BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — From its home base of Waterville, the Oliver Hazard Band has traveled around the country, sharing its indie-folk music with fans and newcomers, but every August the members’ favorite bands travel to Waterville for the one-day Oliver Hazard Day music festival.
The fifth annual OHD is set for Saturday, August 12 in downtown Waterville on Third Street. It’s all about championing other artists, said Oliver Hazard member Mike Belazis.
“It’s a community-building thing for us, to bring these folks to Waterville and have a bonding experience,” Belazis said.
Gates open at 5:00 p.m. with local artist Jon Zenz doing old-school vinyl record spinning and deejaying of 45-rpm Motown, soul and reggae singles.
“There’s just something about the way an old record, played loud and clear on a good sound system, can make you bob your head, eventually moving your whole body to the rhythms,” Zenz said.
Next on the lineup is Field Guide, aka Dylan MacDonald, an international artist from Winni-peg, Manitoba.
“He’s a really up-and-coming, blossoming songwriter,” Belazis said. “He writes great songs and has a strong following on Spotify.”
The third act is Sam Burchfield, who Belazis has been trying for years to get on the Oliver Hazard Day lineup because of his folksy, southern sound and solid songwriting.
Illiterate Light, a Charlottesville, Va., band, is a rock band that’s high-energy and innovative.
“They are very well-known,” Belazis said, noting that in some shows the band has the audience ride bikes to generate the power on stage.
The Oliver Hazard Band wraps up the evening, pulling from its 2018 debut album 34 N. River, a second self-titled album released last month and their two EPs – The Flood and Northern Lights.
Like its album covers and music videos, art is a large part of the OHD celebration. Waterville artist Cathy Tyda is bringing a 55-inch by 35-inch painting that will incorporate this year’s OHD theme of aquatics. Using photos of the old Roche de Boeuf Bridge, rocks and a canoe, she’s done some preliminary work on a piece that will allow guests at the OHD festival to sign their names in the water reflections.
“This is a popular idea in different festivals,” said Tyda, who went to Anthony Wayne High School with Oliver Hazard band member Devin East. “I’m super excited to be there. I love their music.”
The event will support other local artists as well, with proceeds going to the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo.
“The Arts Commission lines up so well with our goals as artists,” Belazis said. “They’re helping underserved artists all over the community, giving them a platform. We really love what they do.”
Tyler Dean, development director for the Arts Commission, said he’s grateful for the band’s support.
“It’s astonishing to see the generosity of artists like Oliver Hazard, who not only support other bands by inviting them to participate in the festival, but also provide opportunities for creatives throughout greater Toledo by donating to The Arts Commission,” Dean said. “These donations ensure that the next generation of artists have an opportunity to thrive with programs like Young Artists at Work, and through the direct financial support of Accelerator Grants. Art is work, work that requires commitment and outside support, and we are thankful to have creatives like Oliver Hazard help us to provide this support to our community.”
The Arts Commission supplies volunteers to serve beverages during the festival, including the Buffalo Brewing Company’s Oli-Ale, designed just for this occasion. Food trucks on-site will include the Rolling Chef, Leaf and Seed, Deet’s BBQ, Taqueria Agave and the Wandering Bean Coffee Company.
Following Oliver Hazard Day, the band will stop in Nashville to record new music and then hit the road to Austin, Cleveland and Columbus, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Portland (Maine), Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C.
“I’m excited to be recording another record. I try to treat each one as if it might be the last,” Belazis said. “You never know where life will take you, so you have to take it day by day.”
Last year, the band had a change with the exit of founding member Griffin McCullough and the addition of Nate Miner, a western New York native who lives in Nashville.
With the Oliver Hazard Day, Belazis expects to see many new faces as well, as fans from all over the country converge in Waterville to see their favorite bands. He estimates that at least half of those in attendance will come from out of town – providing income to area hotels and eateries.
For more information about Oliver Hazard Day, visit www.oliverhazardday.com.