It’s been a week now since Bled Fest and I still haven’t been able to magically extract the words that have been coagulating inside my sludgy brain. When I’m super emotional about something, the ensuing posts tend resemble road kill in written word form. At least I recognize it!
A quick summary for anyone who hadn’t had the misfortune of hearing me ramble about Bled Fest and my building excitement over that last few months: it’s a smaller-scale music festival held inside a preforming arts high school in Howell, Michigan. I usually eyeball the lineup every year and quietly lament the distance between me and Michigan, and for some reason it never actually occurred to me to just say, “Hey yo, Henry — we’re going to this thing.”
What helped though was discovering how geographically close Howell is to where our pals Bill and Jessi live, and since Bled Fest takes place every Memorial Day weekend, visiting them afterward was just the perk necessary to get Henry on board.
The bands that play Bled Fest are typically punk, screamo, emo, and hardcore with some alt-rock and metal thrown in; usually a ton of my favorites are in the lineup. I knew even before this year’s lineup was announced that I was going to want to go, especially after torturing myself by watching YouTube videos of recent Bled Fests.
We arrived early enough to secure a parking spot because that’s a legitimate concern of Henry’s, whereas my only concern was OMG I HOPE NONE OF THE BANDS I LIKE ARE PLAYING AT THE SAME TIME!!!
We sat in the car for a little bit and witnessed the most heart-warming group hug ever. Girl in the floral tank rolled up and it quickly became clear that her homies hadn’t seen her in a long ass time, because she was nearly tackled. It was the most joyous way to start out this festival! But then I became sad because I was there with Henry and not a solid crew.
This is what happens when you’re an old broad who’s still immersed in the scene. And that being said, I admit that I had a certain blend of reservations — would I be stared at? Would it be uncomfortable? Would it be too rough on my brittle bones?
SO MANY UNKNOWNS!
But then we walked up to the school entrance and immediately because usurped by all the good vibes. The staff was so friendly and helpful, directing us to the wristband table before we even had a chance to look lost and confused! And then the wristband staffers were also completely wonderful! And then we got in line and no one made us feel like we didn’t belong or made rude gesticulations in our general direction!
And then the doors opened and the day just steadily climbed uphill from there! EVERYTHING WAS PERFECT! EVERYTHING WAS AMAZING!
Except for the 87 times Henry and Chooch attempted to ruin my day. But the solution was easy: they spent most of the day outside away from the music and I was free to enjoy every last band that I had traveled 6 hours to see.
- All Is Well
- Forever Losing Sleep
- Watermedown (almost had a vague Xiu Xiu-meets-pop punk vibe and I can’t decide if I liked that)
- Artifex Pereo
- The Cardboard Swords
- Sorority Noise
- The Saddest Landscape
- Amateur Eyes
- Citizen (I feel confident to say that they have very quickly climbed to the top rungs of my Favorite Bands ladder)
- Old Gray (fucking real screamo, please and thank you – I try not to be a genre Nazi but man I hate when people think that bands like Falling In Reverse are screamo)
- Tiny Moving Parts
- The World Is a Beautiful Place…
- The Beautiful Gorgeous
By the time the very first started, I was absolutely overcome with sheer happiness and thought to myself giddily, “THIS IS FOR ME. THIS IS DEFINITELY THE PLACE FOR ME.” All the uncertainties and fears evaporated because I was where I belonged and I just knew the day was going to be magic.
You guys, I was at Bled Fest. Finally.
All Chooch cared about was: being VIP, when the VIP lounge opened, what was going to be available to eat in the VIP lounge, talking about the VIP lounge when he wasn’t already inside of the VIP lounge.
Guys, it was nothing glamourous. We paid extra just for one VIP ticket because it came with a Bled Fest t-shirt, screen print and tote bag (all things I was interested in) and all-day snacks and drinks (all things Chooch was interested in). Win/win.
Chooch was so tunnel vision about his VIP status that he actually had an alert set on his phone for when the VIP lounge opened, and at exactly 1pm he said “SEE YA” and off he went to slip behind the mysterious VIP screen into the land of cafeteria tables and a catered taco buffet.
