Alive's 2016 ComFest picks

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

ComFest's main stage headliners - fuzz rockers Bummers on Friday, rapper Dominique Larue on Saturday and soul collective MojoFlo on Sunday - highlight the fest's still-expanding musical reach.

With dozens of performers representing myriad genres, the annual "party with a purpose" offers a little something for everyone this year. Our best advice? Grab one of the fest's trademark colored mugs, fill it with the (adult) beverage of your choice and wander around Goodale Park a bit just taking in the sights and sounds. For those of you more schedule-oriented types, here are some of the performersAlive staffers are looking forward to catching this weekend.

Picks from Andy Downing, Joel Oliphint, Erica Thompson and Alex Albrecht


11 a.m. Friday-Sunday, June 24-26

120 W. Goodale St., Short North


Betsy Ross

1:50 p.m. Friday, Gazebo

Betsy Ross - an indie-rock trio comprised of singer/guitarist Charity Crowe, her bassist/brother Schuyler Crowe and drummer David Wegner - burst onto the scene in 2013. While the band is beloved for its high-energy sound and Charity's powerful vocals, you may see more musical variety at its ComFest show. "People are still going to listen, even if you are not screaming at them," Charity said in an interview withAlive ahead of their first full-length album release last year. "And if you have good lyrics and people can tell that you are actually feeling them, it makes up for all of that loss of slamming energy."Erica Thompson

Fox N Hounds

3:40pm Friday, Gazebo

Fox N Hounds is the perfect mountain getaway soundtrack. The progressive bluegrass crew is coming to fill Comfest's Friday afternoon with soul-stirring, foot-stomping bluegrass music (and incredible facial hair). The group's ability to swing from smooth, traditional ballads to modernist string-picking jams is reason enough to make sure you're around for this set.Alex Albrecht

Brave Weather

5:05pm Friday, Bozo

The haunting, emotional vocals of Dani Harness pull you into Brave Weather and don't let you go. Combine those vocals with the reggae/blues inspired strings and driving drums and you're in for a real treat. Starting as an acoustic duo, Brave Weather has grown into a rock-fueled machine driven by soulful harmonies, groovy beats and emotion-filled lyrics. The last year has seen this band grow both in members and musical ability, with all signs pointing only up from here.AA

The Flex Crew

6:55 p.m. Friday, Bozo

The Flex Crew is a longstanding staple of the Central Ohio reggae scene - and weekly reggae nights at Skully's Music-Diner. The band's positive vibe is just as authentic as its sound; the musicians are very vocal about spreading "peace, love and blessings." They are equally as serious about encouraging you to move, so bring your dancing shoes to the first day of ComFest.ET


7:40 p.m. Friday, Live Arts

Local rapper Copywrite flaunts equal parts pathos and playfulness on his latest,Blood Bath and Beyond, swinging between the types of cutting putdowns that surface on internet message boards and more searing, personal confessions that come on like verbal bloodletting. The production is also top-notch, blending Copy's childhood Beach Boys fantasies with harder-edged beats that appear to emanate from those darker, long-forgotten corners.Andy Downing

Sean Carney & Tonky de la Peña

7:50 p.m. Friday, I Wish You Jazz

Not only is Sean Carney a world-renowned blues guitarist (the weekend after ComFest he'll be in Hungary for the Gastroblues Festival) and a former winner of the International Blues Competition in Memphis, he's also a great singer and fantastic performer. The man was born to be onstage, squeezing every bluesy note out of his six-string. He'll be accompanied this weekend by Spanish blues guitarist Tonky de la Peña. Joel Oliphint

The Worn Flints and Bummers

8:55 p.m. (Worn Flints) and 9:55 p.m. (Bummers) Friday, Bozo

Here's another can't-miss twofer. The bandmates in the Worn Flints have grown accustomed to playing bigger stages over the last year, landing high-profile gigs opening for the likes of Alabama Shakes on the strength ofSecond Sun. The 2015 long-player is an ambitious, psych-rock odyssey filled with mystic turns like "A Dance in the Mire," which sounds as though it were conjured rather than recorded to tape. Bummers plays it comparatively straight (no jazzy sax solos here) on breezy guitar jams like "Sick and Tired," which hits more like a windup than a winding down, in spite of its title.AD


