Imagine a setting surrounded by bands of every genre – from alternative rock, to hip-hop, EDM, industrial, R&B, and everything in between – with every amenity in easy reach, and no limit to the culture that you'll experience.
If this sounds like Austin, or Chicago, you're right – but it's the kind of experience that the River Lights Music Festival's organizers are bringing this weekend to South Bend.
The idea behind River Lights is straightforward: offer a multi-genre musical experience in a central environment – in this case, downtown South Bend, according to Matt Teters, one of the festival's organizers.
“This year's festival has a wide range of talent and styles, but a more focused approach, as far as venues are concerned,” said Teters. “Friday and Saturday, we have one main location that has two stages in close proximity. People will be able to see as many as 14 bands at one site – Seitz Park, and the Emporium parking lot, (but) we are calling it East Bank Village – in one day, from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday. No travel necessary, and there will be food vendors and beer sales on site.”
The same approach will take hold from 4 to 11 p.m. Friday, with the Century Center Island Park serving as the main site. Other featured locations include the Chicory Cafe, Club Fever, the Commerce Center atrium, Corby's, O'Rourke's (on Eddy Street), and The Well in River Park.
The idea behind this compact shortlist of venues is encourage patrons to make a day of it, while they're sampling the various sights and sounds they're experiencing, according to Teters.
As the festival's name suggests, it's also a tribute to the River Lights art installation. The lights – which allow visitors to send a flow of color over the St. Joseph River, and back again – have become a major talking point since their completion as part of the city's 150th birthday party last year.
“The organizers wanted to create a festival that had a wide range of music, multiple genres, but still focused on South Bend,” said Teters. ”The river lights offer a perfect focus point and nexus for this festival with its many colors of music mixed together.”
More than 60 local and regional acts will be showcased, ranging from Americana-flavored roots rock (The Tumbleweed Jumpers), to hip-hop (The B.E.A.T.), singer-songwriters (Brittany Lee Moffitt), and hard-charging Irish music (Kennedy's Kitchen).
River Lights will also feature a handful of acts who'll be traveling in for the weekend, including indie rockers Mike Mains & The Branches, and solo pop act Flint Eastwood, both from Detroit.
Organizers are recommending that patrons bring cash, to make life a bit simpler for vendors, and buy tickets in advance (which they can do with a credit card).
For an extra incentive, festival planners also offered additional goodies – such as having a rap song, written to order, by featured artist Kevin Hatcher – through an campaign. The initiative raised $3,7250 from 86 backers, easily exceeding its $2,500 goal.
“The infrastructure and organization behind this event is definitely built to last,” said Teters.
Once the dust settles from this year's inaugural event, Teters and his fellow organizers will take a deep breath, and – as always – figure out which aspects worked well, and which ones could stand a rethink.
Naturally, Teters expects talent and venue recruitment to rank among the ongoing priorities for future festivals.
“We also have plans to market to a wider area. We want people from Indy and Chicago to come to the festival. Our ultimate goal is to help South Bend become a musical destination in the Midwest,” he said.

Not surprisingly, finding more room for South Band's talent has already become a big talking point for next year.

“For one thing, the volume of talented performers wanting to play was overwhelming,” said Teters. “This is great, but it would be a goal to accommodate more acts next year. We want to continue to use the festival as a platform for community building. I think this thing has legs, and I look forward to seeing it run!”


Live:5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 5, 11 a.m. Friday, May 6 and noon Saturday, May 7, at various venues around downtown South Bend, IN. Check the festival website for specific band times and locations.

Tickets: One-Day Pass (Friday/Saturday), $16.82. Weekend Pass: $22.09 ($11.54 for students). Weekend Pass (with T-shirt): $32.64.  Sales end May 6 (VISA, MasterCard, Discover, American Express accepted.)

Children 12 and under admitted free (with guardian):
child must check in to get wristband, and be accompanied to all age appropriate venues.

More Information:,

About The Author
Author: Ralph Heibutzki


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