Summer Guide: The 2019 summer music festival guide
Ah, summer. It's a time for never-ending guitar solos and deep hangs with some patchouli-scented friends at Legend Valley (see Dark Star Jubilee, the Werk Out). Or maybe it's a time to get down with the sickness while getting a sweet new tat (see Inkcarceration). Or a time to scan the stage for any sign of female country singers (see Buckeye Country Superfest, WCOL Country Jam). It could be that all you really want is to fish out your bucket list and finally check off “see Mavis Staples” (which you can do at the Nelsonville Music Festival).
Chances are, whatever tickles your music-fest fancy, you'll find it in this roundup of summer (and spring) festivals in the region. Some might be right around the corner; others will require a bit of a drive. So grab some sunscreen, a poncho and your glow stick… or washboard… or lawn chair… and follow your musical muse to the fests that suit you.
COLUMBUS PSYCH FEST
Cafe Bourbon St./The Summit, North Campus
COST: $12 one night, $20 two nights
PERFORMERS: Water Witches, Garbage Greek, Brujas del Sol, Mas Bagua, Lemon Sky
SUMMARY: The ninth iteration of this annual fest promises the very best of Ohio psych-rock, heavy on the locals.
DARK STAR JUBILEE
Legend Valley, Thornville
PERFORMERS: Dark Star Orchestra, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Leftover Salmon
SUMMARY: If it's above 70 degrees in Thornville, there's a good chance you'll hear a jam band jamming. In this case, the safe bet is on Dark Star Orchestra, which will play three full, two-set shows.
NOWHERE ELSE FESTIVAL
Nowhere Else Farm, Martinsville
COST: $90 for single-day ticket, $150 for two-day pass
PERFORMERS: Over the Rhine, James McMurtry, Birds of Chicago, John Paul White, Joan Shelley
SUMMARY: This fourth annual fest is held on the idyllic Clinton County farm of Linford and Karin Bergquist of Cincinnati folk-pop duo Over the Rhine. If the intimacy of Nelsonville still isn't intimate enough, maybe this one's for you.
May 31-June 2
Legend Valley, Thornville
COST: $39.50 for single day ticket, $119.50 for weekend pass
PERFORMERS: The Offspring, Rancid, NOFX, X, Bad Religion, Off!
Summary: The biggest story to emerge from the 2018 debut of Camp Anarchy (then subtitled “Punk in Drublic”) was the decision to boot NOFX from the fest it helped found following singer Fat Mike's controversial statements surrounding a 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. It appears that even festivals can't keep Fat off, though, as the band returns to the lineup for year two alongside a slew of punk vets.
NELSONVILLE MUSIC FESTIVAL
Hocking College, Nelsonville
PERFORMERS: Mavis Staples, Death Cab for Cutie, the Breeders, Tyler Childers
SUMMARY: Perennially the favorite Ohio music fest of many, Nelsonville's cozy setting at Hocking College's Robbins Crossing historic village will play host to the legendary Mavis Staples (who returns to NMF after a 2015 headlining set), indie-rock mainstay Death Cab for Cutie, alt-rock fueled by Kim and Kelley Deal of the Breeders and a host of other artists, with an emphasis on Americana acts.
BUCKEYE COUNTRY SUPERFEST
Ohio Stadium, Campus
PERFORMERS: George Strait, Blake Shelton, Chris Jansen
SUMMARY: After taking a year off, Buckeye Country Superfest returns to Ohio Stadium along with many of the same problems that plagued it in the past, including a dearth of female headliners and a reliance on artists who performed at the event in previous years (Blake Shelton headlined the debut Superfest in 2015).
WASHBOARD MUSIC FESTIVAL
SUMMARY: Just you wait. Washboards are coming back. Boutique shops will feature washboards made of recycled materials alongside bars of locally made, essential oil-infused soaps (never, ever made with non-essential oils). In the meantime, though, you can enjoy this festival and the Southern music the instrument/cleaning implement inspires.
DUCK CREEK LOG JAM
Duck Creek Camping and Outdoor Events Area, Logan
COST: $125 for a two-day pass (with camping)
PERFORMERS: Caamp, Front Country, Lindsay Lou
SUMMARY: The family-run Hocking Hills hootenanny keeps things small-scale by design, but feature act Caamp, from Columbus, appears on the path to bigger things, with a new album forthcoming on Mom + Pop Music and a nationwide headlining tour that sees it playing some of the country's premier mid-sized venues, including Thalia Hall in Chicago and the Orange Peel in Asheville, North Carolina.
