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Do, re, mi, oh, hi, oh: Music fests in our neck of the woods

614now Staff

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It’s awfully easy to stay local for your live music fix. Homegrown talent and national tours are so prolific between spring and fall, it’s damned near in the air.

Depending on your neighborhood, you may not even need to leave the house—just open the nearest window.

Summer is the season of festivals in Columbus, but don’t let that limit your listening. Not every act makes a stop in Central Ohio, nor is a dank bar always the best venue for bands on the verge of breaking out of grueling club tours and into the mainstream.

Luckily Ohio isn’t that big, and we’re right in the middle of it, the perfect home base for a series of summer road trips to surrounding cities and towns that put on some pretty good shows of their own.

Here are six months of weekend adventures to keep you humming all year.

Nelsonville Music Festival

5.31 – 6.3 • nelsonvillefest.org

What started with six bands in the town square that anchors the arts district back in 2005 has evolved into a four-day festival mixing generations and genres of music that rarely share the same stage.

Legends like Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris blend seamlessly with relative newcomers like the Avett Brothers and Jason Isbell. But you’ll also find They Might Be Giants, The Flaming Lips, and Ween in the lineups, along with Columbus locals like Counterfeit Madison and The Shazzbots.

Presented by Stuart’s Opera House, Nelsonville’s nonprofit theater and performing arts center, the event has moved to Robbins Crossing at nearby Hocking College and now hosts more that 60 acts annually on a variety of stages, from a converted box car to the “no-fi” cabin, a historic one-room schoolhouse featuring acoustic sets for intimate audiences of barely more than a dozen. Camping is encouraged, as is recycling, actually billed as a zero waste event.

Unlike most music festivals, families are a fixture here with free kids activities all weekend long. Headliners this year include The Decemberists, Ani DiFranco, and George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic, but don’t let the heavyweights keep you from betting on the undercard.

Bunbury Music Festival – Cincinnati
6.1-6.3 • bunburyfestival.com

Notable newcomer to the state’s music festival fray is Bunbury, named without irony after an imaginary Oscar Wilde character created as an excuse to get out of family gatherings.

From Sawyer Point Park & Yeatman’s Cove on the banks of the Ohio River, their website now offers an online guide to help organize your itinerary among the hundreds of acts across several stages. It wasn’t always this big.

Started in 2012 with headliners Jane’s Addiction, Weezer, and Death Cab for Cutie, Bunbury established itself as a festival for breakthrough indie bands and those that still carry a crowd.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for Ohio locals like Twenty One Pilots and The Black Keys—or unexpected acts like G. Love & Special Sauce, Belle and Sebastian, and Snoop Dogg.

Columbus’s own PromoWest Productions took the lead in 2014 and the three-day festival remains a showcase for concert technology as much as talent. There are no on-site accommodations, so be sure to plan ahead for an overnight stay if the haul back home isn’t an option.

Jack White is surely this year’s big draw, though Young the Giant, Foster the People, and Blink-182 have their own faithful followings.

Springsfest – Yellow Springs

6.7 • springsfestival.com

Between Red White & Boom and Jamboree in the Hills, it might be easy to overlook a one-day gig in this sleepy little satellite of Dayton. But Springsfest isn’t trying to compete with all that noise.

If laid back bands and local craft beer are more your scene, head west for some of the best of both Ohio has to offer.

Entering its third year, this progressive-yet-folksy music festival is decidedly a community affair with area artisans and eateries eager to introduce their definition of summer to visiting audiences. Guided by Voices tops the bill, but Columbus favorites like The Cordial Sins, Counterfeit Madison, and CAAMP are among those performing before an improvised and informal arena of lawn chairs.

Despite its reputation as a haunt for aging hippies, the clever collection of restaurants and shops is a less bustling ’burb or conservative enclave than you’d expect so close to a former factory city in the Midwest. In fact, Springsfest might just be the perfect, low-key, summer escape you didn’t know you needed in a village you are remiss to miss.

