ComFest 2017 Picks

Alive staff
Doc Robinson

With ComFest set to take over Goodale Park this weekend, attendees are again faced with the unenviable task of deciding which performers to try and catch from the diverse, sprawling lineup. While you can't go wrong simply wandering the fest grounds and seeing what grabs you, any of these recommendations would make for an ideal jumping-off/finishing point for your explorations.

Is Said

6 p.m. Friday, Gazebo

Local griot Is Said has appeared (as far as anyone can tell — record-keeping is an imperfect science) at every ComFest ever. Expect spoken-word poetry, storytelling and enlightenment from this local scene legend.Jim Fischer

Doc Robinson

6:30 p.m. Friday, Gazebo

New indie-pop duo Doc Robinson's journey began withGolden Daze, an EP of “Backyard barbecue breakup music” released in November 2016. Now, after a packed period of playing shows — including Nelsonville Music Festival — and recruiting community members for eccentric videos, Jon Elliott and Nick D'Andrea will release a full-length album,Deep End, on July 22. Supported by a successful Kickstarter campaign, the project finds the musicians experimenting with “new production techniques” and a collection of live instruments from horns and flutes to Mellotrons and timpani. Help them celebrate at ComFest and an after-party/super-jam with other local bands later at Park Street Patio.Erica Thompson


8:10 p.m. Friday, Off Ramp

Released earlier this year, Souther's debut EP,Is for Lovers, ranks among my favorite local releases of 2017. Over the course of five songs, singer/guitarist Carly Fratianne — recently reunited with her stolen guitar — wrestles with self-doubt, fizzled ambition and a range of vices she gives into “all at once” on standout track “Honest.” “At the time I was thinking, ‘I need to get an actual job. I need to get a degree in something. I need to stop disappointing everyone around me,'” Fratianne said earlier this year. “I was so gung ho about [pursuing a music career] that I didn't have a plan B. There was no, ‘What if I totally mess this up and I can't do it? What if I'm not actually good at this?'” She needn't have worried.Andy Downing


9:45 p.m. Friday, Bozo

Dig deep for a funk/jazz explosion courtesy of bassist Foley, a Columbus native and music-scene staple who's played with Miles Davis, Arrested Development, George Clinton and more. In 1993, he released7 Years Ago … Directions in Smart-Alec Musicon Motown Records. Sort of Victor Wooten-meets-Bootsy Collins.JF

New Thousand

10:10 p.m. Friday, Off Ramp

Just this month, New Thousand returned to Columbus from New Orleans, where the trio spends a chunk of the year as street performers, playing its self-described “classical trap” improvisations to passersby on Bourbon and Frenchmen streets. With Adrian Jusdanis on fiddle, Max Jones on keys and Alex Koltun on digital drums and 808, New Thousand can whip crowds into a frenzy with a beat-heavy, genre-defying sound that's good for both booty-shaking (hippie dancers take note!) and hypnotic zone-outs (hula-hoopers rejoice!).Joel Oliphint


1 p.m. Saturday, Gazebo

Paisha Thomas is a singer-songwriter specializing in a combination of soul, rock and blues, which you can hear on her self-titled debut album, released last year. You can find her working at Natalie's Coal-Fired Pizza — “I live for live music and appreciate good food,” she recently toldAlive — or gigging with her acoustic guitar and/or backing band at Columbus venues from Dick's Den to Brothers Drake. If you catch her set at ComFest, expect to hear music about “love, politics, self-discovery and the condition of the world.”ET

The Cordial Sins

1:40 p.m. Saturday, Off Ramp

This local indie-rock act is just on the cusp of realizing its promise — witness last fall's single “Go On,” which you may well have heard, given how busy the band is. Get your gardening done Saturday morning and don't miss this set.JF

Barbara Fant & Friends

4 p.m. Saturday, Live Arts

If you've been living under a rock, you probably don't know Columbus is a breeding ground for superstar poets. Barbara Fant has been steadily making a name for herself, from being featured in the Greater Columbus Arts Council's Art Makes Columbus campaign (did you see her on the billboard Downtown?) to writing and performing a piece for the Women's Fund Keyholder event featuring Lisa Ling and Billie Jean King. She also competed against more than 90 poets and placed eighth at the 2017 Women of the World Poetry Slam in Dallas. Tyiesha Shorts, Dionne Custer Edwards, Naki Akrobettoe and Cynthia Amoah will join Fant on the Live Arts stage at ComFest.ET

Hugs & Kisses

5:30 p.m. Saturday, Live Arts

The resurgent Hugs & Kisses may be the city's most unpredictable, off-the-wall live act, incorporating cartoonish, R-rated skits, hip-hop and various pop-culture ephemera into its songs and shows. For a foretaste, check out frontman Donny Monaco's trippy YouTube channel, which features videos for catchy new bedroom pop songs “Neglecting Everything” and “Precautionary Measures” alongside animated shorts about a Transformer who can't get service at an auto shop, and “Principal Dazzler,” who has vanilla soft-serve ice cream with sprinkles for a head.JO

