The flowers are in bloom, the birds are chirping, and the Bunbury Music Festival is back on the banks of the Ohio River. In other words, everything is just as it should be as summer begins in Cincinnati.
Here is your absolutely definitive, though invariably incomplete, guide to Ohio’s best music fest:
JOHN ANTHONY WHITE, ET Al.
He formed The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and Dead Weather, and he’s killed it with every one of them. In the process, he’s produced some of the true anthems of our time, including (where even to begin?) Seven Nation Army, Blue Orchid, Fell in Love With a Girl, and Salute Your Solutions. One of the best guitarist in music, one of the most influential artists of his generation, one of the greatest live acts you’ll ever see… yeah, it’s Jack White’s world, we’re all just living in it. He plays Sunday night.
Still, the other headliners are no slouches. Friday’s Blink-182 promises to make it 2004 again with their high-energy pop-punk (“…and I’m so sooorryy; I cannot sleep, I cannot dream toniiiiiight…”), and we couldn’t be more excited. Also on Friday is The Chainsmokers, a duo that combines bouncy pop ballads and electronica with stunning live results. As for Saturday night, that’s devoted to Incubus, the mid-2000’s rockers with a surprisingly deep catalogue of hits, not all of them deriving from their 1999 record, Make Yourself.
DON’T CALL THEM UNDERCARDS
Who’s gonna be this year’s “Yeah the headliners were incredible, but did you see _____??” We’ve got a few artists in mind not named Third Eye Blind or Coheed and Cambria:
Young the Giant / Friday / Alternative, proto-indie with an emotional resonance, an insistent energy, and the ability to rock a stadium / One song to listen to: Amerika
Everything Everything / Friday / Artsy, idiosyncratic, and bizarre, an England-based band with a sound that goes everywhere at once and doesn’t apologize for itself / One song to listen to: Suffragette Suffragette
GRiZ / Saturday / Electronica, energy in spades, self-described “future funk,” and eminently unmissable if you’re looking to boogie / One song to listen to: Good Times Roll
Misterwives / Saturday / Indie pop but unfathomably more colorful, more interesting, and more lovely than that moniker implies / One song to listen to: Reflections
Gang of Youths / Saturday / Sydney-based rockers with pulse-pounding percussions and a force of nature of a frontman / One song to listen to: What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?
Black Pistol Fire / Sunday / Raw, seething blues rock ala The Black Keys, The White Stripes, or (gasp!) early Led Zeppelin / One song to listen to: Cry Wolf
Moonbeau / Saturday / A Cincinnati-based synth-pop outfit that recalls a poppy, ebullient Depeche Mode / One song to listen to: Are We In Love Yet?
PROVENDER AND LIBATIONS
Soon there’ll be a Mikey’s Late Night Slice in Over-The-Rhine. Until then, the only place in Cincinnati you can get this sinfully delicious pizza and (ahem) unicorn sauce is at Bunbury. Other food vendors include Che, Eli’s BBQ, Injoy Street Food, Mazunte, Tickle Pickle, streetpops, and more.
In terms of staying hydrated, uh, do that. It’s probably the #1 most important thing about the entire experience. Drink. Water.
Transitioning over to alcoholic beverages, Braxton Brewing Co. is sponsoring the Craft Beer Village again this year, and that’s a good thing. If you don’t think they’re one of the top breweries in the area, you haven’t tried Revamp IPA. Of course, there will be the usual slew of local and national beers as well.
- Use the festival app to create a roadmap before the event so you know exactly where and when your favorite bands are playing. Then ignore said roadmap, because you might find your next favorite band by accident.
- Bring cash, because while there are ATMs, the lines go from “meh” to “dear God” with astonishing speed.
- Speaking of lines, the days of 2014 are long gone thanks to an added entrance near Yeatman’s Cove. Still, lines are a festival inevitability, so get there early if you want to avoid them.
- Festival fashion is a thing, and you should hop on board with the most bedazzling outfit you can think of. And by the same token, leave your judging hat at home; everyone’s just here to have fun.
NOM DE GUERRE
Just because we can, we end with the amusing provenance of “Bunbury.” It comes from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, in which a character uses a fictitious persona—Bunbury—as an excuse to avoid social obligations. So, yeah. There are boring things you want to get out of, and Bunbury is what you want to get out of them for.
As for the bee, well, that’s a bit less clear. So say the festival’s promoters: “He asked if he could be the mascot, so we figured why not?”
Bunbury Festival will be held June 1-3 at Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove.