Summer music festivals usually bring to mind wide open spaces, whether they’re in parks (Lollapalooza) or parking lots (Warped Tour). But for those who really want to get up close and personal with their favorite artists, there’s nothing that compares to Howell, Michigan’s Bled Fest. Now in its 11th year, the all-ages event takes place on six stages inside an old high school on the Saturday of every Memorial Day weekend. The two main stages are in a cafeteria, with side stages in classrooms, a hallway and an auditorium. So, yes, in some ways, you can live out the fantasy of your favorite band playing at your school.
With recent headliners ranging from Every Time I Die to Hawthorne Heights, the festival is best known for showcasing all things punk, hardcore and emo-related, but its past lineups have featured artists as eclectic as party rocker Andrew W.K., prog-metal band Scale The Summit and post-rock outfit Sunlight Ascending. Most importantly, Bled Fest is an intimate experience—but not in the soothing, tender, or acoustic-leaning way that description sometimes suggests. Stage diving, grabbing the microphone and taking photos are all highly encouraged, and most bands are available to talk at the merch section in the gym. Whether you’re a Bled Fest veteran or looking to experience it for the first time, here are ten bands you must see in 2015.
A decade ago, this Iowan five-piece set the standard for emotional hardcore with their masterpiece, Witness. Having reunited in 2013 with the excellent Fever Hunting, Modern Life Is War are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their most famous album with a nationwide tour. Their Bled Fest appearance is sure to be one of the most intense sets of the day and an amazing experience for those who were too young to see them in their prime.
Bled Fest rarely gets bands from as far away as California unless it is a convenient stop on tour, so organizers must have been thrilled to land a headliner who are not just one of the best bands in Los Angeles, but who are on top of the screamo/post-hardcore world right now. Bled Fest is the only remaining date scheduled for Jeremy Bolm and Co. in 2015, so if you live in the Midwest and haven’t seen them, make plans to get to Howell, ASAP.
The Baltimore-based outfit are Bled Fest regulars—this is their third appearance in four years—and their sets are always a highlight, even when time constraints cut them short, as they did in 2013. This performance should be a change of pace, considering how Kyle Durfey abandoned screaming on last year’s Keep You, but expect a packed and passionate crowd as usual. They’ll just be singing every word instead of shouting.
The emo explosion of the past few years has been kind to Bled Fest, and Modern Baseball are no exception, making their second appearance in three years. The Philadelphia band’s 2014 album, You’re Gonna Miss It All, established Brendan Lukens as one of the most honest and heartfelt lyricists in the genre, which is perfect for a festival that encourages audience members to get onstage and sing into the same mics as the performers.
Make Do And Mend
Note: After we had posted this, MDAM posted a statement regretfully announcing they won't be able to make it to the festival this weekend:
“It is with heavy hearts that we are announcing that we will not be able to make it to Bled Fest this coming weekend. Please go and support all of the incredible bands playing, and have a blast for us.”