By: Mike Thomas
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.