You might even run into Dave Chappelle, who also calls Yellow Springs home. (No joke.)

The Werk Out Music & Arts Festival – Thornville

8.2-8.4 • thewerkoutfestival.com

Imagine if Burning Man and Woodstock had a love child—and that child lived in a small town in Southwest Ohio. It would probably look a lot like The Werk Out Music & Arts Festival.

Unlike the trend toward monotony among music-only festivals, this weird mix of bands, painters, sculptors, and performance artists come together to create an entirely unexpected experience.

It’s not good enough to show up and nod your head and tap your feet to the beat here. The weekend tent city feels more like a Grateful Dead caravan than a concert campground, and that same vibe permeates the air from sunrise long past sunset.

The namesake group The Werks grew to national prominence as a “jam band” but didn’t forget their roots, rolling those early influences and industry connections into an annual ensemble of fellow outsider artists and attendees who struggle to color inside the lines.

Maybe that’s why the event serves as a fundraiser for the local school district, gathering art supply donations from festival-goers.

There’s also a series of “werkshops” for those so artistically inclined. Nine years strong, the lineup in August also features Umphrey’s McGee, Lettuce, Papadosio, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, among additional artists yet to be announced.

Ohiolina Music Festival – Mount Vernon

9.15–9.16 • ohiolina.com

Just because school buses are back on the road and Labor Day is in the rearview mirror doesn’t mean there aren’t any lingering summer songs left on the schedule.

Ohiolina may be the best undiscovered music festival in the state, merging the Southern soul and Midwest sensibility of folk, country, bluegrass, and every married and muddled genre in-between that defies the traditional labels under the larger mantle of Americana.

Festival fare features distinctive Ohio and North Carolina dishes, but less expected are the morning yoga, chalk art exhibition, and a traveling clothing boutique squeezed into a stepvan.

Nikki Lane’s convergence of country and pop, the horn-heavy Holy Ghost Tent Revival, and bluesy troubadour Woody Pines are among the more familiar voices, but Ohio groups like Buffalo Wabs and Price Hill Hustle, Honey and Houston, Fox Valley Harvest, and Wayfarers add locally-grown credibility.

Organizers also encourage musicians to bring an instrument and find your jam under a tree or around the campfire. There’s even a “string off” competition for fiddle and guitar players.


By  / (614) Magazine April 2018

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Gallery Space: Danielle Deley

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In the ‘60s, the clash of mass culture and fine art exploded. Led by New York-based artist Andy Warhol, whose silkscreen paintings of Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn Monroe were instantly iconicized, the vibrant basis of his works became known as pop art. While Warhol was one of the founding pop art leaders, the lesser-recognized Roy Lichtenstein was a Fine Arts graduate from The Ohio State University in 1949 and was notable for his comic-like expressionism.

Subtly following Lichtenstein’s influential trajectory is visual artist Danielle Deley, who’s currently prepping for her Skylab show Jubilee. Her use of color is rich in tone, and her subjects are easily recognizable, with cultural nods to Frank Ocean, Barbara Streisand and the late David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

“I want Jubilee to feel like you’re walking back into the height of the pop art era. I might have a more muted color palette than Lichtenstein, but I want it to make a comment about traditional fine art,” Deley said. “Each of the 2D pieces are based off of very popular sculptures in Greek and Renaissance art. Each 3D piece is taken from paintings from that same time period.”

Originally from Youngstown, Deley graduated from CCAD in 2011 with a BFA in graphic design and advertising. Spending a semester in England while she attended CCAD, Deley regularly kept in contact with her grade school art teachers, who provided encouragement and foundational skills. Their guidance led her into becoming co-president of the Columbus Society of Communicating Arts, and even illustrating Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on a cover of Chicago Reader in April. Through Deley’s intricate, pastel design, Lightfoot is recreated into a queen of spades form.

