Falloutfest 2018 proves a success


Dominique Larue performs songs from her new album on night three of Falloutfest. (Photo by ABBY JEFFERS)

Dominique Larue performs songs from her new album on night three of Falloutfest. (Photo by ABBY JEFFERS)

This past weekend was a whirlwind of music at The Union in Athens, Ohio, where Blackout Booking hosted this year’s Falloutfest on Ohio University’s campus.

Thursday, night one, was jam-packed with indie rock tunes. The Wastemen, clad in colorful jumpsuits and with a kick drum adorned with the words, “3 talented young men!” and a banter-filled set from hidden places opened the night with high-energy crowd pleasers. Although the audience was smaller than expected–likely due to the high ticket prices and the fact that it was a weekday–there was no lack of enthusiasm, especially when illuminati hotties and Diet Cig took the stage with their delicate punky sound.

“We’re a long way from home, but dang, it sure feels good,” illuminati hotties vocalist and guitarist Sarah Tudzin said with a gentle laugh. The theme of the night was tenderness, after all; later, Diet Cig vocalist Alex Luciano, who performed and danced despite having a leg brace from a torn ACL, instructed any lovers and best friends in the audience to make eye contact as she played a soft rendition of the band’s song “Apricots.”

Night two kicked off with Athens locals Slackluster and The Molice, whose bouncy, shouting rock musicians come all the way from Tokyo, Japan. The night then started to feel unearthly with DANA’s set. Accompanied by a garage-rock band, her theremin and a variety of vocal distortion and effects pedals, frontwoman Madeline Jackson stomped around the stage while howling into the microphone and cracking its cable like a whip. The crowd could not have been more enthusiastic; by the time DANA finished their set, there were more people and just as much energy as the end of the previous night.

The night did not end there, however. Lung took the stage next, and despite only having an electric cellist and a drummer, their set rocked the whole room. Cellist and vocalist Kate Wakefield swayed back and forth as if her cello was in charge, eyes wide with animated expressions as if she was telling a story. Daisy Caplan, the band’s drummer, was no less intense as he pounded away at the drum kit, adding to the high-energy performance.

Finally, the night ended with Guerilla Toss and their gnarly art rock. It was not only live music but rather a performance, and all of the varying textures lined up in a surprisingly pleasing manner. After shout-singing the first few tracks, singer Kassie Carlson brought out a violin, and although it shouldn’t have made the set even more grinding and heavy, it worked well with the punky music and psychedelic projections of a UFO, farm, and palm trees behind the band.

The final night of Falloutfest was a little different. Although Queer Kevin—a talented duo that switched between soft and haunting to punk in about a half-second—and Weird Science—an animated garage-rock band that invited audience participation through the use of maracas—maintained the rock theme of the previous two days, the final three acts of the festival switched it up in terms of genre.

Dominique Larue performed third with her cousin Tha Audio Unit, who produced all of the beats on her recently-released album, “IMSMILINGBECAUSEIHATEEVERYTHING.” Although it was their first time playing in Athens, the audience clearly loved Larue’s raps, dancing enthusiastically and encouraging her as she performed songs about depression and anxiety. Linqua Franqa played next along the same general lines of rap music, although she spoke about racism and feminism alongside her mental struggles. It seemed more like spoken word than rap when she strutted around onstage, spitting lyrics faster than the audience could keep up.

Finally, Mourning A BLKstar closed out the festival. With eight people—three vocalists, a trumpet player, a trombone player, two drummers and a synth and keyboard player—crammed onstage, the energy in the room was palpable when they performed their typical unique blend of punk and hip-hop.

All in all, the festival proved a resounding success. With plenty of enthusiasm and even more dancing, it’s safe to say that a good time was had by all, and those in Athens got to see a weekend of diverse and incredible music.

Heroes Like Villains defend pop punk at Woodlands Tavern


Heroes Like Villains playing at Woodlands Tavern for the “Bad vs Evil” release party. (Photo by DANIELLE D’ONGHIA)

Heroes Like Villains playing at Woodlands Tavern for the “Bad vs Evil” release party. (Photo by DANIELLE D’ONGHIA)

One genre of music that seems to have been on a comeback recently in the last few years is pop punk. Five-piece act Heroes Like Villains is at the forefront of the Columbus pop-punk facet, and they're not going anywhere. The band has opened bills in town for some household names in pop punk—such as Four Year Strong and Plain White T's—along with playing their own packed headlining hometown shows.

Their latest album, “Bad vs Evil,” was released a week prior to the CD release show at Woodlands Tavern on September 7. This album definitely shows maturing songwriting habits and more intimate lyrical themes from vocalist David Butler. 

The show featured three other Columbus acts and one traveling act, which was A Story Told from Charleston, West Virginia. The Undergrads, a newer local act, played their second set with their most recent lineup to open the show, and it was great to see them with a full sound. Their EP, “Leaving You in the Rearview,” is very well produced, and they exhume a confidence on stage that shows that they have time and effort pitted in their live performances.

Absolute Hero played next, and their band has hit a level of live professionalism that shows how great some local bands grow to be in such a short time. Having recently released their full length, “Gone Bad,” earlier in 2018, they brought new material to another packed hometown show. The members of Absolute Hero have been longtime friends with Heroes Like Villains, which made their performance feel that much more welcomed by the crowd that was starting to pack out Woodlands.

Tourist Trap took stage after Absolute Hero, and while they are not pop punk, their friendship with the pop punk acts in town is strong. A Story Told, the penultimate act of the night, was a great addition to close out the supporting acts for the show. Having super friendly members, great tunes and stellar stage presence always make for creating a great project.

Heroes Like Villains was nothing short of amazing when it came to having presence at their own release party. The group looked like they were having the time of their lives on stage, and it felt good to watch someone else feel that good. They played most of their new record, my personal favorite track being "That Feel."

