Riverlights Music Festival


“We’re on the edge of a scene in South Bend music.”

That energy, more than anything, explains Matt Teter’s excitement for the upcoming Riverlights Music Festival in South Bend. The event, launching next Thursday May 5th and continuing until Saturday, May 7th, follows in the footsteps of the Sound By South Bend festival and the vibrant music scene that is gaining increasing awareness in recent years. Matt explained to me that the goal of the festival, highlighted by the Riverlights theme, is to promote the wide range of music available in our area.

“We wanted music more varied in genre and more acts in different styles,” he said. “We’re playing into the multi-light, multi-spectrum theme to illuminate Midwest music and to make South Bend a destination for music. The river lights represent a light, a beacon, illuminating the heart of South Bend.”

He pointed to local music as a part of that heart and described the scope represented by those artists. The festival will feature a range of music including acoustic, rap, electronic dance music, punk, hard rock, international, and world music. The inspiration for the theme was drawn from the debut of the river lighting in downtown South Bend and the idea of putting attention on all we have to offer here. He described to me his own discovery of the quality of artists in the area after seeing experimental hip-hop musicians, The B.E.A.T.

“They just blew me away,” he said. “I couldn’t believe that they were from South Bend.”

After moving to downtown and becoming more active in the local scene, he realized that his experience was not a solitary event and that South Bend could become a music destination, something lacking in the Midwest. It is his goal and that of others involved in the festival to make South Bend akin to music cities like Nashville and Austin.

“It really gets to the heart of why I’m involved in this,” he said. “People who don’t know about local music can come into this festival and leave thinking ‘most of those bands I just saw are from South Bend.’”


The festival, which will feature over 50 bands, will last for three days, starting with events on Thursday evening. Four venues around the area will hold concerts with short sets featuring over 20 bands and musicians. These events require no ticket and are instead sponsored by the venues as a way to start the energy of the festival. Friday will move the music to the Century Center Island, where bands will play in turns between two different stages starting at 4 p.m. The festivities will continue with an electronic dance music after-party, free to ticket-holders, at Club Fever. Music will continue on Saturday, starting with acoustic musicians playing at the Commerce Center at 12 p.m. At 3 p.m., the music will move to Seitz Park and the Emporium parking lot, with the evening ending with an other after-party at Corby’s Irish Pub.

According to Matt, local musicians and volunteers are fully invested in the festival and continuing to grow the local music scene. Organized by seven committees, Riverlights is the product of collaboration of local business owners, artists, and musicians. Many had worked together in the past on other events and festivals and are dedicated in maintaining the momentum of recent years.

“The ideas that have come out of it are really cool,” Matt said.

Information on the Riverlights Music Festival, which is all ages, and ticket purchasing information can be found at riverlightsmusic.com. Festival organizers have emphasized the positive response to festival, encouraging those interested to get tickets early in order to be assured a place in the limited space available.



These piece created in part for Justin’s weekly column in Off The Water.