This was a huge deal for him, and thank god for it because aside from Artifex Pereo, he was pretty much uninterested I everything there music-wise. I was disappointed that we weren’t making beautiful family memories together, but I had a lot to distract me.
Caught a few minutes of Copneconic because Chooch out of nowhere ran of into the room housing Stage F.
Sorority Noise was fantastic as usual. They were playing on one of the main stages and that room (I think it was the cafeteria?) was super hard to squeeze into because crowds gathered pretty quickly around the door. There was a slight surge though and I put my hands out in prayer-position and rode the wave into the middle of the room. I’m usually scared, as an older lady with brittle bones (honestly, I get hurt so easily!), being in the middle of crowds, but I felt really safe there. I had faith that if I got knocked out, someone would drag me out to the hallway for Henry to claim my clammy, haggard body.
I just saw Sorority Noise with Citizen in February, but both of their sets at Bled Fest were so much better. Because BLED FEST.
I have been trying to see The Saddest Landscape for years now—my Facebook bio is “My face is the saddest landscape” as an homage to them; if you don’t know, now you know—and it was totally worth the wait. They played on a stage in the front lobby area of the school and introduced themselves as, “We’re the Saddest Landscape and we’re going to punch you in the heart.”
BY GEORGE, they did.
I have this conversation a lot, particularly at work, where I have to try to devise a sensible strategy to assist people in understanding why exactly I like “screaming” music. With the Saddest Landscape in particular, the music is actually quiet beautiful. Yes, there is singing/barking/shouting/screaming in lieu of traditional singing; but it’s the manner in which those words are conveyed that honestly break my heart. There is an aching to Andy Maddox’s vocals that makes it impossible not to feel something.
Unless you’re Henry.
He remained completely unaffected.
And Chooch was outside.
Amateur Eyes! John dyed his hair blue and I became convinced that this wasn’t actually Amateur Eyes after all, even though Chooch kept yelling, “YES IT IS, MOMMY, UGH!” So I didn’t ever say hello to him because I honestly didn’t believe it was him. I really need to get a second opinion on my eyes, I think. I GUESS YOU COULD SAY MY EYES ARE AMATEUR.
There were only two times during the entire day that I had any spare time to actually sit down and let me tell you, it was like my body had forgotten how to fold into a seated position. I sat outside in the grass with Henry and Chooch while my entire head rang and couldn’t wait to get back inside. Henry and I had very different opinions on the day, obviously.
The World Is…was playing on one of the main stages and it was my first time finally seeing them, and it was long overdue. I was actually washing my hands in the bathroom with their keyboardist and didn’t even realize it was her until I saw her on stage. So glad I didn’t say anything stupid which is usually what I tend to do at shows.
I’m at least not to the phase in my life where I tell dad jokes or say mom things like, “Your shoe is untied, dear.”
Henry actually got to talk to Nate, the organizer of this whole thing! And I missed it! Of course I missed it! But I guess Nate came out of the VIP area and told Henry that it was totally cool if he wanted to go in there with Chooch instead of standing on the other side of the divider like a creeper. He also told Henry to help himself to any of the food but Henry declined because we only paid for one VIP pass and WE ARE HONEST PEOPLE.
Although Chooch did bring me a mini Twix later that day and I totally inhaled it because I thought I was going to pass out.
(I was very irresponsible and only drank one bottle of water all day and then ate one piece of pizza around 5pm. And then I wondered why I almost collapsed during Citizen.)
I was going to see Tiny Moving Parts a few days before Bled Fest but their show fell on garbage night, and if you know anything that’s been currently going on in my life, then you know why garbage night is kind of “can’t miss” for me. So I passed on the Smiling Moose show and now I’m wondering what kind of turn out they had, since almost every show of that genre I’ve attended at the Smiling Moose has had less than 20 people there.
Their turnout at Bled Fest was nutz0rz though! So instead of standing around with a bunch of ambivalent Pittsburghers, I got to be stuffed into a roomful of people going absolute ham.
And I made a friend! Some guy kept cutting out of the thicker part of the crowd to stand near me, but don’t get it twisted — it had nothing to do with attraction. I was standing near a giant fan and it was literally the best spot in the room. Every time he would come over, it was the same thing: a sheepish grin and some explanation of which I could only make out the word “fan.”