They also played pop punk covers of a few songs, which left everyone who was attending the show singing along (even in the bar area and the smoking section outside). Among those covers was "Africa" by Toto, which is a song that's gained worldwide popularity again within the last few years, most recently with Weezer’s rendition of the track.

The band closed with an encore of mosh pits, lighters being waved in the air and a screaming crowd of friends, family and fans, old and new, cheering to older singles by the band. All in all, the show was a success for all five bands on the bill and proves that pop punk is being defended. And rightfully so.

Editor’s Note: The author Zach Barnes also plays bass for Columbus band Tourist Trap, who were mentioned in the article.

Falloutfest Returns To Athens For Its Seventh Year


Falloutfest 2018 flyer. (Photo courtesy of BLACKOUT BOOKING)

Falloutfest 2018 flyer. (Photo courtesy of BLACKOUT BOOKING)

From bars and house shows to Lobsterfest and Number Fest in the spring, Athens, Ohio is buzzing with music year-round. This year is no exception; 2018 is the seventh year of Falloutfest, a three-night music festival in September hosted by Blackout Booking at The Union.

The festival serves as a supplement to Blackoutfest, the booking company’s larger festival that’s usually hosted in the spring or summer. Blackoutfest has been around for more than 21 years as of this past July, but Falloutfest is its younger sibling, happening at a time when Ohio University students are back on campus and are looking for weekend entertainment.

This year, night one of Falloutfest features delicate pop-rockers Diet Cig, known for their irresistible songs and intimate rebellion against anyone who tells you to be something other than exactly who you are. Columbus indie rock favorites Hidden Places—returning to Athens after a performance at ACRN’s Lobsterfest in the spring—The Wastemen and LA “tenderpunk” band illuminati hotties will kick off the night.

The second night’s lineup, planned for Friday, Sept. 21, promises an evening of artful rock music, with the genre-mashing New York band Guerilla Toss headlining. They will be accompanied by Lung’s cello-infused rock, avant-garage band DANA, Tokyo dance-core group The Molice and Athens locals Slackluster.

Finally, Mourning [A] BLKstar will close out the festival’s third night with its unique blend of punk and hip-hop, which emerged out of a creative crisis following the murder of frontman RA Washington’s close friend. LINQUA FRANQA is slated to open the night with her feminist-inspired indie hip-hop, accompanied by Dominique Larue, Weird Science and Queer Kevin.

Falloutfest 2018 will be held at The Union in Athens, Ohio from September 20-22. Doors open each night at 8 p.m. and it’s 18+. Tickets are $20 on Thursday, $15 on Friday and $10 on Saturday; they are on sale now and can be found here.

Saintseneca execute elaborate "Pillar of Na" at intimate Mershon Stage


Saintseneca performing at the Black Box on Mershon Stage for the “Pillar of Na” record release. (Photo by KRIS MISEVSKI)

Saintseneca performing at the Black Box on Mershon Stage for the “Pillar of Na” record release. (Photo by KRIS MISEVSKI)

Zac Little is a musical curator, a very nuanced one at that. This is evident during his band Saintseneca’s record release performance at the Black Box on Mershon Stage—an intimate, standing-room-only backstage performance decorated with the new album’s artwork and dimly-lit industrial lights hanging above the crowd. “Pillar of Na,” Saintseneca’s fourth LP release, features obvious growth in the band as a unit. Each song, instrument and stage change was executed with such grace, putting off fleeting emotions of ecstasy and nirvana.

Little—the scientist behind acclaimed Columbus folk band Saintseneca—has lived through lineup changes and instrument juggling since the band’s 2007 inception, barely missing a stride whenever its naturally time to part ways. His ability to convey emotions through unconventional tools and a voiced plucked fresh from heaven’s gardens has built a continued sense of awe that has followed Saintseneca. At this point in his career, Little has assumed rightful comparisons to widely-respected indie giant Justin Vernon.

The ever-popular Wisconsin swooner has swept the Pitchfork youth off of its feet with Bon Iver’s modern big band vibe. Over the past decade-plus, Vernon has continued to expand his sound; he’s made sizable contributions to hip-hop, basically recreated the saxophone on “22, A Million” and most recently teamed up with The National’s Aaron Dessner for “Big Red Machine.” Little has also been making music with Saintseneca for almost just as long. National praise has also come for the band, but nowhere near as widespread as Bon Iver. To Little, someone who has questioned what he is doing at points throughout his career, Bon Iver’s success may leave him thinking that there’s just no room for Saintseneca.

But of course there is.

For a band that has expanded on its vision and sound with each subsequent release, Saintseneca sure is hitting on all sorts of styles on “Pillar of Na.” When Little took the stage with bandmates Caeleigh Featherstone, Steve Ciolek, Jon Meador and Matthew O'Conke to put some of these songs to test for the first time live, the result was effortless, intricate and precise. Little is notoriously known for being the latter of the three, and it showed at the album release. Whether Ciolek was engineering sounds at Saintseneca’s helm or Featherstone weaving her commanding voice into controlled instrumental chaos, each part was being played perfectly like they would be punished for missing a step.

Most of the songs on “Pillar of Na” are packed into three-and-a-half-minute arrangements, each bleeding with a different texture. The band’s performance and live debut of many of the tracks in was living proof of that, as instruments and bandmates were switched out, all coming together at times while at others being stripped of everything except Little’s raw voice. “Feverer” drips with the psychedelic folk of Jeff Mangum, while the technical plucking and hymnal harmonizing on  “Beast in the Garden” sounds like an instrumental Sampha could float over. Hell, even “Moon Barks at the Dog” channels some “Tell Me I’m Pretty”-era Cage The Elephant.

