Bled Fest, a music festival presented by Fusion Shows, took place May 27 at the Hartland Performing Arts Center in Howell, Michigan for its 13th year.
For the second year in a row, Impact 89FM, MSU’s college radio, sponsored Stage C at Bled Fest and was also a vendor at the event.
Sarah Dropsey, the Promotions Director and co-host of the show Pity Party at Impact, said Bled Fest is a festival for college students from the cheap tickets to the punk bands.
“If you like look around, it’s pretty much teens to young adults, college-aged people for the most part," Dropsey said. "I think especially this scene, the punk, emo, DIY scene, it resonates with people of our age, because a lot of the people in the scene making the music are people our age, so it’s like ‘hey, they’re my age and they’re out doing all these cool things.'"
Dropsey said she has loved the music scene surrounding Bled Fest for years.
"I know it’s something I’m really passionate about and I just kind of want to spread that, all my friends are in it,” Dropsey said. “It’s just a really good community that I think people like to be a part of.”
Bled Fest was originally a pool party thrown at a local musician’s house in Hartland in 2005. Ben Staub, or “Big Love,” invited bands to play in his basement and called it “Big Love's Educational Festival.” After hundreds of people showed up the second year, Staub’s mother told him he should continue the fest elsewhere.
After taking the show to a roller rink in Westland for a year, Staub and Lansing music promoter Fusion Shows teamed up in 2008. Fusion Shows President Nate Dorough and the rest of the Fusion team have since been holding Bled Fest at the old Hartland High School.
Dorough, a graduate of Hartland High, was a student in one of the final classes held in the building now home to Bled Fest: the HPAC.
“I graduated in 1997 … I used to sit and eat lunch in the room where the main stages are now,” Dorough said. “We walked around and went, ‘we can put a stage in that room, and over there, in that classroom, that’d be fun. Throw a stage in my old geometry classroom.’”
Dorough said he often dreamt of having a concert in the classroom as a high schooler.
“It’s the living embodiment of the Nirvana 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' video, where you’re just daydreaming at school and all of the sudden a rock concert breaks out," Dorough said. "I could just imagine my favorite band kicking the microphone out of the principal’s hand.”
The festival is designed to draw in college and high school students, from the venue to the bands to the vendors. Holding the event in a different kind of venue is just one of the ways Dorough constructs a DIY feel for Bled Fest.
“It’s so unique because it’s so barebones," Dorough said. "I mean, here we are talking about a soundboard that just went down. We’re not using multi-million dollar PA systems and all that kind of stuff. I think it still sounds good in the rooms and looks good, but it’s all very punk rock, it’s very DIY … I think people expect that.”
Local musician James Gardin played at Bled Fest for the first time this year. A self-described “soul-led rapper, singer and songwriter,” Gardin said being a Lansing musician comes with interesting perks other than the opportunity to play at unique festivals like Bled Fest.
“I think the cool thing about Lansing is that, with it being a college town, you get students and people from so many different places,” Gardin said. “I think I’ve been able to be exposed to a very Michigan sound, but then also have friends who are going to (Michigan) State from somewhere else, like New York or California, so then I get exposed to what they love to listen to."
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