First, a bit of history (taken from Bled Fest’s myspace):
“Bled Fest is in its 6th year. Short for Big Love’s Educational Festival, Bled Fest was started by Ben Staub (aka Big Love) as a house show in 3005. The event outgrew his basement, and in 2007 was taken to Skateland West. Black Dahlia Murder headlined to almost 1500 people. In 2008, Bled Fest returned home to Livingston County, where Gwen Stacy headlined, and then in 2009, Whitechapel headlined to a record 1789 attendees. In 2010, Bled Fest will continue to be a showcase of incredible local talent and some of the hottest cutting-edge national acts, continuing to diversify with new genres being introduced. Not just a metal festival, fans of all varieties of music will find something they love at Bled Fest 2010!”
Alright, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way instead of coming up with a half-decent introduction, let’s get to the 2010 show itself. While the promise of “new genres being introduced” is a bit scary (coughwarpedtourcrunkcorecough), Bled Fest delivered with a solid mix of hardcore (Trash Talk, Misery Signals), punk (Polar Bear Club), and indie/emo rock (The Felix Culpa, Balance and Composure) that had something for everybody. There was also a solid mix of great local bands (La Dispute, Brothers, Your Best Friend) and bigger national acts (Polar Bear Club, Misery Signals, Strike Anywhere). Unfortunately, I was not able to see every band, or even half of them. Despite this, I will do my best to recount the atmosphere and performances.
Bled Fest took place in the Hartland Pac in Howell, MI, with two main stages in a gym right next to each so that the main action would never stop, along with two hallway stages and a classroom stage that provided more intimate settings.
I’ll run through the first half of the day quickly, as the main action didn’t start until relatively late. Local acts abounded early on, giving me a chance to get a look at the Michigan scene. Saginaw pop punk act Act As One put on an incredible live show, connecting really well with the audience. Embracing the occasional improvisation (part of a cover, random bursts into “screamo”) they were entertaining even if one wasn’t a huge pop punk fan. Chicago metalheads Monsters and death metal outfit Within the Ruins both provided incredible, energetic shows. Despite having no idea how any of their songs sounded, the breakdown-heavy music was easy to lose my mind to.
Armana Reign and In Fear and Faith were two bands that failed to impress me. Everyone else looked like they were having a good time, but the Armana Reign’s clean vocals were painful and the music seemed very cliché. I felt I missed out somewhat on IFAF, as the vocals also grated on me, whereas if I was a fan I feel I would have enjoyed the show.
One of my favorite shows of the day was that of local hardcore act Brothers. Their incredibly loyal fan base showed up ready for action, and the result was intense show that featured the singer being draped in fans much of the show (but still killing it). Another cool set was that of Koji, who’s acoustic sit-down set was an interesting (but not at all unwelcome) change from the norm.
It was around this time, about halfway through the day, that bands that I easily recognized started to show up. Balance and Composure and The Felix Culpa both had strong sets full of honest enthusiasm for what they were doing, and I would highly recommend both bands to everybody. Misery Signals and Strike Anywhere both put on strong performances, but I was not able to get too involved due to the fact that I was waiting eagerly for these next two sets.
La Dispute had a monster of a set. Michigan’s darlings (the way girls drool over Jordan is ridiculous) brought on of the largest, if not the largest, crowds with unfathomable amount of passion. Positioned close-to-the-front-and-center, I received the full experience. The horde of people behind, fervent as they were, immediately pushed forward so hard the first rows of people spilled onto the stage and remained there for the entirety of the first song. The rest of the show played out in much the same way, with absolutely no room to move but nobody caring. We didn’t care that it was a frotteurist’s dream.
La Dispute and gave it their all, and we responded in kind as we matched Jordan word for word as the rest of the band played their hearts out. It was incredibly show, and every fan walked away happy. A few of the band members even stuck around for a few minutes to shake hands and talk a little even as they had to make way for the next band, which just goes to show what great guys they are.
The final set I saw (I had to miss Polar Bear Club) was Trash Talk. Now I had heard great things about Trash Talk, but I had never really listened to them or heard about one of their lives shows. I was completely unprepared. Trash Talk lives to give an insane live show, and they are really damn good at it. With diehards moshing, sprinting, stage diving, slam-dancing, tackling the lead singer, and everything else they could think to do, all with a complete disregard for safety, it was one of the most intense shows I’ve ever had the privilege of being involved in. As the band finished off the set by climbing on top of the 6ft+ tall speakers, I left convinced I had found one of my new favorite hardcore acts.
And that was the end of Bled Fest (for me). I am covered in bruises and I’m not sure my right knee will ever be the same again, but I definitely would have done it again, and hopefully will next year. Anybody in the southern Michigan area should make it a point to check out this festival (only $15 presale, $20 at the door for 10 hours of nonstop concerts).