So I was going to write a Dial post to end all others about Middle Waves; had been thinking about it for several weeks. But those several weeks became consumed by…cookin’ with Middle Waves, of all things. So, here are a few notes; unfinished & unvarnished…

I have this foggy memory of first meeting Corey Rader, at his house on Ewing, had to be late ’99 or early 2000. It was late, late, late at night and he had good beer and these great danes that orbited the room like ghost ships, one pace, one loop, over and over, never stopping. When it came to music, he was like a walking, talking, breathing internet, and you’d mention an artist’s name and he’d say, “Yeah, but have you heard…?”

I said “Whiskeytown” and he said, “Yeah, but have you heard ‘Monday Night,’ it’s the first Ryan Adams song under his own name, it hasn’t been released and nobody has heard it. Here, let me play it for you.”

That’s how it went; he would mention things that nobody had ever heard, and then he’d say, “Here, let me play it with you.” Michael Stipe and Billy Bragg singing a John Prine song? “Here, let me play it for you.”

He told me that he and his friend John’s dream was to buy this neighborhood bar down on Broadway, turn it into a venue, and start bringing in all the bands they and their friends loved, but who never came to Fort Wayne on tour, because where would they play?

I said, “Hey, if you do that, I’ve always wanted to do gig posters, maybe I could make some for these shows?”

There was an appetite, there was food. It’s just that there was no table.

A dozen years later, my favorite American rock band (Marah) is on stage at The Brass Rail, 1121 Broadway, downtown Fort Wayne, and asking a shoulder-to-shoulder weeknight audience, “You know what you have here, right? This is our favorite club east of the Mississippi. This is the CBGB’s of the Midwest!”

Amps shattering china, sweat on the centerpiece, linens on fire. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a table.

I’ve spent the last 18 months with Corey and a group of driven volunteers, chasing electricity.

I’ve got all kinds of marketing-y things to say about Middle Waves, and you can read ‘em here and here and here and here. {add links}

This isn’t that.

A day before the festival, I keep thinking the thing could actually not happen and would still be worth it, just for the experience.

Our original committee of Alec, Alison, Corey, Dan, Katy and me (along with John and Jim) soon enough grew into a half-dozen committees with a half-dozen or dozen members from all over the community, donating blood and sweat by the gallon—some by the barrel. (Especially special to me, from the OLG crew present & past I was lucky to be joined by my game-changing coworkers Olivia Fabian, Emma McCarron, Beth McAvoy, Alex Fabian, Matt Thomas, Jake Sauer, Michelle Love, Jonathan Barker, Shane Starr, Tommy Cutter, Heather Schoegler, Kara Hackett and Nate Utesch—I’m beyond blessed to even know ‘em.)

And we went all the way in, with one goal: to make a music festival. Turns out, when you’re trying to make a music festival, what you really make are memories. Priceless, priceless memories, by the dozen.

Bob Dylan has that one line, “Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than those who are most content.” I mean, I wouldn’t say we were suffering, but “Strange how people who have the time of their lives trying to land a whale in a canoe…” probably just didn’t fit Bob’s pentameter.

From every pop-up booth and committee meeting to a road trip to Des Moines and Slack channels lit up like Times Square on NYE, we smiled, and we had a blast.

We had an appetite, and we had a table. But we had to get in the kitchen to put something on it.

Note: write something about “The City That Saved Itself” and the flood of ’82, and now 34 years later, saving ourselves again, with rising waves. Make it big.

Note: write something funny about doing all those gig posters for 15 years, and then not doing a Middle Waves poster. I think I traded designing posters for writing songs with the Trainhoppers again. We’re gonna play a dozen loud n sloppy ones at 7:15PM Friday night, too. (And then I have to sober up quick and get back to my MW steering committee role.) Make it funny and loose!

Sidenote, I think I have some kind of thing about actually touching people. Jake and I have worked together for almost nine years; we touched once when we were riding bikes and I turned right into his path and we crashed. On Bridget’s last day, we bumped elbows. I thought I hugged Matt Thomas at his wedding, but it turned out it was his brother. But this weekend, I’m all hugs, and maybe even non-romantic kisses. Come at me, or don’t.

Many times on this project I had to go consult my old friend Denise. The mercurial one. I just went to see her last Sunday, for one final vote of confidence. WWDD, right? No need to get into the details, but, in the toughest situations, one way or another, she showed up. She would never attend Middle Waves; too many people! But she would tell us that we were crazy, and that she loved it that we were. She would keep the mercury moving.

Last thing is this, which I mentioned a little while back. A couple months ago I went for an early morning run with an old true friend, one of the most generous people I’ve ever met, and also one of the coolest, and most charismatic. A leader. And we were talking about Middle Waves and—you gotta understand, my friend runs in an incredible circle of people, real salt—and he said, “We all love Middle Waves, but sometimes we’re like, ‘Am I cool enough for Middle Waves?’” And I bring this up because these are some of the loveliest people I know, and the answer is: Yes—Fort Wayne, you are cool enough for Middle Waves.

This is not an experiment.

This is built on the shoulders of loud shows in tiny punk clubs, bouncing shows in music halls, block parties that pound the pavement, festivals that give our city soul, and concerts that change our lives, in venues all across our community, on any ol’ day of the week.

This is not who we are trying to be.

This is who we are.

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