And when Saintseneca delivered these songs at Mershon Auditorium they did so with impeccable precision. However, it wasn’t a song off of “Pillar of Na” that encapsulated Little’s deeper exploration into music. Little’s solo performance of “How Many Blankets Are In The World?”—a scene that saw the stage swept of everything except Little and his career—put on display that raw cry he uses to best convey emotions in Saintseneca’s world. Asking this impossible question can also serve as an answer to any hesitation Little may have about his career at a point where he’s over 10 years in because it’s one that’s impossible to answer yet futile to worry about.       

The intimate setting Saintseneca chose for their homecoming show proves that they don’t need to be on a Bon Iver level to make Bon Iver-quality music. “Pillar of Na” is Saintseneca’s most impressive showcase of just that, and the album’s closing track of the same title—a nine-minute excursion aided by a flute, Little’s vibrato vocals and precise plucking—was one of the many performances at the Mershon Stage that showed how impressive it was for Saintseneca to move as one unit. About three minutes in, convention is thrown out the window as the tempo flares up; it appears as if the band has been awoken from a winter-long slumber. At this point everyone—even an additional musician—is on the stage, a stark contrast from “How Many Blankets Are In The World?” Emotions are still flooding, a perfect marker for a scientist that his experiments are working.

Bellwether Music Festival Lives Up To Hype, Shows Promising Potential

By: Zak Kolesar

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips headlining at Bellwether Music Festival on Aug. 11. The Flaming Lips closed out day two of the music festival, which took place on the grounds of the Renaissance Festival. (Photo by: Ana Goffe)

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips headlining at Bellwether Music Festival on Aug. 11. The Flaming Lips closed out day two of the music festival, which took place on the grounds of the Renaissance Festival. (Photo by: Ana Goffe)

Ground Control to Bellwether

David Bowie’s 1969 masterpiece “Space Oddity” was the prelude to the launch of the Apollo 11, the rocket that carried the mission that would go on to be perhaps the United States’ greatest space conquest: the first nation to step on that cheese-looking orb in the sky.

The scene was somewhat similarly set with another otherworldly premise on the night of Saturday, Aug. 11 on the grounds of the Ohio Renaissance Festival in Waynesville, Ohio, where the inaugural Bellwether Music Festival took place on Aug. 10 and 11. However, in lieu of a spaceship there was a plastic bubble, in which extravagant Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne became a part of and triumphantly crossed over the crowd during the Lips’ cover of the Bowie classic. Throughout the entirety of The Flaming Lips’ headlining act, other dimensions of music were explored, successfully marking the conclusion of the launch of Ohio’s most potential-packed music festival.

Fans at Bellwether Music Festival getting excited to see The Flaming Lips perform at the Sunset stage. (Photo by: Ana Goffe)

Fans at Bellwether Music Festival getting excited to see The Flaming Lips perform at the Sunset stage. (Photo by: Ana Goffe)

Despite MGMT Cancellation, Bellwether Still A Major Success

Building the infrastructure for any first-year event is a task that many want to take on but can’t. There’re lots of moving parts: what vendors will be there, how to afford enough big-name acts to attract a crowd and how the fans will act to the environment are just a few of the deciding factors that keep people pre ordering tickets. Even when adversity gets in the way—like in the form of a torrential downpour and thunder and lightning storm that derailed the first night’s opening act from taking the stage—the Bellwether community was there to prove that not even the worst of music-related news could penetrate the good festival vibes.

One of the most magical things about music festivals is that when a team effort is applied, the best can be made out of almost any situation. That’s what happened on the Renaissance Festival grounds, where, despite the rain forcing MGMT to the sideline, a circle of those sharing a love and passion for music, art, foundation, togetherness, etc. gathered together in a small southwestern Ohio town to help build up Bellwether.

And what better way to explore the ingredients to constructing a formative music festival than by observing one during its test run.

Starting with the essentials, the lineup is going to be the driving force behind what packs a first-year fest. An eclectic mix of 21st century alternative rockers welcomed festival dwellers on Friday, while those tried and true in the realm of psychedelic rock and grandiose performance closed out the celebration on Saturday night. Fifteen of the 16 acts performed around hour-long sets between two stages, never overlapping, always on time and seemingly to maximum fulfillment. And oh yeah, there were an additional two late-night sets that took place inside the Renaissance Festival.

Inclement weather—a mixture of high winds, punishing rain and a vortex of lightning—prevented MGMT, from stepping foot onto the lake that once was the Sunset stage. A relentless crowd waited out the unforgiving downpour for an hour before the storm forced an evacuation. Despite every other performance taking place as planned, those who only had a Friday ticket were granted free admission on Saturday while two-day-pass holders were treated to discounted tickets for next year’s Bellwether.

Disappointment is expected when you’re part of a population of festival goers who traveled cross country for the chance to see their favorite artist headline a show. However, at music festivals and in life, you need to roll with the punches, and the execution of every set on Friday leading up to MGMT’s weather-forced cancellation was superlative. Regardless of the washout the storm caused, the lead up to the headlining slot was nothing short of a fruitful.

One of the many eclectic Bellwether Music Festival attendees. (Photo by: Ana Goffe)

One of the many eclectic Bellwether Music Festival attendees. (Photo by: Ana Goffe)

Bellwether Grounds Loaded With Potential

Before the music, though, was beholding Bellwether’s majesty. Arriving at the Renaissance headquarters, lined by castle barricades, that sense of excitement when a festival’s grounds begins to peak over the horizon was awoken. While the fenced-in venue just beyond the camping and parking lots and Renaissance Festival entrance wasn’t massive, it didn’t need to be. With 15 minutes spacing out each set, you could casually walk back and forth between each stage while still catching each act in its entirety.

To not deal with the problem of set overlap FOMO was one of the greatest reliefs of the weekend and something I hope the festival continues next year.