CREEKSIDE BLUES & JAZZ FESTIVAL
Creekside Plaza, Gahanna
COST: $7 or $10 for single-day tickets, depending on the day
PERFORMERS: Josh Krajcik, John Scofield, Sean Carney, Erica Blinn, MojoFlo, Vanessa Collier
SUMMARY: Sure, you can hear some blues from Sean Carney and some jazz from John Scofield, but the Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival draws from a host of genres, with samplings of rock, folk, funk and more.
STONEWALL COLUMBUS PRIDE FESTIVAL
Goodale Park, Victorian Village
COST: $10 donation
PERFORMERS: Serayah, Steve Grand, Debby Holiday
SUMMARY: While the focus is often on the parade, Columbus Pride does also bring in a range of entertainers. This year's group includes “Empire” actress and singer Serayah, and Illinois singer Steve Grand, who experienced a brief flash of internet fame in 2013 with his single “All-American Boy,” which landed him on BuzzFeed lists (“The 24 Most Brilliant Videos From 2013”) in addition to on-air appearances on CNN and “Good Morning America.”
Goodale Park, Victorian Village
SUMMARY: The giant, long-running “party with a purpose” seems to have become even more purposeful in recent years, thanks in no small part to the 2016 presidential election. Also: The rebirthed Hilltop Lager hopes to be on tap at this year's fest.
SMOKY RUN MUSIC FESTIVAL
Clear Fork Adventure Resort, Butler
PERFORMERS: Gov't Mule, Trampled by Turtles, Railroad Earth, Son Volt, Sarah Shook, Deer Tick
SUMMARY: This inaugural rootsy music fest south of Mansfield is debuting with a lineup that'll likely please the long-haired crusties (Gov't Mule), newgrass acolytes (Trampled by Turtles), indie-folk types (Sarah Shook, Son Volt) and every other subset of Americana fans.
RED, WHITE & BOOM
Various venues, Downtown
SUMMARY: Ohio's largest fireworks display takes over Downtown on July 3, including stages with live music in Bicentennial Park and on Long Street. Pro tip: Do not, under any circumstance, try to park anywhere close to Downtown and expect to get home by dawn.
John Bryan Community Center, Yellow Springs
COST: $50 early, $60 day of
PERFORMERS: Deerhunter, Amen Dunes, Post Animal, the Sidekicks, Sarob
SUMMARY: This small, new-ish fest has a bunch going for it: consistently great booking, an ideal setting (Yellow Springs' quaint/artsy downtown), craft beer from around Ohio and local food vendors. The rising star on this list, for sure.
GNARBEQUE MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL
Woodlands Backyard, Grandview
PERFORMERS: ASADI, Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers, snarls, OG Vern
SUMMARY: A local rock fest that started in a basement, Gnarbecue returns for the fifth year, this time at Woodlands Backyard with art vendors and installations, comedy, games and more.
Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield
COST: $75 single-day tickets, $199 weekend
PERFORMERS: Shinedown, Godsmack, Five Finger Death Punch, Live, Taking Back Sunday, Starset
SUMMARY: With 70 tattoo artists, a haunted house and more than 30 bands that lean in the hard-rock/nu-metal direction performing at the so-called “Shawshank” prison, the second annual Inkcarceration Festival is tougher than that one unpredictable uncle who rolls up to family reunions on a Harley blasting Buckcherry.
Legend Valley, Thornville
PERFORMERS: The Used, Circa Survive, Sum 41, Thrice
SUMMARY: I defy you to name a single person who doesn't love and embrace the word “disruptor.” Well, now the term has finally spread outside the tech class with the Disrupt Festival, which (I guess?) is here to upend the staid summer fest scene. The touring fest is sponsored by an energy drink, and if you were concerned that #brands would not be sufficiently represented, well, fear not. From the official site: “[Concertgoers] will also be exposed to the latest in lifestyle brands and pop-up activations.” DISRUPTION ACHIEVED!
JAZZ & RIB FEST
North Bank Park, Arena District
PERFORMERS: GZA, Robert Randolph and the Family Band
SUMMARY: Generally the ribs are the attraction at this finger-sticking fest. This year might be the exception, though, with headlining turns from Wu-Tang Clan member GZA, whose Liquid Swords is among the best solo releases in the rap crew's expansive catalog, and Robert Randolph, whose skills on the pedal steel are jaw-dropping. Plus, the price is always right.
OHIO STATE FAIR
July 24-Aug. 4
The Ohio Expo Center & State Fair, North Campus
COST: Varies by performer
PERFORMERS: Chris Young, Toby Keith, Hank Williams, Jr.
SUMMARY: The annual deep-fried affair usually offers at least one pleasantly surprising performer (in 2018 both music legend Reba McEntire and comedian Trevor Noah qualified), and this year… is an exception. Unless, that is, you're stoked about catching tired helpings of red meat (Hank Williams, Jr.), stale comedians (Gabriel Iglesias) or the usual rock retreads (Bad Company with Foghat).