Vaughn Wiester

12 p.m. Saturday, I Wish You Jazz

Every Monday night at the Clintonville Woman's Club, Vaughn Wiester and his 21-piece Famous Jazz Orchestra play big-band jazz modeled after Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Count Basie. At ComFest, Wiester, a trombone player, assembles as many local players as he can for a similarly memorable weekend performance that feels like a welcome time warp. Who says ComFest isn't classy?JO

Tim Easton

1:40 p.m. Saturday, Bozo

Even though Tim Easton hasn't lived here for years, he always seems to make it back for ComFest, much to the delight of Columbus fans who know him from his days in the short-lived but much-loved Haynes Boys, or from his time playing solo gigs around town and releasing multiple albums on New West Records. Now based in East Nashville, Easton's songwriting is as strong today as ever. Expect warm smiles and good vibes during "The Festival Song."JO

Cherry Chrome

3:45 p.m. Saturday, Offramp

Cherry Chrome's "Velvet" is equally dreamy and despondent, building on swooning, lazy Sunday guitars and singer Xenia Bleveans-Holm's battered words, which find solace in solitude. "Misery is comfortable," she sighs. Despite this comfort level, the band refuses to settle into a single gear, displaying more pep on the gloriously ragged kiss-off "Once and Twice." Additionally, the musicians recently touted a "big announcement" accompanying this set. Fingers crossed the band will finally offer details on a long-overdue recording. AD


4:30 p.m. Saturday, Offramp

Blistering rock quartet DANA describes its sound as such on Bandcamp: "It's open-palm face smacking rock n' roll. It's a goddamn (demo)lition derby." Songs like "Bastard Child" and the smoldering "Gas Station Exclusive" live up to these proclamations, building on sinewy, snaking guitar rhythms, pile driving drums and the near-unhinged vocals of singer/theremin player Madeline Jackson, who moans, growls and barks her words as though exorcising deeply entrenched demons.AD

Willie Phoenix

6:20 p.m. Saturday, Bozo

ComFest wouldn't be ComFest without a performance by Columbus rock legend Willie Phoenix, who played his first Community Festival set way back in 1976. Expect more blues-rock in this weekend's set than Phoenix's early power-pop material, which he usually doesn't have much interest in revisiting. He's constantly writing new songs, but even when Phoenix and his band the Soul Underground work in some covers (Van Morrison's "Gloria" is a perennial crowd pleaser) it still makes for a memorable set.JO


6:55 p.m. Saturday, I Wish You Jazz

Comprised of four guys with one "electric groove," Fo/Mo/Deep incorporates jazz, funk and world styles in both its music and its dynamic live show. The band inspires awe with its musicianship, generates excitement with its improvisation and prompts everyone to get down on the dance floor. You can also expect a healthy sense of humor (see track "Mitch Betta Have My Bunny").ET

Nes Wordz and *Dominique Larue

7:50 p.m. (Wordz) and 8:20 p.m. (Larue) Saturday, Bozo

"I'm not a star/ I'm a constellation," Nes Wordz boasts on "Living Life," a collaboration with fellow MC Dominique Larue that falls near the midpoint of the rapper's 2015 long playerStupid Genius. It's a fitting image for this year's ComFest lineup, which features a veritable Milky Way of supernova MCs, ranging from still-vital vets (Copywrite) to up-and-comers like Correy Parks. The influx of wordsmiths is highlighted by main stage tag team Larue and Nes, who are keyed up to deliver back-to-back, high-energy sets jammed with lyrical pyrotechnics.AD


7:55 p.m. Saturday, I Wish You Jazz

Trombonist Evan Oberla doesn't do well treading water. Since he enrolled at Ohio State in 2005 he's toured with O.A.R., hosted weekly jams at Ruby Tuesday and performed alongside MojoFlo and G. Finesse, in addition to experimenting with various jazz formations at Dick's Den. EOP, the musician's namesake band (it stands for Evan Oberla Project), incorporates all these elements and more in groove-filled sets that veer from hard-funk outbursts to jazzier asides perfectly in tune with the stage the musicians are gracing here.AD