Scoping out the inside of the venue, chatting with some of the friendliest festival vendors along the way, Bellwether had room for more. Even as the festival became more busy throughout the day, an absence of art installations and the space to place them leaves plenty of room for Bellwether to grow for years to come. There were some collaborative visual aesthetics, but more on that later. After starting off the day with a succulent pulled pork sandwich—just one of the many fine festival food delicacies at Bellwether—the Sunset stage was calling.  

Local Natives lead singer Taylor Rice embraces the bad weather during an outstanding overall performance. Rain cancelled MGMT's headlining set, so Local Natives were the last act to perform on Friday. (Photo by: Ana Goffe)

Local Natives lead singer Taylor Rice embraces the bad weather during an outstanding overall performance. Rain cancelled MGMT's headlining set, so Local Natives were the last act to perform on Friday. (Photo by: Ana Goffe)

Local Natives Put On Headlining Performance During Day 1

Loading the front end of Friday, Carriers, Dawg Yawp, Alex Lahey and Bob Schneider’s band  each presented a unique presence, none perhaps more polarizing than the second Cincinnati and overall act of the day, Dawg Yawp. A contrasting, yet well executed, fusion of stadium rock-n-roll meets psychedelic sitar playing was at first confusing but then well welcomed by Bellwether’s early attendees. You could really tell when these two musicians would hit a groove, producing hypnotic tunes that created an air bubble of sound in the Bellwether air.

Australian native Alex Lahey’s confessional rock tunes started to spread electricity through the crowd, enough to help out during Bob Schneider’s subsequent set. During his band’s performance of “Tarantula,” Schneider conducted the crowd into singing his latin jazz-esque song with much gusto. This led wonderfully into the weekend’s most blissful set, a slow swinging but bright performance by Chicago’s Whitney. With songs usually capped by epic swooning horns, songs like “Polly,” “Golden Days” and closer “No Woman” melted hearts and a sky soon to open with showers.

As the skies began to open up, there was a small window of hope and synchronicity when Dr. Dog stepped up to shred the Sunset stage apart. There was a moment during its performance of 2012’s “That Old Black Hole” where the sun bled profusely through the clouds, projecting beautifully onto bassist Toby Leaman as Dr. Dog’s upbeat psychedelic rock blended wonderfully into the surrounding environment. The Sunset stage truly earned its name during this specific set, leading perfectly into Dr. Dog’s closing performance of “Shadow People.” This would be the last that Bellwether attendees would see of the sun on Friday, however.

That wouldn’t kill off the good vibes, though. Even though Bellwether didn’t have any of the larger-than-life art projects mentioned earlier, a larger-than-life movement happened to make a stop in Waynesville for the weekend. That movement would be Roochute, a giant parachute and collective of the nicest, most inviting people you could find at a music festival, or anywhere. Promoting the importance of self care and its role in mental health, Roochute saved the day in more ways than one over the weekend.

As mentioned above, the giant parachute spread out its positivity just to the right of the Sunrise stage during Local Natives’ earth-shattering set. Preaching inclusion, the leaders of Roochute will recruit anybody with a child-like attitude and ambition to partake in running around in circles with one of those rainbow parachutes from elementary school gym class. This will usually build up to everybody making their way under the parachute for a pizza party, creating an exuberant colorful dome overhead for kids of all ages, colors, shapes and sizes to go wild in.

One of the most integral parts of Roochute pop-up parties are the talks about caring for ourselves and one another that happen underneath. Mindfulness, or the process of being in the moment, is one of the many positive thinking mechanisms that came to mind when participating in Roochute; I felt like the only things that mattered in the world were the fulfilling, momentous sounds of Local Natives’ “I Saw You Close Your Eyes” and the oneness I felt with a couple dozen people while running around careless with Roochute.

When Local Natives dipped into the second half of its set, that’s when Roochute also worked as the most epic umbrella you’ve ever witnessed. Rain pelted down fittingly during “Fountain of Youth” and ironically during “Sun Hands,” failing to penetrate the parachute. Festival goers feeding off the good vibes continued to dance against the rain, while Local Natives’ stage presence continually demanded your attention.

Although Bellwether-ees made their way to the Sunset stage for MGMT only to wait an hour in a freaky storm, the night didn’t end just yet. Those attending the festival were also able to enter the grounds of the Renaissance Festival until about 1 a.m., and despite the headlining act failing to take the stage, those itching for more made their way to the cabin bar inside the castle grounds to jam out to AJ & the Woods. Walking around the Renaissance Festival and seeing a giant ship—where This Pine Box would tear apart the following night to close out Bellwether—was a surreal music festival moment and had me hoping that Bellwether incorporates the confines of the castle more next year; there’s an enormous amount of potential here.

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips strikes a pose in front of a giant pink robot during the band's performance of "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 1." Coyne and company brought out many tricks for Saturday's closing set. (Photo by: Ana Goffe)

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips strikes a pose in front of a giant pink robot during the band's performance of "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 1." Coyne and company brought out many tricks for Saturday's closing set. (Photo by: Ana Goffe)

The Flaming Lips Help The Kids Forget Day 1 Disappointment

The weather held up quite nice for day two, as Columbus’ own The Cordial Sins opened up a sunny Saturday. While clean, precise sets continued to roll out on time and on point, the Allah-Lahs were one of the more captivating performances early on in the day. Attracting a crowd much like the groovers at Dr. Dog on Friday. The weather was being much more cooperative at this time with no sight of an impending storm. Spirits were high despite MGMT leaving town for the weekend without playing, and the Allah-Lahs were a big reason for that.

