Your Guide to the Middle Waves Music Festival This...

Your Guide to the Middle Waves Music Festival This Weekend

From all-new acts to a Li’l Sebastian photo op.

Middle Waves

Have you ever been hanging out with friends when someone mentions a band you haven’t heard of, and instantly, you feel out of the loop?

Maybe you nod along, or try to Google it quickly without anyone noticing.

Well, if that scenario sounds familiar, then you aren’t alone, friends. Actually, you’re in luck because Fort Wayne’s very own Middle Waves Music Festival is back for its second year this weekend, and part of its goal is introducing our region to music we might not have experienced yet.

Last year, the festival brought out a whopping 4,500 people to see more than 25 national, regional, and local acts. And this year, the party promises to be even bigger with two days, three stages, and an all-new lineup of bands ready to rock Headwaters Park.

But even if you don’t consider yourself a music junkie, don’t shy away from the fun at Middle Waves. Sure, it’s a place for people who follow bands and really know their stuff. But it’s also a place for people who occasionally sing along with the radio, or just want enjoy the weekend with some community spirit.

Basically, it’s a huge backyard party for people of all ages and types, and while you need a pass to enter the concert areas, you can enjoy much of the festival for free. There will be an arts village, craft stations, beer and food for purchase, and a new Mini Waves section for kids that’s entirely free (with attractions like a Rock ‘n’ Roll story time, Peg Perego ride course, wild petting zoo, face painting, Boxlanders play houses, and more).

So bring the whole family, experience new types of music together, and come see how this festival is pushing the boundaries of our community’s potential.

If you want to be part of the action, you can still sign up to volunteer for Middle Waves (and score a free t-shirt) until Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on the Middle Waves website.

Here to tell us more about this weekend’s events is Middle Waves Co-Chair Katy Silliman.

Pique: Let’s start off by talking about the success that Middle Waves had in its first year last September. How did the team feel like it went?

KS: For a first year event, we were really happy with the outcome. At the same time we were super tired; none of us had attempted to execute an event at that scale. Plus, we are all pretty type-A people, so we put everything that we possibly could into it. Some things went really well: the logistics team did a great job with laying out the festival grounds and getting all infrastructure in place. Matt’s team at OLG did an amazing job with the marketing and coordinating our social media presence, and the booking committee brought in some top talent that wouldn’t normally stop in Fort Wayne (which is exactly what we were aiming for). Other things didn’t go as well, and we learned a ton. It rained quite a bit during the festival, which was heartbreaking. We had to scramble and find hay to sop up some of the mud puddles, and move a few bands to perform in covered spaces. We took a hard look at every aspect of the festival in the fall last year to identify how to make it cooler, better, flow more efficiently to create the best festival experience possible for 2017. I have to say that, in thinking back on 2016, one of our favorite memories is scrolling through all of the online feedback from festivalgoers. People had such a great time and were so proud of our city, and to read that over and over again across all of the different social media outlets was so awesome and inspiring. It made us want to dig in and make this year that much better.

Pique: For someone who has never attended a music festival before, how would you describe the experience? Any first time festivalgoer tips?

KS: This is actually an easy one for me to answer because I was a first time festivalgoer last year. I would describe a music festival as a five senses party over a day and a half with your oldest and newest friends. It is a great opportunity to hear amazing music that you were both looking forward to and never knew you were missing. The pace and the vibe are way more chill than I was anticipating, and as the festival progresses, a really cool sense of community and creativity and fun builds that can be felt from festivalgoer to volunteer to performer. One tip I would have would be to check out as many bands as you can, even if only for 5-10 minutes. Discovering new bands has been my favorite part of going to festivals.

Pique: How is Middle Waves different from other music festivals people might be familiar with?

KS: Our vision for Middle Waves isn’t just about putting on an amazing music festival in the vein of the behemoths like Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. It is also about shaping the culture of our community, and doing our part to build and support the city’s growing music scene. It’s about putting Fort Wayne on the map, and pushing the boundaries of our community’s potential. This is what is driving our steering committee, and the different committees working together to pull off the music festival. I think that this can be seen and felt in different ways throughout Middle Waves.

Pique: What’s something that worked well at Middle Waves last year that you’re doing again this year?

KS: Last year, Lagunitas brought in a bunch of furniture, which we used to set up a lounge in the middle of the Village. It was a huge hit. People were always hanging out there. It was really cool to reimagine how to use the pavilion at Headwaters, and it provided a great place for people take a break from the music and enjoy the other festival offerings, so we are definitely bringing that back. Well, that, and the deluxe port-a-potty in the VVIP section.

Pique: What’s something that didn’t work as well last year that you’re changing this year?

KS: Last year, people had to buy beverage tickets to get drinks of any kind from our bars. But then you couldn’t use the beverage tickets to buy food at the food trucks. It was confusing and not the best, from a festival experience perspective. So we are getting rid of the beverage tickets this year. You can easily buy a drink with a credit card or cash at any bar.

Pique: All of the bands are going to be great. But if people have limited time, what are three acts that everyone should definitely try to make it to this year?

KS: Aww, man, that’s a hard question. I’ll share the three that I keep circling back to as I’ve been listening to the Middle Waves playlist. MGMT, our headliner, is going to put on a great show, both audibly and visually. I wouldn’t miss them. Flint Eastwood, from Detroit, is going to kill on Friday night. And if you are looking for something unexpected and cool, I’d check out Radio Jarocho & Zenen Zeferino, who will be performing traditional son jarocho music (a Mexican-American folk music style).

Pique: How far away are some of the bands and attendees traveling from?

KS: We’ve got bands coming from both the east and west coasts, as well as the Murderburgers from Glasgow, Scotland. As for attendees, if last year is any indication, we’ll have over 16 different states represented and perhaps some festivalgoers from Canada pouring into the city.