Megan Palmer

8 p.m. Saturday, Gazebo

Like her buddy Tim Easton, Megan Palmer departed Columbus for Nashville years ago after playing fiddle in the Spikedrivers and releasing solo albums on Donewaiting's now-dormant Sunken Treasure Records. Palmer comes to town on the heels of a new record,What She's Got to Give; judging by the album's lovely, lilting title track, Palmer's still employing her honeyed voice to make compelling Americana. JO

Garbage Greek

8:15 p.m. Saturday, Offramp

The five-piece, which includes a trio of members from Comrade Question (singer/guitarist Lee Mason, guitarist Stefan Doke and bassist Patrick Koch) lives up to its trash compactor of a name, turning out noisy, chaotic garage-rock cuts like the quaking "All Wrong" and "The Hardest Part," a bubbling, caustic tune that sounds as though it were recorded in an abandoned industrial sawmill - complete with buzzing, timber-cutting guitar.AD


The League Bowlers

12:15 p.m. Sunday, Offramp

Watershed may be releasing two new songs and some older, unreleased material this summer, but Colin Gawel, that band's co-leader with Joe Oestreich, isn't biding his time until the next Watershed gig. He'll perform Sunday with the League Bowlers, featuring Dan Cochran (Big Back 40) on bass, Mike Parks (the Godz) on guitar and Willie Phoenix drummer Jim Johnson. The local supergroup uses its impressive pedigree to have as much fun as possible, playing beer-drenched pop rock that should pair nicely with a beer-filled ComFest mug. JO

St. Lenox

1:50 p.m. Sunday, Offramp

Andrew Choi, who often performs solo with just a laptop and a mic as St. Lenox, was a Juilliard-trained concert violinist while still in his teens, then got his PhD in philosophy at Ohio State before leaving for New York City to get his law degree. He also sings karaoke, which inspired him to write his own artful pop songs, culminating in last year'sTen Songs about Memory and Hope (Anyway Records). While the image of one guy singing alongside his laptop might not seem like much, Choi's soulful, enigmatic voice and hook-laden songs will draw you right in.JO

T. Wong

2:50 p.m.Sunday, Bozo

Soul singer T. Wong is passionate about the concept of the "journey," which is more than just the title of his debut album, released last year. The phrase "#JourneyNow," which is peppered throughout his website, is his declaration to live life to the fullest. And he's had quite a career journey, which recently led him to open for R&B singer Tweet at OTR live. Prepare to be taken on a unique journey of your own as you experience Wong's "urban rustic" music on the third day of ComFest.ET

Donna Mogavero

3:05 p.m. Sunday, Gazebo

Often overlooked by or unknown to a younger generation of the city's folk fans, Donna Mogavero has been performing her pleasant brand of acoustic, '70s-inspired singer/songwriter tunes for more than 30 years, and her name is a common sight on the yearly ComFest schedule. There's nothing flashy about Mogavero - just a seasoned musician who writes, sings and strums better than your average folkie. JO

Correy Parks

3:50 p.m. Sunday, Offramp

Even the titles of Correy Parks' various releases (see:The Layover,#LostLuggage andThe Road Less Traveled) suggest travel, so it makes sense the last year has been one of unending forward momentum for the rapper, who performed atAlive's Bands to Watch showcase earlier this year and has more recently landed national features in The Fader and MTV, which described 2016 as "the year [Parks] ascends upward, into a sky with no clouds in sight." Catch this set and say you saw him when.AD


3:50 p.m. Sunday, Bozo

Guante could rightly be termed a modern Renaissance man, and each aspect of his multifaceted personality should be on display this weekend. In addition to this Sunday performance, which should be heavily steeped in spoken-word poetry, Guante is hosting a Saturday workshop on the Solar stage, which kicks off at 6:05 p.m. The musician/poet/activist has shared the stage with the likes of Saul Williams and Brother Ali, and his work is similarly socially engaged, exploring issues of gender violence, race and identity. Come with an open mind and prepare to have it expanded.AD


4:20 p.m. and 5:05 p.m. Sunday, Offramp

The Alaska-born, Columbus-based producer is as difficult to pin down as "X-Men" shape shifter Mystique, constructing lively beats that incorporate elements of hip-hop, house, funk and more. While the musician is a talented collaborator (see his work alongside Ceezar in the FWD, or "Ultimate," his collab with rapper Dominique Larue), these split sets will focus on his solo output.AD