One of the most delightful sets of the weekend was that of Philadelphia’s Japanese Breakfast. The solo project of Michelle Zauner brought out the band to bring her experimental pop stylings to life. Zauner’s voice conveys so much raw emotion, as dictated by her performance of her popular hit “Road Head.” Guitars glistened throughout the grounds of Bellwether, the most ethereal of sounds heard during the weekend. If Bellwether can continue to recruit middle-of-the-lineup acts like Japanese Breakfast, it will have no problem with attracting a population of festival goers fiending for acts that can throw down harder in person than on wax.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Bellwether’s breakdown of music by day was the age demographic of the bands taking up the latter halves of Friday and Saturday. While some of the best alternative and psychedelic rockers of the 2000s rang in Bellwether during the first day, veterans were awaiting festival patrons the following day. Before The Flaming Lips would close out the festival with a jaw-dropping set, The Psychedelic Furs and Echo & the Bunnymen were rearing to give fans a dose of ‘80s psych rock.

What both of the sets mentioned above also brought to my attention was how diverse the ages of Bellwether attendees were. While Roochute, with a giant inflatable beach ball and bubbles to boot for day 2, kept the kids (and their parents) entertained for hours, fans reminiscent of my dad also packed the grounds, citing the second-day lineup as a deciding factor for their attendance. Echo & the Bunnymen created an aura similar to the vibe put out during Japanese Breakfast’s set, having the audience under a trance staring directly at the stage, as it was one of the only acts of the weekend not to have its performance broadcasted on the jumbotrons to the sides of the stages.

As Echo & the Bunnymen treated fans to the classic “The Killing Moon,” the sun began to set perfectly in time for The Flaming Lips hell of an encore. With no impending doom in the sky in sight, the grounds of Bellwether were amped to say the least to see Wayne Coyne and company close the curtain on the first-ever Bellwether. Around 9:30 at night on Aug. 11, the pounding introduction of Richard Strauss’ tone poem “Also sprach Zarathustra” resonated throughout the festival as The Flaming Lips took to a very decadent stage. Rainbow-colored LEDs came down like rain behind while the band launched into “Race for the Prize,” and Coyne was off to his old tricks again, spraying confetti and throwing giant balloons into an ever-embracing crowd.

Quite possibly the brightest display of color I’ve ever witnessed at a show—because, yes, the Lips also had plenty of lasers—the gang from Oklahoma City truly deserve the title of 50 bands to see before you die. Coyne rides unicorns during “There Should Be Unicorns,” blows up giant inflatable rainbows, holds a massive balloon saying “FUCK YEAH WAYNESVILLE” and even turns into a humongous (!!!) pink robot during “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 1.” As old as the Lips are, its shows sure make you feel young, as Wayne does his best at projecting his childlike whimsy onto the audience.

There were so many displays of this innocence throughout the Lips’ set but maybe none more special to Bellwether than a unique cover of MGMT’s “Kids.” Reading from a note that may or may not have been from MGMT, Wayne started off the song spoken word, then went full-fledged into the track. Even though the group has covered this song before, this performance was a genuine one from Coyne and co.

As “Space Oddity” starts to come to a close—after that final ripping guitar saga that touches souls multiple times throughout the track—Coyne, with fans gazing in awe at his bubble aura, makes his way back to the Sunrise stage. This is the begin of Bellwether’s descent. Beside from being a music festival, bellwether is also a word for a predictor of change. Being able to look up into the night sky and see almost every star clearly for the first time in months following The Flaming Lips’ encore was another surreal moment, an indicator that, as a camping festival that is located next to an elegant castle, Bellwether was loads of potential. Hats off to the Bellwether family for crafting a unique music festival experience in Ohio. Cheers to the launch of Ohio’s most potential-packed music festival.

Music by day, stars by night.

Click here to secure your tickets for the second year of Bellwether Music Festival, which will take place on Aug. 9 and 10, 2019.

The Smashing Pumpkins @ The Schottenstein Center: Photo Gallery

Photos by: Lex Vegas

Chicago alt-goth icons The Smashing Pumpkins took over The Schottenstein Center this past Saturday for a retrospective walk through its biggest hits. The band delivered a nearly three-hour gamut of tracks from its first five albums, and In The Record Store was on hand to capture all the sparkle of the Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour.

David Byrne @ The Rose Music Center at The Heights (08/11/18): Photo Gallery

Photos by: Tiffany Detzel

CD102.5’s Frontstage Fest sends summer off in style

By: Mike Thomas

RADATTACK performing at the inaugural Frontstage Fest on Saturday, Aug. 11. (Photo by: Catherine Lindsay) 

RADATTACK performing at the inaugural Frontstage Fest on Saturday, Aug. 11. (Photo by: Catherine Lindsay) 

Taking up the mantle once held by the dearly departed Independents’ Day Fest, CD102.5’s inaugural Frontstage Fest may just mark the end of the Columbus summer music season. Sure, there are still a number of great shows on the horizon—in this town, the music never really stops. But when it comes to the sheer spectacle of so many of the city’s finest talent coming together for one day, Frontstage Fest will go down as summer’s last hurrah.

Kicking off the proceedings on the outdoor stage situated in the parking lot of Big Room Bar, Hafrican performed to the select few brave enough to disregard the thick cloud coverage on an afternoon preceded by a rain-drenched morning.

Having recently returned to performing after an extended hiatus, Haf kicked off the festival in perfect form, reminding the crowd of the lyrical gifts that place him among the finest emcees in the city—and the fastest.

Accompanied by pRODUCT on the ones and twos, Hafrican’s set was a mix of old and new, drawing heavily on cuts from his 2017 release “Weirdo.” New track “How Are You” is an anthem for the Black Lives Matter era, delivering a staggering amount of truths per second while the rapper takes aim at Nazis and institutional racism.

By the time local favorites Miller and The Hunks took the stage, the sun was shining and the grounds had begun to fill out. From the onset of the performance, it was clear that Hunks frontman Colin Miller would not be content to let concertgoers mill around at a distance from the stage, perusing the various beer tents and food trucks set up around the perimeter of the lot. His urgings for folks to come up to the stage area were frequent and emphatic.

