Sensory Overload: ComFest aftermath

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Let's get the ugly part out of the way first: An 18-year-old OU student accidentally stabbed himself to death at ComFest this year while apparently under the influence of a mind-altering substance, according to police.

I want to pay that sad situation its due respect and not make light of Bryan Barbin's death. To cheerily report on all the local music as if nothing else happened would be wrong.

However, I also think it would be foolish to focus on that isolated tragedy at the expense of everything good about the event.

Of course, there were other problems. ComFest was more crowded than ever, and many of the folks who saturated Goodale Park seemed to have no idea how to properly interact with other human beings.

Then again, waiting 30-plus minutes for beer will do that to you.

Many speculated about where the festival could move to facilitate growth - or how it could shrink back to a more manageable size.

But much of the ComFest experience was as excellent as ever, particularly six music stages (staying mostly on schedule thanks to an expert sound crew) showcasing familiar and promising local artists.

I gravitate toward the Offramp Stage, but I think I saw something on every stage, and even considering all the niches of local music that were under-represented, ComFest showed off a city with much to offer beyond our beloved restaurants and college football.

Without further ado, some of my most memorable musical moments:

Biggest thrill: Brainbow's set Friday evening at the Offramp Stage was already the first transcendent musical experience of my weekend before Lara Yazvac (Tough & Lovely, Ill Fits) hopped on stage to sing Led Zeppelin's "Since I Been Loving You" with the instrumental powerhouse. Hands down, ComFest's most magical moment.

Runner-up: Flotation Walls proved their masterful, orchestra-infused CD release show was no fluke by conjuring just as much splendor with the core four-person crew. The future looks bright yellow.

Biggest disappointment: Envelope getting the plug pulled halfway through his behind-schedule Saturday headlining set at the Live Arts Stage. Whether you blame the lengthy burlesque show beforehand or Envelope's less-than-speedy sound check for the delay, fest organizers could have at least shown the courtesy not to pull the plug mid-song. Tony Collinger and friends were building something special, and ComFest snuffed it out in the name of strict compliance with the law. How about a "bend, don't break" policy in the future?

Runner-up: Because I couldn't make it down Sunday, I didn't see The Slide Machine's three-drummer extravaganza. A trusted source says the band's penultimate performance was nothing short of thrilling. The only disappointment is that I missed it.

Best new artist: Nick Tolford and Company lived up to the hype Friday at the Offramp, though the soul outfit outdid themselves Saturday night at Carabar. Whether the crowd or the band was more elated is anybody's guess.

Runner-up: I only witnessed the last few seconds of Shin Tower Music's Saturday afternoon electronic blitzkrieg, but all reports suggest they were this year's diamond in the rough. See them Saturday at Rumba Cafe.

Second runner-up: Old Worlds put me in a dream state Friday afternoon with ambient, looping guitar virtuosity backed by steady, unobtrusive drumming. Catch them July 9 at Oldfield's on High.

Craziest convergence of talent: Friday night's headlining hour was so stacked that even after stopping at four stages, I didn't see everything I wanted to see. What I did witness - Liquid Crystal Project, Two Cow Garage, Guinea Worms and The Floorwalkers - would make one hell of a "Welcome to Columbus!" concert for local music novices.