“Sue Kwong, the creative lead for the Chicago Reader, reached out, had this awesome cover idea and wanted me to bring her vision to life,” Deley said about the collaboration. “She found me on this forum called Women Who Draw, something I submitted to six years ago. They make a space for female artists and illustrators to find other female artists and illustrators. [Illustrating the cover] probably took eight hours. It was my first cover illustration for a big publication so I wanted to get it right.”

Often visiting Gateway Film Center to see how films are composed, Deley actively studies the meticulous craft of cinematography, along with going to intimate gallery spaces to align with the art community. After graduating from CCAD, Deley would only create on her computer, but decided to transition her work into watercoloring. “[Watercoloring] then moved into gouache, wood carving, and finally painting with acrylics. My style started to take shape just from doing these small projects that popped into my head,” she said. “My first one was The Young and the Restless illustration that I have on my website and I just couldn’t stop. The style stayed the same but I would push myself with composition, size, and color.”

Currently contracting as a designer at independent digital design Studio Freight, Deley also co-created the “mind reading” board game Medium, which Two Dollar Radio attendees had the chance to celebrate and play after its release. In August, Delay also illustrated children’s (and dog lovers) book Good Night, Buckeye with author Dan Wurth, with all proceeds from the book benefitting Canine Companions for Independence. With Deley’s hectic creative schedule, Jubilee could have become an afterthought, but she assures (614) that the show’s creation was intentional, with retrospective, familial ties.

“I came up [with] the name [of Jubilee] for two reasons. One, Jubilee came from the idea of celebrating. I thought it was time to celebrate this style I’ve been creating,” she said. “And two, it’s an homage to my grandparents. My Baba would always make this rich and delicious cookies called ‘jubilees’. They were always doing a craft with me or when I would come visit they were creating something.”

With appreciation for local art venues such as 934 Gallery, No Place Gallery and Roy G Biv, Deley avidly wanted for Jubilee to be placed in Skylab, ready to share her “post-pop art” genre with Columbus. “Skylab was the perfect space to propose this show. Its view of art has always been contemporary and experimental, and that’s how I view everything I make,” she said. “Contemporary art for me is about making things weird and beautiful at the same time and that’s how I hope people perceive Jubilee.

Jubilee opens Jan. 1, 2020 at Skylab Gallery, located at 57 E Gay St., 5th floor.
Visit danielledeley.com or @danielle_deley on Instagram for more information.

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Thinking Big: The Amazing Giants bring circus arts to events across town

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If you have been to a local festival, parade, or corporate event where you’ve seen stilt walkers, fire-eaters, hula-hoopers or lyra artists, there’s a good chance you’ve been in the presence of an Amazing Giant. Founded in 2011 by Jessica Minshall, The Amazing Giants was born out of one woman’s love of stilt walking and her friends’ desire to learn the skill. Now a new challenge is looming for the group—a business expansion to Hawaii.

Working in the service industry, Minshall saw a need in Columbus for a different type of entertainment. She taught herself how to walk on stilts for a festival gig out of state. This new hobby intrigued a group of her friends, and they decided to learn, too. From there, The Amazing Giants were born. “My partner and I bought a lot of stilts and just taught people how to do it,” she said. “We all found each other.”

What began as a few friends learning a new skill and having fun together practicing it evolved into a booming business with 40 employees and contract workers, including magicians, face painters and more. They are hired for events to do everything from wearing full bodysuits covered in tiny mirrors and dancing to wearing and serving champagne from large metal skirts to dazzle a crowd.

“We have evolved with different equipment, too,” Minshall said. The Amazing Giants owns the only sway pole in the Midwest. It allows performers to create a large- scale spectacle with an extreme cirque-style pole acrobatic act without the need for a permanent installation. With hundreds of costumes, 20 pairs of stilts, and entertainment offerings of just about every circus art imaginable, The Amazing Giants truly seek to astound.