With a sizable crowd in place, Miller and The Hunks launched into an energetic set of its upbeat, Killers-by-way-of-Imagine-Dragons style tunes. With the specter of rain long gone and the sun beating down intensely, the good times were in full swing.

Continuing the energy established by Miller and The Hunks, RADATTACK proceeded to melt faces in its typical fashion. The young men in this band are real, unequivocal rockers. Sorry, Millennials—if RADATTACK is any indication, it’s clear that this next generation will be the ones to save rock music.

Moving through hard-hitting garage riffs, melodic solos with some tinges of surf tossed in for good measure, RADATTACK put on a clinic for what the traditional five-piece guitar band can still aspire to. The only question remaining for the group seems to be, will it let something as banal as going off to college mark the end of its musical journey, or rise to the national level as the heir apparent to The Strokes?

Other standout performances from the afternoon included a set from indie-rockers didi, whose Pixies-esque sound and message of inclusion were refreshing in equal parts, and a performance from Fisher Cast, whose musical stylings suggestive of Two Door Cinema Club energized the sun-drunk audience.

For a festival spanning everything from recent up-and-comers The Sidekicks to reclusive elder-statesman of Columbus music Nick Tolford, the standout set of the day came from The Outs—a supergroup made up of some of the most talented and sought-after performers on the scene today.

With core members including Parker Louis (formerly of Forest & The Evergreens), The Worn Flints and rapper Sam Rothstein, The Outs are almost ludicrously talent-dense. When the group was joined for a surprise visit from Blueprint, there was palpable fear that the stage might turn supernova and implode under the weight of so much collective greatness. Needless to say, this was the can’t-miss performance of the day.

If this really is it—the beginning of the end of yet another summer music cycle—fans could not ask for a better capstone. Pulling off an event of this scale for the first time must be tricky, but if the level of talent present and good vibes achieved this year can be counted on again, CD102.5’s Frontstage Fest could be a welcome staple for years to come.

All Time Low and Dashboard Confessional @ EXPRESS LIVE! (08/09/18): Photo Gallery

Photos by: Tiffany Detzel

Bellwether Music Festival Brings Alternative Music Heaven To Ohio

By: Zak Kolesar

Bellwether Music Festival logo. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

Bellwether Music Festival logo. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

Being from Ohio—or even a Midwestern state—can make those summer trips to premiere music festivals expensive affairs. With general admission tickets to such events often costing upwards of $200, packing up your van with supplies for a week and traveling through multiple states can leave you in the red for a handful of weeks post-festival; and sometimes even one mainstream festival can set your bank back an entire summer.

Don’t fret, though, if you happen to be lost in the woods of the Midwest for the time being. There’s a new solution to curing those faraway festival blues and lineup FOMO without destroying your pockets, and it’s located just over an hour outside of Columbus. What’s usually the home of the Ohio Renaissance Festival, knights and jousters will trade places with royalty of a more musical variety for the two-day inaugural Bellwether Music Festival, which will take place this Friday, Aug. 10 and Saturday, Aug. 11. The spot (10542 East State Route 73, Waynesville, Ohio 45068) is Ohio-friendly, as it is equidistant from Cincinnati and Dayton as well.

Local Natives. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

Local Natives. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

With headlining acts such as MGMT, The Flaming Lips, Local Natives, Dr. Dog and Whitney rounding out the top of Bellwether’s billing, it’s clear that this first-year fest swung for the fences. The aforementioned musicians will be encompassing two stages (Sunrise and Sunset) positioned across from one another with 15 minutes between every set, allowing the opportunity for Bellwether attendees to catch all 16 glorious acts (including two additional late-night camping sets) on its lineup.

What. A. Swing.

First off, there is a slightly interesting divide that the lineup seems to be following for Friday and Saturday respectively, especially with the artists playing the later sets. The group of polished 2000s indie rockers that kick down the door Friday are the same ones that you would find in large print on posters for major festivals such as Bonnaroo and Pitchfork.

Dr. Dog. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

Dr. Dog. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

Whitney, who will take the Sunrise Stage at 6 p.m. on Friday, starts the new-age alternative wave, will almost certainly fill the calm-before-the-storm role. Dr. Dog (Sunset Stage, 7 p.m.) and Local Natives (Sunrise Stage, 8:15 p.m.) will follow up after to rip through the burning night, leading up to MGMT’s 9:30 p.m. headlining performance at the Sunset Stage.

MGMT’s placement on the lineup is a prime example of how spoiled Ohio is getting with Bellwether, as the spaced-out indie punkers didn’t fully tour for its fourth studio album and only presented two somewhat viable options this year for music festival travelers from the Midwest: the 8-hour drive to Delaware for Firefly in June or the additional five hours to BUKU in New Orleans this past March. The rare and unsaturated performance schedule of MGMT just further increases Bellwether’s “it” factor by tenfold.

And then you have a truly historic alternative lineup closing out Bellwether on Saturday. Granted, you won’t want to miss what Q Magazine calls one of its “50 Bands You Must See Before You Die,” as The Flaming Lips put on a prolific production full of disco balls, confetti, costumes and its experimental take on psychedelic musical performances. However, the late ‘70s, early ‘80s psychedelic rock era will be well represented beyond Wayne Coyne and company on Saturday, with slots filled by The Psychedelic Furs (Sunset, 7 p.m.) and Echo & the Bunnymen (Sunrise, 8:15 p.m) leading up to The Flaming Lips’ closing Sunset Stage set at 9:30 p.m.

