Staff pick: Wilco at Wonderbus

The Wonderbus lineup is a mixed bag, but Wilco never disappoints, and Kesha will put on a show

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
Wilco will perform at the Wonderbus Music & Arts in Columbus on Sunday, Aug. 29. Courtesy photo.

More and more, outdoor festivals seem like the safest bet these days, so it's nice for Columbus music fans to have something like Wonderbus Music & Arts Festival, which takes place on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 28 and 29, on the Lawn at CAS (2540 Olentangy River Road).

Still, I'd argue Wonderbus didn't book a consistently solid lineup, especially when it comes to the undercard. Kesha and Wilco are great gets, but categorizing Grouplove and AJR as headliners, too? Eh... And I can't say many of the bands in small type on the poster would motivate me to buy a ticket, but that's just me. I'm getting old. Maybe a bunch of Columbus 20-somethings will go bananas for '90s Kids and Ritt Momney.

For my money, Kesha is the don't-miss act on Saturday night, especially given the insane, eye-popping production she displayed recently in Austin. On Sunday, I'd try to catch Black Pumas, but Wilco is my hands-down favorite at Wonderbus. 

In 2019, when Jeff Tweedy and Co. released Ode to Joy, more than a few critics called it the long-running Chicago band's best album in years. Revisiting the album three years later, the claim holds up! If you're an even older and crustier Wilco fan than I am, I'd highly encourage revisiting Ode to Joy before this show. It's full of the creative textures and weird left turns that give Wilco's best material an enduring quality, but it's looser and more fun than some of the band's mid-career experimental stuff. I'd love to feel the bass-drum thwap of "Bright Leaves" coming through a stack of outdoor festival speakers and hitting me directly in the chest.

FYI if you go: With service charges, tickets are just over $200 for the weekend and about $120 for Saturday or Sunday only, and parking passes are just over $20. Wonderbus is asking for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result, but if you don't have those, you won't be barred from entry. Without verification, you'll be admitted but required to wear a mask. If you're fully vaccinated or tested negative for COVID, you can go mask-less and will receive "visible identification that will notify our security detail that you can move freely throughout the festival without a face mask."