Having had great success in the Columbus market, Minshall decided to grow her business, and recently brought The Amazing Giants to Honolulu. “I had family out here that I would visit and realized they don’t have anyone doing what we do. There’s not really a group or team of stilt walkers working together,” she said. So Minshall bought six pairs of stilts, and hosts open gyms where interested performers can show off their skills and possibly train on stilts. “They don’t need to send me a resume, necessarily,” she said. “It’s about personality and talent.”

Importantly, Amazing Giants must have an abundance of confidence without an overabundance of ego. “I tell people we have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. As an entertainer you have to get over your shyness and put yourself out there.” The ability to work as a collaborative team player is also key, she said. “Our team often works in tight quarters, and whether or not it is well-received, you have to put on the show as best you can.”

Although Minshall is keeping the headquarters in Columbus, now headed by Chief of Operations Olivia Ranier, she says she is excited about the expansion and her recent move to Honolulu. “It reminds me a lot of Columbus because it has that small-town, big-city feel with a similar {\(metropolitan area) population of around one million people,” Minshall said. And the environment is ripe for her type of business. “In Honolulu, we have events year-round; in Columbus our business slows down after New Year’s Eve,” she said. “There is also a lot more tourism and a convention center that brings in a ton of people.”

Although her business has expanded, don’t for a second go thinking that Minshall is going to forget where she comes from. “A lot of times people ask me where I am from and they say, ‘Wow, I’ve been hearing a lot about Ohio lately.’ I have nothing but good things to say about Columbus and what kind of platform it’s given me. It’s a massive city with a thriving arts and entertainment culture—and it’s extremely underrated. I will be Columbus-promoting forever.”

For more information visit theamazinggiants.com.

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Maker’s Space: Kato Mitchell

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Following an initial disastrous experience with attempting to refurbish a personal pair of sneakers with acrylic paint years ago, a friend noticed Mitchell’s persistence, aiding him to perfect his craft. Though he began with primarily focusing on restoring his friends’ worn-down sneakers, Mitchell’s business, Work The Custom, has expanded to designing apparel in any range.

Just months after being highlighted as cleat designer for Braxton Miller’s Charg1ng summer football camp in Dayton, Mitchell’s clientele has accrued some big names in the sports world, and he has no intention of stopping. (614) caught up with Mitchell to learn more about Work The Custom, and his hope for reconstructing apparel in Columbus and beyond.

(614): When did you decide to transition from football to design?
KM: I’ve always had a passion for drawing and art, [but] I just lost my vision when I took actual art classes and didn’t like what we were doing. After college, I didn’t get any NFL calls, [and] I was trying to figure out what else I would love to do every day, and fell back in love with art.

What was your leap from “this thing I do” to the thing to do? How do you promote your work? After I realized how many people wanted to show who they really are with art, and I was someone who could help do that, that was my ironing point. I promote my work through Instagram and Facebook for the most part, but I do go to sneaker events from time-to-time to pass out business cards.

Is this your primary gig, side gig or hobby? How did it come to be?
It’s my side gig for the moment, but trying to grow and learn to make it my full-time career. I had a pair of shoes that were beat up and didn’t want to buy more so I painted them, but one of my friends taught me the game and how to prosper from it.

What life changes do you feel have propelled your work? How have your customizations evolved? Playing football for a place like Ohio State and doing work for Buckeyes in the NFL and for the OSU football team has helped grow my work faster and further. My customs have evolved just by me growing up and seeing different things, learning different things, practicing everyday, and being able to adapt.

Do you have a specific audience that you want to appeal to?
I want my work to be for everyone. My work can range from baby shoes to youth high school players of all sports, to walls of homeowners and businesses, to shoes for pro athletes.

What ingredients come together to make Columbus a fertile ground for makers, designers and creatives? Columbus is a growing market and very friendly. It has new businesses starting every week and everyone is trying to help everyone else.

What’s your six-word creative story?

Work The Custom is coming fast!

To get in contact with Mitchell, or to see more designs, follow him on Instagram at @katowork19.

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