The Flaming Lips. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

The Flaming Lips. (Photo courtesy of: Bellwether Music Festival)

Yeah, The Flaming Lips will surely be competing with lighting up the star-studded night sky of Bellwether’s grounds with its on-stage antics and MGMT will have all the 20-somethings raging back to their teenage years, but even the middle and undercard will have you picking up your jaw from the ground. Friday’s earlier shows include the citar-yielding Dawg Yawp (Sunset, 2 p.m.) and Bob Schneider’s full band experience (Sunset, 5 p.m.). On Saturday, psychedelic music again reigns supreme with Los Angeles rockers Allah-Lahs (Sunset, 5 p.m.) and indie-pop project Japanese Breakfast (Sunrise, 6 p.m.) leading the buildup to The Flaming Lips. Columbus’ own and In The Record Store favorites The Cordial Sins will get things started even sooner with the first performance of the day (Sunrise, 2 p.m.).

Although Bellwether announced that the “mini-Bonnaroo” would be reeling in festies from 45 states and eight countries, it’s refreshing to be able to tell someone that MGMT and The Flaming Lips will be playing in Columbus’ backyard, away from the bright lights of the city.

While most lineups boasting a card with this many heavyweights and no set time overlap seem worlds away from Ohio, Bellwether makes it so that alternative music heaven isn’t that far away at all for Midwesterners, both physically and financially. With two-day passes not costing more than $120 and single-day passes on sale for $65, Bellwether is the end-of-the-summer move to make in August. Onsite camping passes, which start at $140 for a six-person, 10’x30’ site, are also available for those who don’t want to book a hotel, Airbnb or off-site camping.

Campers can start loading in at noon on Thursday, Aug. 9 and must be packed up by 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 12. The entrance to the camping grounds and festival is off of OH-73. For those traveling west, you’ll cross OH-52 and the entrance will be on your right. And for those traveling east, you’ll cross Harveysburg Road and the grounds will be on your left. For more information on Bellwether Festival, visit the website HERE.

You can still purchase tickets to Bellwether Music Festival before MGMT and Local Natives kick off the festivities on Friday. Click HERE to purchase your tickets and camping and parking passes.

Prog-Rockers Lackluster Drop Dark New Single

By: Abby Jeffers

Columbus prog-rockers Lackluster, from left to right, Jonathan Hayes (guitar, vocals, keys), JD Johnston (bass) and Mike Schiller (drums). Photo by: Dan Mitchell of Mitchell Multimedia

Columbus prog-rockers Lackluster, from left to right, Jonathan Hayes (guitar, vocals, keys), JD Johnston (bass) and Mike Schiller (drums). Photo by: Dan Mitchell of Mitchell Multimedia

Four years after EP4, local prog-rock band Lackluster’s last official release, the band is back with an upcoming single titled “Rag and Bottle” and a release show. The band has gone through changes in both lineup and sound since EP4, and while the new track still maintains the same polished production as Lackluster’s previous music, there’s an edge this time around.

The background of guitar and bass are ultra-low and dark, and the slightest touch of fuzz adds a seriously pleasant resonance. Yet it’s not all the same throughout the track; the bridge has a warping, spacey melody that is quickly slashed through by a cutting guitar solo.

Frontman Jon Hayes croons mysteriously through faded vocals that blend perfectly with the rest of the dark-sounding music. Later in the chorus, though, autotune makes Hayes’s higher-pitched vocals sound chunky, contrasting nicely with the smoother instrumentals and adding a satisfying depth to the music.

Despite a dusky sound, “Rag and Bottle” is still catchy and has plenty of jam potential. Driving percussion ensures that nothing stays stagnant, and it feels impossible not to groove along with the glistening alt-rock melodies.

Lackluster plans to perform the single at a star-studded release show on Friday, Aug. 10. The band’s Facebook bio characterizes itself with a “power-packed show” with lasers and an innovative sound, and if “Rag and Bottle” is any indication, this one is no exception. As the band is accompanied by local favorites Urban Tropic and Silvis as well as Cleveland indie rockers Punch Drunk Tagalongs, the night is practically guaranteed to be a blast.

The show will take place at Spacebar. Doors open at 9 p.m., and there is a cover charge of $5 with an additional $3 charge for those under 21. The event is 18+.

didi Wraps Up Tour With Hometown Show And Memorable Album

By: Abby Jeffers

Indie rockers did from Columbus. (Photo by: Hillary Jones)

Indie rockers did from Columbus. (Photo by: Hillary Jones)

Fresh off of a nearly month-long tour that took them across the country, local indie rockers didi are back home in Columbus. On Aug. 10, the band will be wrapping up the tour and celebrating its new album at the same time with a homecoming show at Ace of Cups, alongside Soul Monsters, neerG–also known as Green The Other Way Around–and Kali Dreamer.

The show is a hometown release of didi’s new album, “like memory foam.” It’s not an official label release, although the record will be out via Damnably. didi has also been selling CDs of the album on tour and will also make them available at the Aug. 10 show.

“like memory foam” is characteristic of didi’s sound: it features bold vocals, thrilling pop melodies that are impossible to shake from your head and muted, metallic-toned guitar riffs. Gorgeous vocal harmonies bubble nicely over catchy bass licks, and every track is carefully put together.

The album is similar to the band’s self-titled album, released three years ago in 2015, because it showcases the same cross between indie pop and alternative rock. didi’s sound feels more mature on “like memory foam,” though; the instruments and vocals are balanced incredibly with nothing standing out too much, and there’s something about the album that feels just a little bit darker.

“Haru,” which didi has already performed for The Mug and Brush Sessions on YouTube, opens the album. It’s impossibly catchy, and all of the energy in the live session is present on the studio track. It’s also a solid representation of the album in that it’s a driving, jangly alternative pop song.

The effort put into creating a cohesive record with “like memory foam,” rather than just a collection of 10 individual tracks, is clear. Every song makes sense, but didi somehow still avoids predictability by throwing in beautiful harmonies and haunting bass lines. Picking up an early CD of the album is just another perk of the band’s upcoming hometown show–not that another reason to see didi live is even necessary.

didi will be playing at Ace of Cups on Friday, Aug. 10. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $7, and it is an all-ages show. Tickets can be found here.

