the crowd from the beginning of "Krème Brûlée." During "Wild Irish Roses," Smino took a joint from one of his bandmates to calm his nerves. He walked to the edge of the stage and passed the joint to a cameraman who took a hit, camera in one hand, joint in the other. The crowd went wild and suddenly, loyal fans were singing along and new fans are swaying to the powerful, soulful rhythm. By his third song, no one was judging or worrying about being judged. They were completely captivated.
His stage presence was full of appreciation and creative expression; he radiated vulnerability, but that didn’t take away from his excitement to introduce every musician on stage who helped make his musical dreams come true. He removed himself from the spotlight to highlight the talents of his bandmates, producers, and angelic backup vocalists while they each made the crowd roar in appreciation of the individual talents.
Smino opened the hearts of so many on Friday night; it was a night to remember and reminisce for years to come. There’s no doubt in my mind, or anyone’s that was there that night, that Smino is one of the best growing artists in every aspect; lyricism, sonics, composition, and flawless layering.
Best Acts From Saturday, September 15th
Joe Talbot led the English punk band, IDLES, through an emotional performance that brought the audience heavy rhythm and powerful wit. Lead vocalist Talbot and guitarist Mark Bowen entertained the audience in between songs with best-friend banter as Bowen introduced “I’m Scum” and Talbot responded, “Yes you are, Bowen.”
The two buddies kept the playful thing going when Talbot introduced “Love Song” and ran up to hug Bowen’s legs. Bowen proudly serenaded Talbot in front of everyone.
The biggest spectacle of the IDLES set was Mark Bowen jumping off the stage and into the crowd. With guitar still in hand, he lied down in the middle of the grass. Fans screamed about how close he was, but just a few moments later, Bowen found himself surrounded by scattered fans lying down next to him, taking selfies while he shredded. The show was very interactive and very intimate with the audience which made it a once-in-a-lifetime live IDLES experience. Talbot screamed his heart out in the aggressive, soul-crushing “Mother,” criticizing the misogynists of the world and recognizing the mistreatment of women. His whole face red and sweaty, he put all his passion and anger out into the world, creating a memorable, thought-provoking show, still bringing that fist-pumping, punk rock sound.
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
It’s pretty safe to say that if you know indie rock, you know Stephen Malkmus. His first project, Pavement, is widely considered the most influential indie band of the 90s. He has obvious skill; it's apparent that he has something to say and knows how to say it. Casually creeping out from backstage, not noticeably phased by the size of the crowd or the nerves that sometimes overwhelm performers, Malkmus began playing his opening track “Shady Lane.” Loyal fans appreciated hearing Pavement songs live like “Stereo” that Malkmus and the Jicks played later on in the show.
The band’s live performance of Shiggy from their 2018 album Sparkle Hard was honest, beautiful, and what felt like an exhilarating experience with Malkmus’ zesty, witty lyrics. He felt the music move through every nerve as he swung his guitar up and played behind his head for a killer guitar riff. He started kicking and jumping around while he melted everyone’s faces off with the powerful solos from him and another Jicks guitarist.
Malkmus took a water break after playing a successful live version of "Houston Hades" to practice his smooth-talking and flirted with the fangirling crowd. “It’s a very attractive day weather wise. Not to mention the audience,” he said, making the audience smile blissfully. He kept the audience swooning through the rest of his classic indie rock set, performing songs from his Pavement project, old Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, and a few from his new album with the Jicks.
Stepping onto the Maumee stage following a quick break after soundcheck, Australian singer-songwriter Harriett Pilbeam thanked the crowd for giving her the opportunity to visit the United States for a festival show where she could just be herself and sing her songs. She started the 6-song set with 2018 single “Sleep” and performed the full Sugar and Spice EP. The emotion in her voice was nothing but honest, raw, authentic. The collection of shoegaze styled songs took the audience through Hatchie’s every vulnerable feeling that she had no intention of hiding. The stage lit up Hatchie’s hair and skin. Blue. Red. Green. You could feel the colors changing with the essence of teen romance and heartbreak.
Pilbeam was joined by her boyfriend Joe Agius, Hatchie’s acoustic guitar talent, along with other Brisbane based musicians that have been traveling together on their United States tour experience. She didn’t embellish or exaggerate the performance like some artists tend to do, she simply let them feel whatever was on their hearts. Make it their own experience.
The crowd’s energy went from bobbing up and down with her opening track “Sleep” to blissfully swaying side to side with their closest friends as the soft, fuzzy sounds and enticing lyrics of “Sure” finished up the show. Hatchie, of course, thanked the audience again before cracking a vulnerable smile and exiting the stage.
Escorted on stage by her backup dancers behind giant feathers, Lizzo amazed the audience with her yellow, orange and black, mesh bodysuit when her identity was revealed. She proved herself as one of the most powerful female Hip-Hop and R&B on Saturday night at the St. Mary’s Stage. The whole performance was high-energy and danceable. She even let her backup dancers, that she called the “big girls,” teach the audience how to twerk. Although the “twerk tutorial” stood out as a major boost of energy, the real gamechanger was when she invited a little girl from the crowd, wearing a Lizzo shirt, on stage to sing along to the anticipated performance of "Good as Hell."
Lizzo obviously had no problem keeping the crowd’s attention, but that didn’t stop her from popping off by busting out her classical flute that she “never brings on tour because people would think it’s lame.” She said, “screw it,” and everyone in the crowd was shocked and impressed with her hidden, childhood talent. It was just icing on the cake of her elaborate performance.
As the headlining band of the festival, Dr. Dog rallied to the largest crowd of the weekend, each person waiting, anticipating the start of their performance. Festival-goers of a wide range of ages screamed in excitement when front men, Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken, led the band on stage. The Philadelphia based band changed up their sound with the 2018 release of Critical Equation.
Dr. Dog played stellar live versions of a lot of the new album, and it was obvious that it was very well received by fans. You could feel the loyal fans in the crowd tremble when McMicken strumed the first few chords of one of their older songs like “The Breeze”, “Heart it Races” and “Both Sides of the Line." In response to the crowd’s obviously dedicated chanting, Dr. Dog reemerged from backstage after performing their final song to play an encore. They closed out the festival and left every festival-goer content and in love with the weekend.
Artists At Middle Waves 2018 Make Their Mark
Photography by Sydney Scholl