The morning of BLED FEST, Zane and I slept through my alarm and accidentally delayed the 5+ hour drive ahead of us to the event. We still hadn’t gotten breakfast, gas, or anything for that matter.
I was buzzing around Molly’s apartment (she let us stay with her in Pittsburgh the night before) trying to get focused enough to be able to drive, quickly planning when and where we needed to be in order to make it in time to see who we wanted to see. I loved the fact I was going to be able to go to Michigan again, but now being behind schedule, having to suffer the atrocity that is the Ohio Turnpike, and dealing with shoulder pain from sleeping wrong, I was determined to get on the road and moving.
We finally did, got gas, ate dollar menu items from McDonald’s that I swear were contaminated, and traveled God’s Favorite Toll Road™ on our way to the bright, beaming north. I’d waited years for the chance to attend this festival, and the day had finally come. Was it going to be worth it?
While driving, my mind likes to wander and imagine what was and what can be. So in the years I’ve been daydreaming and playing music, I’ve come to a conclusion. There seems to be one thing that stands above all when it comes to building and supporting artists: community.
It’s a thing I’ve noticed die down over time, for any number of reasons. Friends move, start real jobs or a family… or it’s because that sense of community has moved online where interactions between people become almost exclusively digital; what’s left of a scene has become people duking it out for your attention (not that it’s a bad thing, but there’s a lot of work involved in competing for attention with everything).
When we finally rolled up to park at a lovely Target and made our way inside the festival, what I experienced brought back ideas and possibilities that had long since faded in my mind. Here were hundreds (thousands?) of people who were gathered to check out bands that my small group of friends and I liked. To some that’s nothing, but my mind was blown that there was a place where I could mention bands like Basement, Small Talks, or Rozwell Kid, and more than one or two people actually knew what I was on about. Coming from West Virginia, my default musical banter was along the lines of, “Have you heard that new Breaking Benjamin single?” before hiding away to watch videos of Tigers Jaw performing.
For years, I tried to fill this musical/social void by attending Warped Tour and other festivals, along with attending little shows here and there (namely the time I drove three hours after a long day of college classes to see Modern Baseball play a converted garage). I had a blast at those events too, but there was something uniquely different about BLED FEST. No drunk people, no random smells, nothing but people, music, and cool merchandise/cheap, delicious food (what other festivals have mac and cheese for $5?). For the first time in a long time, I felt surrounded by people genuinely passionate about the same artists as me.
BLED FEST achieved something I’d been seeking for ages: finding people into music to rally behind and experience this thing we call life. Plenty of other opportunities provide that, but to see it in this realm of alternative music? To me, unheard of. Hopefully I’m wrong.