2X2 HIP-HOP FESTIVAL
3440 W. Broad St., West Side
SUMMARY: This annual paean to all things hip-hop features one of the best environments of any festival within city limits, combining rappers on multiple stages, breakdance battles, graffiti and DJs cutting vinyl records in a setting that feels like a vibrant neighborhood block party.
WHAT? MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL
400 W. Rich St., Franklinton
PERFORMERS: Barefuzz, Cousin Simple, Danny Grooves, Mungbean, Electric Orange Peel
SUMMARY: “Did you hear about that new music festival in Franklinton?” “What?” “Yeah.” “Huh?” “What?” “What?” “Exactly!”
THE WERK OUT MUSIC FESTIVAL
Legend Valley, Thornville
PERFORMERS: The Werks, Big Gigantic, STS9, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Matisyahu
SUMMARY: The Central Ohio farmland has recaptured its crown as the jam-band destination, partially owing to this annual event, which must take serious, uh, werk for the folks in the Werks to put together.
DUBLIN IRISH FESTIVAL
Coffman Park, Dublin
COST: Adults: $10 in advance and $15 at the gate; children 12 and under are free
PERFORMERS: Alton, We Banjo 3, Red Hot Chili Pipers
SUMMARY: With a name like Dublin, it's no surprise the Columbus suburb has cultivated Ohio's premier Irish fest, though it's been a bit since organizers landed a headliner on par with the legendary Richard Thompson in 2015. Still, here's your chance to be Irish for a day, regardless of your heritage.
BELLWETHER MUSIC FESTIVAL
Renaissance Park, Waynesville
COST: Two-day early-bird tickets are $85; $55 for a single-day ticket
PERFORMERS: Beach House, Cake, Guided By Voices, Caroline Rose
SUMMARY: The second go-round of Bellwether, which takes place about an hour south, features headliners at opposite ends of the spectrum in sleepy Beach House and the restless, beer-swigging/spilling Guided By Voices. The undercard also offers a handful of worthy surprises, including Caroline Rose, R. Ring and onetime Alive Band to Watch Souther.
CD102.5, Brewery District
SUMMARY: This “party in a parking lot” recalls the gone-but-not-forgotten Parking Lot Blowout, for obvious reasons, but Frontstage Fest gets its name from CD102.5's Frontstage, which has highlighted local bands on the radio for years. This year's lineup is TBA, but expect a strong showing from the city's rock scene.
Genoa Park, Downtown
PERFORMERS: La Reunion Nortena, Grupo Mania, Los Rabanes, Gilberto Santa Rose
SUMMARY: This popular two-day fest celebrates everything Latino, music included.
WCOL COUNTRY JAM
Legend Valley, Thornville
COST: $84.99 for weekend admission
PERFORMERS: Jason Aldean, Old Dominion, Randy Hauser, Tracy Byrd
SUMMARY: For years, female artists have rightly talked about how underrepresented they are on country radio, and these package festivals are proof that this kind of representation matters. Of the dozen named country acts, only one, Carly Pearce, is a woman. Do better, fest bookers and radio programmers.
WONDERBUS MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL
The lawn at CAS, Campus
COST: $59 for single-day ticket; $79 for weekend pass
PERFORMERS: Walk the Moon, Ben Harper, X Ambassadors, Trombone Shorty, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
SUMMARY: Every couple of years, some new festival appears in Columbus (Fashion Meets Music, PromoWest Fest, etc.), each offering a smattering of similarly focused acts (you could launch a new Columbus fest with some combination of Matt & Kim, Fitz & the Tantrums, Andrew McMahon, X Ambassadors and Walk the Moon). This year's entry is WonderBus, which, in its debut, feels very much of this lineage, for better or worse.
SUMMARY: This street festival in South Clintonville turns 10 in 2019, and while the band lineup is forthcoming, expect lots of local rock fronted by Clintonville musicians on the two stages.
BREAKAWAY MUSIC FESTIVAL
Mapfre Stadium, North Side
COST: $85 for two-day general admission
PERFORMERS: Future, Young Thug, Bassnectar
SUMMARY: Breakaway is a fast-growing #brand, with events now staged in Columbus, Grand Rapids, Charlotte and Nashville, likely with more to come. The local lineup caters to the college-aged, packing in mega rappers like Young Thug and Future, as well as EDM titans (Bassnectar) and a smattering of acts that might not be well known outside of their respective scenes as of yet, but could rise to shape millennial culture in the years to come.
AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURAL FESTIVAL
Mayme Moore Park, King-Lincoln
SUMMARY: Current details are sparse, but, according to the official site, the third annual African American Cultural Festival, which is designed to celebrate black culture, will feature “a variety of live music, spoken word and dance performances.”