Tents, cars, trailers and hundreds of people covered the normally desolate farmland at Ballance Farms in Oakland, Ky. For one early fall weekend in late September the field had a different feel and purpose-Good music and good vibes.
After taking a hiatus in 2011 to regroup and extend the festival to a two-day event, the Starry Nights Music Festival returned in 2012 bigger than ever. The lineup included more than 20 bands, from local favorites Cage the Elephant and Sleeper Agent, to respected alternative acts such as Portugal, The Man and Manchester Orchestra.
Tony Smith, lead singer and guitarist of Sleeper Agent, said Starry Nights has turned into an event that rivals many popular music festivals.
“It’s become a festival I’d like to attend whether I were playing or not,” Tony Smith said. “It’s very surreal. It reminds me of the excitement I had looking forward to Lollapalooza in the mid 2000s.”
It’s been a whirlwind two years since Sleeper Agent last played Starry Nights in 2010. The band has since been named a band to watch by Rolling Stone, performed at huge festivals like Coachella, and even participated in the 2012 Weezer Cruise, a four day music festival that took place on a cruise ship.
“It’s mostly been a blur,” Smith said. “But I’m glad to be apart of it regardless.”
The Kentucky rockers have generated a buzz and garnered a large legion of fans for their spontaneous, energetic brand of garage pop. Starry Nights was a chance for the band to reconnect with their hometown fans and play some new music.
“We spent the whole summer holed up writing our second album with only a couple of shows,” Smith said. “We played eight new songs during our set, so I was more focused on hitting my marks than going wild on stage. I regret not loosening up a bit, but I think the everyone had a great time regardless.”
Smith has seen Starry Nights expand over the past four years and gain more attention nationally, much like the Bowling Green music scene.
“Hopefully it means the rest of the Bowling Green and the rest of the country will start taking notice of our little-community-that-could,” Smith said.
Cage the Elephant who since releasing their debut album in 2008, has helped pave the way for other Bowling Green artists to succeed in the music industry, curated the festival.
For local fledgling artists trying to make a name for themselves, Starry Nights served as a platform to gain exposure and some new fans.
“The Starry Nights set was definitely the biggest crowd our band has ever played in front of,” Jordan Reynolds, background vocalist and keyboardist for Buffalo Rodeo, said. “Since we’re not with any professional labels or producers, all we can do right now is play as many shows as possible and get the word out about our band. Playing at Starry Nights is perfect for that because people who would not otherwise know of us got a little taste of what Buffalo Rodeo is all about.”
For music fans, Starry Nights was an opportunity to escape reality and enjoy some good music.
“I feel everyone was there for the surreal moments of relaxation,” Bowling Green senior Kayla Ashby said. “Everyone was one with nature and musicality. The whole point of going to a festival is withdrawal from reality, make new friends, enjoy your favorite bands, and watch bands one has never seen.”
Sisters Kayla and Sarah Ashby have grown up with many of the artists in the Bowling Green area, namely Cage the Elephant and Sleeper Agent, and were thrilled to see them play for a large, energetic crowd.
“My favorite part of the festival was seeing my friends play on a big stage in front a huge crowd of fans,” Sarah, 20, said. “It was really exciting and cool to see how many people came out and how the bands are moving forward becoming more popular.”
Starry Nights is a unique due to its intimate setting and ability to draw well-respected artists. K. Ashby said the small-town feel of the Bowling Green music scene makes the festival unlike any other music festival.
“Starry Nights allows people to come to a small town where musicality flourishes,” Kayla said. “There are so many amazing local bands that everyone are astounded to see and continue to follow. The atmosphere is different from any other festival I have ever been to. I was overwhelmed by the variations in colors and shadows of trees, the rolling hills, and the overall natural scenery that laid behind each stage.”