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

614now

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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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Serenity now! 614 interviews Jason Alexander ahead of Cbus performance

Mike Thomas

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If you’re expecting a stand-up comedy routine from a frumpily-dressed Jason Alexander full of jokes about soup and shrinkage and Festivus, move on.

Alexander’s still getting laughs. But, they’re a different kind as he returns to his roots as a Broadway show performer, taking his singing, dancing, piano-playing, storytelling routine across the country with a pops-style show that will arrive in Columbus this month. Alexander will join the Columbus Symphony Orchestra to tell the story of his life on the screen and stage.

(614) recently had the delightful opportunity to speak with the Tony Award-winning actor about the show, his love of poker, and the influence of George Costanza on our culture in 2019.  

(614): “An Evening With Jason Alexander” comes to the Ohio Theatre on April 27. What can our readers expect from
the performance?

JA: (Chuckling.) I’m only laughing because I’ve been doing this for about three years, and that’s always the first question! So “An Evening With” is a pop show that I’ve been doing for about three years all around the country. I know most people may not immediately think of me as a singer if they know me from my roles on television, but it is a more-or-less autobiographical journey through my love affair with music from the Broadway stage.

Some of it is things that I’ve performed on Broadway, some of it is not. A lot of it is very funny. A lot of it is just great music. It’s a slightly different show in that, although there’s a symphony orchestra up there, it does feel like an intimate evening. There’s lots of storytelling, and at one point in the show I bring about seven people up on the stage—and they are truly not plants, I pick them at random—and they wind up performing a number with me.

How does preparing for a role like this where you’re appearing as yourself differ from a performance where you’re appearing in character?

The preparation is all emotional. I went into performing because I was a really shy kid, so I was able to hide in plain sight. I could be with people, be out in front of people, and I was always more or less hiding behind some character. I’ve always said the five worst words for me in the English language are, “Ladies and gentlemen—Jason Alexander.” That usually scares the hell out of me! That means I have to go out there and be myself. 

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The beautiful thing about this show is the preparation was all in creating the show. If you’re going to go in front of people and take their time and present yourself as an entertainer, what story or stories do you want to share, and how do you want to play with an audience so they have a
very full and very rewarding time? That was all the hard part. In the actually getting up and doing it, I’ve been pretty lucky that I’ve been playing with some of the best orchestras in the country, so when I’m up there I’m generally having a pretty good time. If I’m not, something’s gone terribly wrong. 

You’ve made a name for yourself in the competitive poker world, even appearing in the main event at the World Series of Poker. How did your interest in poker begin?

Almost everybody in my business bumps into poker at some point, because if you do theater and movies, there’s a lot of down time. More often than not, somebody will say, “Hey, let’s play some poker.” But it was around the time that the celebrity poker shows started in the early 2000’s that I remember being invited to be a player on a televised poker thing, and my publicist represented [professional Poker player] Phil Hellmuth at the time, and he said “Hey, I represent this professional poker player, would you like a lesson?” And I said, “What the hell. The guy calls himself a professional poker player. Let me go see who he is.” After about ten minutes my head was spinning. I realized there was so much about this game I did not understand, never knew, would never understand. But I became fascinated with it. 

It is such a rich game in that there are so many ways you can play it. You can play it as a mathematical player, you can play it as an instinctual player. It is an actor’s game because you are always making impressions about yourself at the table, always trying to understand the impression other players are making. I’m so fascinated by the game, but my fascination does not, unfortunately, mean that I am good at it. I am entertaining at the table, I generally know right from wrong, but sometimes right doesn’t work, and even knowing wrong I have proceeded to do the wrong thing time and time again. It’s kind of like life, you never stop being surprised and learning more about it. 

I also meet amazing people at the poker table, fascinating people that I would never otherwise meet. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 30 years and I work in the entertainment business, so I don’t often meet guys who are driving buses in Cleveland, Ohio, or work in accounting firms in Wyoming, but at the poker table you meet people from every walk of life.

For nine seasons in the 90s, you played the iconic role of George Costanza on the classic sitcom Seinfeld. What lessons can George teach us in 2019, or where in our modern culture do you see the character’s influence?

