With the constant, almost overwhelming recent press surrounding the idea of entrepreneurial spirit and start ups as the answer to Rust Belt revival, distinguishing genuine passion versus business plans can be a hard sell. The reason Cleveland is sold on WMCF is simple: Finley and his team are fans. In only three years it’s shown Cleveland the power of a small group of people with big ideas about art. And that’s the DIY movement Weapons of Mass Creation has been about all along.
Cleveland is home to plenty of unexpected success stories. Weapons of Mass Creation Festival is not one of them. Backed by one of the city’s savviest design firms, Go Media, the fledgling Midwest showcase of design, art, film and music has had no lack of creative talent, resources and, above all, energy at its disposal. Now in its third year, it’s no surprise WMCF has won the hearts of Cleveland with its ideas about community building through the arts. This June 8-10, the festival will host 20 speakers, 20 designers and more than 30 bands. Highlights include designer Johnny Cupcakes, best-selling author Austin Kleon and Cleveland buzz band Cloud Nothings.
On the same evening as the Rock Hall inductions there's a spirit of art and vitality throughout Cleveland with no exception at the kind of venue that’s been voted Best Hipster Hot Dog Bar. Go Media partner and WMCF founder Jeff Finley seems unassuming in a pair of sneakers, jeans and wiry frames when he takes the stage at Happy Dog to introduce Saturday’s benefit concert. With a laid back demeanor and modesty in his voice, he keeps his comments quick and gracious but not without his goal: bring in more than 1,000 people this year and be the biggest festival of art and music in the region.
Finley’s ambitions come with a boyish smile and excitement. He’s right up front snapping pictures with his phone of every band playing, the festival’s over-sized logo as the back drop. With the constant, almost overwhelming recent press surrounding the idea of entrepreneurial spirit and start ups as the answer to Rust Belt revival, distinguishing genuine passion versus business plans can be a hard sell. The reason Cleveland is sold on WMCF is simple: Finley and his team are fans.
The movement Weapons of Mass Creation Festival is inspiring, or at the very least bringing to light, revolves around a DIY, grassroots, punk inspired culture and most importantly, this idea of being a fan – celebrating and learning from one another. You could hear it in the music this Saturday – the energy of Eddie Doldrum and Indigo Wild, the bittersweet folk of Ashley Brooke Toussant playing a stand-out cover of The Ronnette’s Be My Baby. And when Cherry Cola Champions closed out the night, despite being Kent-based, the sound was so quintessentially Cleveland – heavy and full of reverb -- you weren’t surprised when Champion's vocalist chimed in, “This is my favorite bar in Cleveland, by the way.”
Towards the end of the evening, a first time listener made an innocent side comment about the duo Cherry Cola Champions that inadvertently defined the entire festival up to this point. “They have a big sound, it really fills the room,” she said, “I would have thought there were more people in the band if I couldn’t see them.” While the festival has a dedicated crew of street team members, volunteers and supporters, in only three years it’s shown Cleveland the power of a small group of people with big ideas about art. And that’s the DIY movement Weapons of Mass Creation has been about all along.
More info on Weapons of Mass Creation Festival: http://wmcfest.com/