It’s OK, kid. I understood. I’ll share my fan with you.
During one of his visits, he offered Skittles to me and the two guys next to me. We all politely declined, but I sure did appreciate the offer.
Then he came back toward the end of Tiny Moving Parts because one of the straps of his backpack broke and he wanted me to help him fix it. I tied the most mentally-challenged knot in the world and we both shrugged and laughed about it.
BLED FEST IS THE BEST.
Henry’s official Bled Fest visage. He didn’t seem too angry by the time the night was over though, because there were plenty of tranquil places for him and Chooch to sneak away to. It’s a good thing that I’m so accustomed to going to shows alone or else my experience would have been a lot different.
I kept telling him that if he wasn’t going to stand around and watch the bands with me, then he could at least go to the merch village in the gym and buy me shit.
As it turned out though, the alone time was actually preferable. It was comforting knowing that I had people there somewhere, waiting in the wings, but I did enjoy the fact that I was free to be wherever I wanted to be, watching whatever band I wanted to watch, sweating profusely with all of my Bled Fest brethren. The Citizen set especially was euphoric, absolutely full of scene camaraderie and fist-thrusting sing-alongs.
You guys, a tall guy stood in front of me and then when he noticed the shrinking violet behind him, he actually apologized and moved back so that he was next to me instead. This never happens. My heart was bursting. My throat was burning from screaming to “The Night I Drove Alone.” My eyes were stinging with tears. My shirt was suctioned to my moist flesh and as I staggered down the hallway toward Chooch and Henry after the set, it made a sexual slurping noise as I peeled the fabric away from my skin.
“You guys, it was so fucking sick!” I said breathlessly to the only two people in the hallway who blatantly looked like they gave no shits.
In fact, Chooch bragged that he fell asleep, right there on the floor of the hallway.
Fallujah was playing on the other stage right before Citizen and went over their set time. They kept saying things like, “We have time for more songs!” and everyone on the Citizen side of the stage started booing and chanting “Citizen” and a few people threw empty water bottles, but other than that, I didn’t experience any drama all day. (Except maybe during the Beautiful Gorgoeous’s set, but I’ll save that for another post.)
The very last band that I had had had to see was Superheaven. I saw them last September for the first time at Riot Fest and just couldn’t stop thinking about them, because you know how I get. You could say I have an obsessive personality. Anyway, they recently announced that this will be their last tour for awhile; not sure exactly if that means they’re done forever, or if this is a hiatus, but I wasn’t about to press my luck.
It was so good to see them again. Tay is a fucking pistol. His banter with the crowd in between songs is so entertaining but it makes me intimidated of him, like he might make fun of me if we make eye contact or something. Granted, that’s how I feel about humans in general though.
For as much as Henry acts like he doesn’t pay attention to what I like, he sure was excited to tell me that he and Chooch saw Tay earlier in the parking lot.
“He cut his hair,” said Henry, president of the scene hair census bureau.
I woke up the next morning feeling like I could explode with happiness. All I wanted to do was talk and talk and talk about the day before and all the fucking amazing bands that we (I) saw and that at one point I was adamant about moving to Michigan, because their scene is just flat out AMAZE.
I’m still reeling at how wonderful and different Bled Fest was in comparison to other festivals I’ve been to. I have never felt so comfortable in a scenario like this before. Being around people like me, and having my day filled with the most cathartic music….It might not seem like much, but brother it meant the world to me.
Before you walk away from this thinking I’m such a sweet little princess, I should be completely up front here and tell you that after we left, I completely did a 180 in the car because I was exhausted and fucking STARVING, so I started berating Henry for not buying me anything from the merch village, because I’m a spoiled materialistic bitch. He never said a word either, just kept driving straight to Taco Bell and breathed a sigh of relief when it got quiet in the car on account of Chooch and I having our late night feeding.
Then I woke up the next morning and found a stack of records on the hotel table, which Henry bought for me at Bled Fest and didn’t even say anything to get me to shut my face the night before! I was really nice to him for the rest of the day.
Man, sometimes he’s pretty OK.
For an old guy.