Photo Gallery: Sussman Can't Sleep @ Spacebar (7/21/18)

Photos by: Tiffany Detzel

Panic! at the Disco captivates Nationwide with mammoth setlist

By: Lex Vegas

Panic! at the Disco at Nationwide Arena on July 15, 2018. (Photo by: Rachel Haas)

Panic! at the Disco at Nationwide Arena on July 15, 2018. (Photo by: Rachel Haas)

Everyone I talked to before seeing Panic! at the Disco at Nationwide Arena seemed incredulous that anyone was still interested in the band, let alone me, a classically trained metalhead. Having seen them before, I was hip to the fact that, despite what you may have heard, they’re fucking great.

I’ve seen P!ATD quite a few times actually, in a number of different cities, on a number of different tours, with a number of different lineups. But I’ve never once seen them put on a bad show, because Brendan Urie won’t let that happen.

The singer has always been captain of this ship, even when the band debuted as a theatrical emo-punk quartet 13 years ago while Urie was still in high school. Now that he has complete creative control and the kind of confidence that only comes with a decade-plus of killing capacity crowds worldwide, there’s just no stopping him.

Kicking in with the lead-off track from their most recent record, 2018’s air-tight "Pray For The Wicked," P!ATD had the entire arena boiling from the second Urie literally exploded out of a trap door in the middle of the stage, sparkling golden microphone in hand. They’ve finally reached the level of bombast befitting his Las Vegas heritage, fleshing out the core of the band with string and horn sections, an epilepsy-inducing laser light show and a stage shaped like a massive Illuminati pyramid reflecting the group’s current album aesthetic. Oh, and the most important ingredient: as much screaming millennial flesh as you could cram into Nationwide Arena.

A mammoth 28-song setlist followed, almost entirely based on their last three albums, which is, of course, when Urie’s takeover truly took form. He mostly stuck to letting his absolutely insane vocals shine, launching monster chorus after chorus across the arena with the help of 20,000 20-somethings on the verge of a collective panic attack. Occasionally his chiseled mug would pop up on the gargantuan LED screens, eliciting involuntary Beatlemania-esque squeals from smitten onlookers. Then he’d belt out a pitch-perfect note so high it would make Mariah Carey pack her bags, and those would even get a little squeal outta me.

While he doesn’t play an instrument for much of P!ATD's shows, Urie is also an extremely gifted musician, and every few songs a grand piano would rise up from the center of the stage, allowing him to show off a bit. Then he would meander to the back of the arena, shaking hands and kissing babies along the way, to a second grand that FLIES OVER THE CROWD WHILE HE BELTS A REBA MCENTIRE COVER, because why not. When he gets back to the main stage, a second drum set emerges and he solos on that for a while.

It was clear Urie was living out his childhood dream onstage, but what really mattered was that everyone in the building was having a good time. There were people around me who were actually having the best night of their lives, I don’t doubt it for a second.

“I didn’t have a dime, but I always had a vision,” so goes the chorus of "High Hopes," and I can vouch that it’s true. When I first saw the band a dozen years ago in a club with about six percent the capacity of Nationwide, it was obvious Urie had dreams bigger than his means would allow. I’m glad he’s finally getting to live out his dreams and taking a lot of happy people along for the ride.

Photo Gallery: Barenaked Ladies and Better Than Ezra @ Express LIVE! (7/11/18)

Photos by: Tiffany Detzel

Concert Review: Whetherman, music for the soul

By: Dan Kasun

Artwork for This Land by Whetherman. (Photo courtesy of: Spotify)

Artwork for This Land by Whetherman. (Photo courtesy of: Spotify)

Nicholas Williams, or Whetherman as he has been known for the last 10-plus years, looks (and sounds) as if he might have been born with a guitar and harmonica strapped to himself. He looks at home on stage, a traveling troubadour, weaving poetically folky and introspective songs of hope, loss, yearning and admiration.

Whetherman finds inspiration in the everyday life of just being a human, from the low struggles to the joys of existence. Song ideas may come from places and people, movies and books, experiences and…murder (more on that later)!?

Performing at Natalie’s Coal Fire Pizza in Worthington, Whetherman demonstrated how his songwriting skills and subjects have evolved over time, and the diversity of the setlist proved he’s also just as comfortable taking on a Guthrie/Seeger political voice with “This Land,” as he is tackling Peter, Paul, and Mary, Led Zeppelin and Ryan Adams songs.  

After the conclusion of this current tour, the Whetherman name will be retired for good. In the future, he will play and produce under simply Nicholas Williams. Touring heavily over the years across the country, self-producing and self-managing his own career and trying to make that emotional connection with every listener, Nick said he had “lost his way…I was not being true to the music or myself.”   

He needed to take a break and get back to the core of being a musician and making music for himself. The new songs played at Natalie’s on this night indeed showed a new direction in songwriting alongside a new host of influences.  

Whetherman has always been adept at weaving a landscape, taking the listener on a storytelling journey through the places he has visited, the people he has met and tying it all together with personal reflection and contemplation. The quietness in his songs lent itself well to the venue, admittedly one of his favorite places to play, as the audience was engaged and attentive from start to finish. Some of the newest songs had a clear cheerful side to them, still with a folky-infused truthful taste, but using humor to deliver the message, subtle or not.   

Speaking with Nick, it was no surprise to learn John Prine was a clear influence on the new music. On the other side of joviality, the middle of the set featured a murder ballad with a twist. Most traditional ballads are narrated from the point of view of the murderer, or from the point of view of the victim. In what seemed to be a love triangle gone very, very bad, the narrator here is the victim, shot dead at the finalization of the story.

Whichever artistic direction Nicholas Williams wants to take himself and the listener in the future, it’s undoubtable that the same pensive, reflective and heartfelt persona of Whetherman will still find a connection and relatable meaning to anyone listening.  

In other words, music for the soul.