Bunbury Music Festival

Amy Sand
Teagan and Sara take the stage at the 2013 Bunbury Music Festival (Sand 2013)
The 2nd annual Bunbury Music Festival concluded July 14, but the memory of people wading in the Ohio will, unfortunately, live on. The three-day fest was dotted by indie big hitters, local sustenance, and the always brown Ohio. Here’s a break-down of The Good, The Meh, and The Really? at Bunbury 2013.


The Good

It seems obvious right? But all too often newer festivals grab names that would have been a big get 5 to 10 years ago, and now can barely talk, let alone sing. Or the magic of their fame has rubbed off and they’re consumed by bitterness. Luckily for us, all of the old voices had been greased up, and most of the newer bands were happy to be in Cincinnati. Most. More on the exceptions later.

Viewing ability.
Cold beer under a tree and a view of the stage? Yes, please!
The benefits of Sawyer Point continue: cement steps; elevated flag pole enclosures; sturdy benches.

A lack of pushing.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and staying out of the front row, but everyone was aware of my personal bubble. Thanks for keeping your hands to yourself, ya’ll.

Video screens on the main stage.
Want to lie down in a crowd of people and still see the performer? Thanks technology!

Belle and Sebastian.
While I had assumed they would sound old, their voices seemed unchanged and their down-to-earth-y-ness made you feel like you were watching a show at your local VFW in the best way possible. Before their set was cut short by the looming storm, they selected their favorite dancers from the crowd to come on stage and groove. And by groove I mean lead singer Stuart Murdoch teaching everyone how to sway and snap at the same time. Apparently, it’s not as easy as it sounds. One kid was just not getting it and instead of joining the group, continued to wave his hands above his head. I’m not mad at him.

Picking up trash like it was their (unpaid) job. Trash before cash.

Eli’s Barbeque
You are at every Cincy event and my stomach thanks you.

The Meh

That One Misting Machine
You were heaven. Keep it up. Next time, bring your friends.

River Heckling
The Main Stage, Rockstar Stage, and Lawn Stage gave bands a clear view of the Ohio River. If the band wasn’t from Ohio, they felt the need to remark on it. This caused shivers throughout the audience. Don’t they know that’s part of Ohio? It’s like the reaction of a concerned parent. When you love your child, you love your child, even the brown stuff. Leave it alone. On the reverse side, please don’t put your legs, feet or toes into the water. Not even the little one that isn’t necessary for walking. I’m concerned for your well-being. Just, no.

Band Respect
Sound checking during other people’s sets. That’s just rude.

Lack of Diversity.
Mostly white performers playing to mostly white people.

The Really?

The Staging of the Stages
Hey Bunbury organizers, did you use an urban planner? How about an urban planning intern? No? Well, have you ever been to a music fest before? Have you ever played Tetris? Because your stage organization skills could use some serious help.

The Main Stage, as it was aptly named, was the largest stage and had the largest standing area for the crowd, if you don’t count obstructions. One of the obstructions was the Rockstar stage, about a 3rd of the size of the Main stage. Now, it’s not uncommon for multiple stages to be stacked vertically on a large field, with plenty of space between them for sound buffering and crowd space. What is uncommon, (from my festival experience and Google search), is for two stages to face each other in the span of, what I estimate to be, less than a football field. This allowed a band to view another band’s audience, which created this weird West Side Story – Jets versus Sharks – guitars are our knives - sort of performance-off thing. Not to mention the neck pains the audience gained from looking back and forth from one stage to the other.

But that wasn’t the only problem with the Main Stage. The sound booth was so close to the stage, that during a headlining act’s performance, only about 30% of the audience were in front of the stage. This meant most of us were enjoying the performance via jumbo screens. While the screens are very nice, I came to watch a human in a live performance, not a selected version at the hands of a camera man.

Rarely acknowledging the audience. Staging encores. Being totally disengaged. These are just some of the lowlights of the MGMT headlining show. Didn’t yo mama teach you to look at the audience when you’re singing them psychedelic tunes? You may have sounded decent but in a festival that gave us backflips off a piano (Twenty One Pilots) and free vibrators (those purple bags you saw everywhere), you can’t afford to stand still. The highlight of the performance was not by the band, but by a girl crowd surfing somewhat successfully on top of an inflatable killer whale. Making waves in Ohio ya’ll. The worst part of the whole thing? They didn’t even play what most people would call their biggest hit, “Kids.” Not even the preteens can forgive you for that.

The Verdict

With small deliciously local beer lines, a beautiful, clean setting, and hand-picked bands you can’t go wrong with Bunbury. Perfection is impossible, but hopefully the festival organizers will get the stage set-up smoothed out. Then hopefully we can get more lovely acts next year like The Avett Brothers (fingers crossed). Oh, and stop giving MGMT your money.