Pique: It’s awesome that you have an all-new lineup of bands this year. No repeat acts. Is that something you plan to maintain in future years? 

KS: We’re excited to present an all-new lineup in 2017! Certainly, regarding local and regional acts, there’s such a depth of talent and diversity of style in our community that we want to spotlight as much of it as we can. Likewise, with the touring and national performers, we are intent on introducing new artists to this community. Having said all that, this isn’t a hard rule for us, and we look forward to repeating locals in the future, and seeing Maumee Stage performers move up to the St. Marys Stage!

Pique: How did you pick the local bands that will participate this year?

KS: It’s a combination of factors including styles, diversity, and integration with the national line-up. It is a great opportunity for us to showcase the deep bench of music talent in Fort Wayne.

Pique: Middle Waves runs on volunteers. Last year, the volunteer program included a training day, and then leaders on staff directing volunteers at their various festival booths. Will the volunteer program work the same way this year?

KS: Yes, the framework for the volunteer program is the same with some overall improvements that will make the volunteer experience even better. We’ve tripled our planning team to make sure we have more leaders onsite to manage, direct, and support volunteers throughout the festival.

Pique: What are your hopes for Middle Waves in the future?

KS: That Middle Waves continues to grow as an art and music powerhouse in the Midwest. That we play a part in putting Fort Wayne on the map. That we continue to attract amazing, emerging talent to not just plan and execute the event, but to perform and dazzle festivalgoers. That we continue to push the boundaries of what is possible. And that we continue to have great time while doing it.

Pique: An event like this can’t happen with out the support of the local community in sponsorships and volunteers. What do you think the success of Middle Waves says about the northeast Indiana community, and the creative community we have here?

KS: Momentum is really building and actively being harnessed in the community, particularly in creative spaces. The conversation, the vibe, and culture have really shifted. No longer are we spending lots of time trying to convince people that arts, culture, and quality of life are critical to economic development and community growth. People get it and are now just hungry to build and experience cool events, programs, and spaces. At the same time, we are so fortunate to have community leaders with resources and influence who are championing our efforts and pushing us to be bigger and bolder. It is really inspiring to be a part of this momentum and work with such passionate and dedicated people. It is what makes the long hours and the hard work totally worth it.

Pique: Anything else you’d like to tell readers?

KS: It takes hundreds of people to pull off an event like Middle Waves. Within that large tribe of Wavers, there’s a group of around 40 insanely talented, slightly crazy people who make up the planning team and who’ve been pouring everything they have into the festival for the last 12 months. You’ll know who they are because they are wearing red shirts at the festival. If you love the festival like I do, please don’t hesitate to stop and thank them for all of their work.

Middle Waves

Speaking of the Middle Waves planning team, Emma DePrez, the Marketing Co-Chair, and Olivia Fabian, the Vibe Chair, have been spearheading all of the team’s efforts on the festival’s vibe and experience.

Here’s what they have to say about the festival’s overall atmosphere and events beyond the music.

Pique: This year’s festival seems to have a beachy, flamingo vibe. Is there any particular vibe or theme we should expect?

E&O: The entire festival is one big end-of-summer, backyard party. We’ve just embraced that, and then turned up the silliness a bit.

The Vibe Tribe has had an amazing time trying to top each other’s crazy ideas…, and then figuring out how to make those crazy ideas. Sure, pink flamingos will be loitering in beer lines and making their way through the festival grounds, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg on how much further we’ve gone with decor this year.

Pique: The list of extracurricular activities (beyond the music) seems to have increased this year. Tell us more about what else there is to do at Middle Waves besides listen to bands?

E&O: (There will be a) braid bar, unicorn meet & greet, Yummi Bunni ice cream sandwich party, Photanical flower crown making workshop, Vibe Tribe Poster making party…. I mean, you could stay busy the entire fest with the funtivities alone. Most all activities are free, or free with your wristband!

Another new and exciting area is Mini Waves, a mini festival for mini fans. This takes place near the St. Joseph stage on Saturday from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Check out the full list of experiences on our website: 

Pique: We’ve seen things circulating on social media about a Li’l Sebastian Photo Op? Can you elaborate on what that is?

E&O: We’ll be hosting a Li’l Sebatian (Pawnee’s famous mini-horse on “Parks and Recreation”) im-horse-sonator on Friday from 6:00-8:00 p.m. on the West side of (Headwaters) Park. Fans are welcome to get their photo with him or just stop, and say hello.

Middle Waves

You heard the ladies. Come out to Middle Waves this weekend, get your pic with Li’l Sebastian, bring the kiddos, and see how many new bands you can catch. See you there!

Event Info

Middle Waves Poster Show Pre-Party (Free admission with MW Ticket)

Thursday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. EDT

Artlink Contemporary Gallery, 300 E Main St.

All posters are designed by local and regional artists. Admission will be $15 for non-ticketholders. Kids 12 & under get in free. Music by WCYT The Point 91 FM and Metavari. Bar by Calhoun Street Soups, Salads and Spirits. Bravas Dogs from 7-10 PM.

Middle Waves Music Festival

Friday, Sep 15, 5 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. EDT

Saturday, Sep 16, 11 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. EDT

Headwaters Park, 333 South Clinton St.


Friday only: $55

Saturday only: $65

Both days: $85

VVIP Pass: $160


Photography provided by Middle Waves.


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Kara is the lead copywriter/editor of Pique: Fort Wayne Art & Culture. She graduated from Taylor University with a degree in professional writing, which basically means she writes everything from books to blogs to the occasional haiku. Along with doing this (of course), she enjoys traveling, hanging out with friends and eating copious amounts of Mexican food.


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