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Friday and Saturday
More than anything, I’m glad Cincinnati has a Bunbury festival. I can point out and nitpick things that could have been better or different about the three-day fest, but any and all of my grievances are just symptoms of the festival growing up and finding its stride. Bunbury is a moneymaking venture, pure and simple, much in the way that festivals like Forecastle and Bonnaroo are first and foremost moneymaking ventures. Midpoint Music Festival it’s not, but that’s probably the point.
Let’s just get a couple things out of the way: the setup for the main stage didn’t make any sense. I’m not sure why the festival organizers chose to have the big headliners perform in an environment with such a narrow lawn. It ended up choking off foot traffic to the western part of the park and cramming in attendees during climactic final shows. It would have made a lot more sense to have groups like fun., Belle & Sebastian, and MGMT perform at the central, gigantic Bud Light stage, which was basically a big, round stage surrounded by a huge grassy lawn with vendors and food trucks dotting the perimeter. The best thing the Main Stage had going for it was its proximity to the Rockstar stage, something of a B-stage throughout the festival. Set time scheduling resulted in me ping-ponging between the two (relatively close) stages to catch sets, which ended up being preferable to some other festivals where I’ve had to trek large empty expanses in a hurry to catch a show.
Everything was run very smoothly and efficiently. Sets started on time, the sound systems were generally good, the food selections were satisfying, the security and cleanup services were top-notch. The only drawback to this bustling productivity is that Bunbury perhaps doesn’t seem like a very “Cincinnati” endeavor. The big tent-pole bands were great, but the earlier set times, while occasionally featuring local and regional groups, were quite often filled with New York and L.A. bands with small profiles that I just really didn’t care about. I think, overall, the Bunbury festival organizers did a great job with scheduling: this schedule had several really bright points. But for the price paid, I think festival goers got just what they paid for, no more. There was no overwhelming feeling of awesomeness or preciousness I’ve felt while deep in the thick of Midpoint or MusicNow.
MPMF is our SXSW . . . Bunbury is our Lollapalooza.
I think John pretty much summed up all my thoughts on Bunbury. To echo John’s sentiments, I’m glad Bunbury exists. It’s awesome to be in a city that has grown to the point that there’s room for two major indie music – MPMF and Bunbury – that reach two totally different audiences. Bunbury’s lineup leans more heavily on mainstream alternative acts, whereas MPMF definitely takes to more indie buzz bands and unknowns.
After this weekend came to the conclusion that Bunbury just isn’t for me. Granted, I approached Bunbury with the mindset that I could check out some bands that I wouldn’t normally pay to see. I saw a few bands that were hyped on Pitchfork (Sky Ferreira: Snoresville. Night Terrors of 1927: fast train to Boretown). Yo La Tengo was great, Cake was great, Belle & Sebastian were great till they got rained out.
But what’s the deal with the main stage’s lawn being so narrow? Why not put the main acts on the Bud Light stage? And why did the bands start at 2 PM on Friday? If Bunbury is trying to attract out of towners to buy 3-day passes, a lot of people would have to take off work on Friday to check out the early shows.
All in all, Bunbury is well run and brings in a ton of new people to the riverfront. The Techbury tent and craft beer village are great features that engage folks that are more into the festival aspect than the music aspect. And at the rate it’s been growing, Bunbury is going to be a pretty powerful force in the next five years. I’m curious and excited to see how Bunbury grows.
Bunbury year 2 is officially in the books and should go down as another success for music in the city of Cincinnati. The weather was almost perfect, things appeared to go off without a hitch and Sawyer Point was filled with tons of people for the majority of the weekend.
John and Caitlin both gave some fair criticism of the festival above, so I won’t repeat any of that, I’m just going to put some words to Sunday night, because that was the best stretch the festival had to offer, by a longshot.
First of all. Belle and Sebastian. Belle and Sebastian people! Finally being able to see this iconic band in our city after so many years of them skipping us for one reason or another was nothing short of thrilling. As Stuart hit the stage and launched into I’m A Cuckoo I suddenly forgot about the heat, about my “aching old man who’s been at a music festival all weekend back” and just floated into another place. Yeah, their set was cut short because of the weather, but ending with the fan filled dance party that was Boy With The Arab Strap was fitting, even if the rain stole a couple additional tunes from us.
Yo La Tengo, who have been touring with B&S were next after the rain delay on the far side of the main stage area. Ira Kaplan took the stage wearing the same orange and white striped shirt I’ve seen him don for years now. He is slowly becoming an indie rock grandpa. Of course, what grandpa can absolutely shred on guitar and then turn around and croon an emotional love ballad? We should all be so lucky to be as cool as Ira, Georgia and James when we get to be their age. Cool barely describes YLT.
The National closed things out with a rip-roaring hometown set. At this point in their career, Matt and the boys are quite predictable. They are going to play several songs from the album that they are touring, they are going to have a tight, clean sound, Matt will go crazy with the longest mic chord on earth during Mr. November (seriously, can’t we just use a cordless mic?) and people in attendance will pay their respects.
But even when you know what’s coming, you can’t help but get caught up in it. It’s intoxicating and amazing and while there are better live bands around, there aren’t many I’d rather see over The National at this stage of their career.
Bunbury will be back in 2014, (they were already selling tickets at this years fest) and I hope Cincinnati will continue to support it. I know I will.
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