Sam Rothstein/Dominique Larue/Nes Wordz

6:20 p.m. Saturday, Off Ramp

Expect a few shout-outs to Prodigy of NYC hip-hop duo Mobb Deep, who died earlier this week at age 42, during this local rapper triptych. Things kick off with a turn from rising MC Sam Rothstein, who dipped a toe in the political realm with the fiery “What the Fuck Is Really Going On?,” which paired lines about militarized police forces with references to the Black Lives Matter movement. Dominique Larue and Nes Wordz follow, with Larue bringing adept wordplay and a cutting sense of humor that pairs nicely with Nes' sincerity and can-someone-please-bottle-that energy.AD

Erika Hughes & the Well Mannered

7:50 p.m. Saturday, Gazebo

Though Erika Hughes' band is called the Well Mannered, the lead singer emphatically croons, “I don't need no one to tell me to behave,” on “Behave.” The country-fried kiss-off is the title track on the latest EP from the five-piece group, which has been touring the Midwest since 2012. Hughes and company will serve up Americana sounds and tales of broken hearts and adventure in the final slot Saturday on the Gazebo stage.ET

Willie Phoenix

7:50 p.m. Saturday, Bozo

There's no better act to close down the main stage on Saturday night than blues-rock legend Willie Phoenix and the Soul Underground. Phoenix has been a regular on ComFest stages since his debut in 1976. Since then, the singer/guitarist has been signed and then dropped by a major label, played alongside the Ramones and the Talking Heads and recorded countless blues-rock tracks (many of which have never been released). Whether covering “Gloria” or mining his own mountain of material, Phoenix is a seasoned performer not to be missed.JO

Vaughn Wiester's Famous Jazz Orchestra

Noon Sunday, Jazz

This venerable ensemble is led by trombonist/music educator Vaughn Wiester. The orchestra offers up traditional and modern big band fare from the likes of Count Basie, Miles Davis, Tommy Dorsey and more. JF

Compassionate Communication: Creating Peace Out of Chaos

1 p.m. Sunday, Peace & Healing Pavilion

Learn listening, empathy and dialoguing skills to help encourage understanding and better connection with educator/coach/consultant Teresa Speakman. As important now as ever, if not more.JF

Mistar Anderson

4:40 p.m. Sunday, Off Ramp

After humble beginnings as a cover band, the jazz-influenced hip-hop group Mistar Anderson is set to release its self-titled album on June 25. Featuring rapper Eric Rollin, drummer Andre Walker, guitarist Ryan Sullivan, keyboardist David Swank, bassist Aaron Thomas, sax player Jon Weisbot and trombonist Elaine Myluis, Mistar Anderson brings a refreshing and exuberant sound to its live performances. Rollin's lyrics are often introspective and uplifting. “I am grateful for what I'm made for,” he sings on the single “Alley Talk.” See what Mistar Anderson is made of on the closing day of ComFest.ET

Cherry Chrome

5:40 p.m. Sunday, Gazebo

In an interview earlier this year, Cherry Chrome singer/guitarist Xenia Bleveans-Holm noted her general distaste for bars. “The mystique of bars has been so ruined for me. … They're kind of dirty,” the then-17-year-old said. It's also tough for the indie-rock act's friends and fans, many of whom are under 21, to attend bar shows. So ComFest's all-ages atmosphere should be a welcome reprieve for the quartet (Bleveans-Holm along with her father, drummer David Holm, Mick Martinez on guitar and Amina Adesiji on bass). But don't mistake this Band to Watch for a teens-only group. Cherry Chrome has cultivated a multi-generational fan base through its excellent, self-titled debut EP and a fiery live show.JO

Suffering, Praying Hands

6:15 p.m. Sunday, Off Ramp

The sun is supposed to set sometime after 9 p.m. on Sunday, but expect darkness to settle in early at the Off Ramp stage during this turn from the bleak, black Suffering, Praying Hands. Ricky Thompson and Tom Butler, who also pair in the louder, more plugged-in Barely Eagle, take a more stripped-down approach here, crafting rickety, Americana-tinged murder ballads that rumble along as ominously as the covered wagons slicing across the Western plains in “Meek's Cutoff.”AD

Pale Grey Lore

7:15 p.m. Sunday, Off Ramp

With songs sporting titles such as “Grave Future” and “Black Sun Rise,” which arrives complete with mentions of “storm clouds gathering,” expect the eclipse to carry through the Off Ramp-closing turn from this heavy, psych-rock quartet. Indeed, even when singer/guitarist Michael Miller sings about love on the comparatively soaring “She Radiates,” he still manages to slip in mentions of “eternal darkness.” Best of the bunch, however, might be “Spiders,” a reverberating, drone-heavy fever dream that should appeal even to those suffering from arachnophobia.AD

Correction: Eric Rollin's name has been corrected from Erin Rollin. Alive regrets the error.