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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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Arts & Culture

Columbus Museum of Art opens June 23 for members; June 30 to the public

Julian Foglietti

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The Columbus Museum of Art (CMA)  has announced plans to reopen in the coming week after closing in mid-March due to COVID restrictions. Though museums were allowed to open on June 10, CMA chose to hold off reopening and will instead see it’s first visitors tomorrow,  June 23, as they reopen for museum members, and to the general public next week on June 30..

To coincide with the reopening, CMA has announced multiple measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, such as significantly reduced capacity, and the introduction of timed tickets, and special hours for at-risk populations.

Tickets for the following week will be made available for sale online each Friday, and an extremely limited number of tickets will be available for day-of admission. While there isn’t a time limit to how long visitors can stay in the museum, there is a one hour entrance window assigned to each ticket. 

Visitors will be asked to socially distance while in the space, and face coverings are strongly recommended. 

Learn more here.

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Arts & Culture

Art Unites Cbus creates online gallery for keeps

Julian Foglietti

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Today CAPA and the Greater Columbus Arts Council partnered to launch an Art Unites Cbus online gallery to document the works produced during the #ArtUnitesCbus initiative launched on June 1, 2020. 

The initiative worked to commision Columbus-based visual artists to decorate the plywood installed over the broken windows at the Ohio Theater and Arts Council office. 

Since its launch, many other businesses in Columbus, most notably in the Short North and Huntington Center worked with local artists to cover the boards with murals in response to the Black Lives Matter protest movement. 

With many businesses removing their boards, and repairing broken windows, the Arts Council and CAPA are working with Hines Company, and the Short North Alliance to document and preserve the murals as they are removed so they can exist to inspire future generations. 

Photos of the murals are available at www.artunitescbus.com, and the site will be regularly updated as more murals are documented in Columbus.

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Arts & Culture

Pride Movie Month: Tangerine

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Shooting an entire movie with three iPhone 5S’ sounds like an undertaking that only a seasoned director might take on, not for someone making their directorial debut.

From a financial standpoint, it may make sense; most people have these cameras at their everyday disposal so why not utilize a device to its maximum potential if you’re spending thousands of dollars on it already? But with using a camera that fits into the palm of your hand, any auteur is going to be met with limitations.

Knowing this information going into my first viewing of Tangerine a few months ago, I thought that a movie told through this lens would sell the transgender experience short. However, I think it provided the perfect lens for those without a transgender point-of-view.

The movie begins at a donut shop, and immediately director Sean Baker throws you into the animated lives of transgender sex workers Alexandra and Sin-Dee. After serving a 28-day prison sentence, Alexandra fills Sin-Dee in on her boyfriend, and pimp, Chester, who has been disloyal during her time away.

Upon finding out that Chester has been hooking up with a cisgender female, Sin-Dee is livid; she’s not going to let the fact that it’s Christmas Eve prevent her from giving Chester and his new girl a piece of her mind. From this point forward, you’re trying to play catch up with Alexandra as Sin-Dee stalks her Hollywood neighborhood. The journey is an introductory transgender slice-of-life.

Tangerine was released in 2015. That same year, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 45 percent of transgender people with unsupportive families experienced homelessness. There are a few subtle moments throughout the movie that bring to light to this sad betrayal.

One of them comes in the opening scene after Sin-Dee asks to use Alexandra’s phone in order to call Chester. Alexandra then explains how her phone had been shut off in order to cover Sin-Dee’s rent while she was locked up. We all like to think that we have good friends, but the way the transgender community looks after each other sheds new light on what it means to be a good friend in the modern age. With no family to look after her, Alexandra knows she’s one of Sin-Dee’s only lines of support.

It’s highlighted once again when Alexandra gets in a fight with a male who refuses to pay her after a sex act. After a police officer approaches them fighting over money in the street, the cop mentions how it’d be unfortunate to have to call both of their families on Christmas Eve to fill them in. Alexandra, without hesitation, quips back, “What family?”

Tangerine is able to use the lens of a phone to bring us closer to  Sin-Dee and Alexandra as they walk the streets to highlight transgender hardships like prostitution, drug use, and homelessness. The use of the cell phone as the storyteller creates a personal, immediate connection to the characters and gives the viewer a bird’s eye perspective you couldn’t get through a standard camera lens.

Tangerine by no means captures the entire transgender experience, but it’s been one that I think does a powerful job at getting people to discuss injustice and socio-economic hardships of this specific LGBTQ community.

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