Well, if I am to believe social media, the president is making a lot of George-isms. The one that keeps being tweeted at me is, people believe the president may be subscribing to the Costanza philosophy of “it’s not a lie if you believe it.” I am afraid, unfortunately if you want to be serious, that the sort of selfishness and short-sightedness and narcissism that George Costanza was certainly guilty of may have infected a lot of our modern culture right now, and to nobody’s good, I’m afraid.

Jason Alexander will perform at the Ohio Theater on April 27th at 8 p.m. For tickets information, visit columbussymphony.com/events.

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You can sit with us: 6 fan favorites coming to Broadway in Columbus stage

Laura Dachenbach

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Six incredible shows including Columbus premieres, revivals, and long-running favorites, make up the 2019-2020 Broadway in Columbus series season.

In an exciting reveal last night, coupled with performances from local and Broadway performers, CAPA announced its 2019-2020 PNC Broadway in Columbus series in what looks to be an especially exciting lineup of shows.

The series will kick off with two shows that deal with the difficulties of adolescence. The critically-acclaimed Dear Evan Hansen (Sept. 17-22) tells the story of a private letter that shouldn’t have been read publicly, its tragic results, and the complexities of fitting in, while Mean Girls, (Oct. 22-27) written by former high school theater nerd and SNL writer Tina Fey and her husband Jeff Richmond, is a musical adaptation of the film of the same name that looks at cliques and Queen bees. Mean Girls comes to Columbus straight from its Broadway run.

In November, Les Misérables (Nov. 19-24) continues its “One Day More” in its almost 35 years of existence. This touring version will be freshly staged and its updated look is inspired by the little-known paintings of Victor Hugo that have been converted into backdrop projections.

Les Misérables

The New Year will kick off with another film adaptation, Anastasia (Jan. 29-Feb. 2). The stage version maintains your favorites tunes such as “Journey to the Past” and “Once Upon a December” while adding 16 new songs. This version of the last Romanov daughter, written by Terrence McNally, happily says “do svidanya” (goodbye) to Bartok the Bat and the zombie version of Rasputin and replaces them with a conniving secret police officer.

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Anastasia

My Fair Lady (Mar. 11-15), the musical that launched Julie Andrews into Broadway prominence, is sometimes called “the most perfect musical of all time.” A social commentary about language and society, My Fair Lady features a lineup of perennial Broadway favorites such as “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” And “On The Street Where You Live.”

My Fair Lady

Wrapping up the subscriber season is Miss Saigon (June 9-14), the love story of an American GI and a young Vietnamese woman who bears his child, is written by the same creative team as Les Misérables. This revival contains additional Vietnamese lyrics and exceptionally spectacular stage effects.

Miss Saigon

Jersey Boys (Jan. 10-11) and the ever-“Popular” Wicked (Apr. 22-May 17) are optional subscriber package add-ons to the season. CAPA also announced that Come From Away, a musical about true events during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks will be included in the 2020-2021 season.

To renew your season subscription or to become a subscriber, visit broadwayincolumbus.com.  You can also call (800-294-1892) or just stop in at the CAPA Ticket Center at 39 E State St. It’s a season you really won’t want to miss!

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You won’t have to go “On the Road Again” for this Willie Nelson music Festival

Mike Thomas

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Look out all you Highwaymen, the Red Headed Stranger is coming to town – and he’s bringing a few friends with him.

American music legend, activist, and all-around badass Willie Nelson will bring his “Outlaw Musical Festival” tour to Columbus’ Nationwide arena on June 23. The festival will make stops in 10 cities this summer, with the Columbus leg featuring support from The Avett Brothers, Alison Krauss, Old Crow Medicine Show, Dawes, and an opener TBD.

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Each stop on the tour will feature an “Outlaw Village,” showcasing crafts from local artisans as well as festival attractions and local food and drink offerings.

Tickets for the festival’s Columbus show go on sale Friday, March 8th. Presale will begin Wednesday, March 6 at 10am and go through Thursday, March 7 at 10pm or while supplies last. Enter offer Code ARENA.

For more information, visit the tour website.

In the meantime, please enjoy this fantastically weird tune from the pre-Shotgun Willie days.

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