Bunbury's full frontal
According to Oscar Wilde, to “bunbury” or to “go bunburying” is to have a made up excuse to get out of doing something boring.
By any metric, this year’s inaugural Bunbury Music Festival
was far from boring, as well as being a great excuse to get out of just about anything. It was also a pretty well-run festival.
While some may quibble with the somewhat grab-bag nature of the lineup, as well as the founder-centric vision for the headliners, the fact is that thousands of people packed our city’s lush riverfront parks for three straight days and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Before Bunbury, local music scene observers adopted a “wait and see” attitude.
Midpoint Music Fest co-founder and former Fountain Square panjandrum Bill Donabedian took a risk in trying to pull off a full frontal alt music festival in our city’s riverfront parks.
After all, the most recent examples—Desdemona and Tall Stacks—while well-received, did not generate staying power. That didn’t deter Donabedian from pulling off—and let’s be honest—a pretty audacious festival here.
Going up against both Forecastle in Louisville and Pitchfork in Chicago, both of which occurred on the same weekend, also raised the stake.
The arc of the fest was fairly predictable, with lighter crowds Friday, huge crowds Saturday, and an in-between yet solidly packed Sunday.
Spirits were dampened neither by the brief showers nor the oppressive humidity. The opening Friday almost seemed like something of a dry run, although the closing set by Jane’s Addiction, performing an eight-minute singalong to “Jane Says” while fireworks from the Reds game boomed overhead, pretty much defined serendipity.
Also, I’m pretty sure Perry Farrell interjected “CINCINNATI” into the song at least 25 times nearing the end.
Saturday seemed to feature the largest crowds, and Weezer’s closing set fast on the heels of Grouplove's crowd-rousing party on the Landor stage was as packed as the fest got all weekend.
In fact, surprisingly agile and acrobatic fans took to scaling the Yeatman’s Cove trees in order to get a better look. While police eventually booted most of them, they actually failed to see one high-flying arborist, dubbed “Middletree” by local wags, who was so high up in the tree that he evaded their sky-scanning maglites altogether.
• By all accounts, the bands were well treated and enjoyed themselves immensely. I would also state, on a personal note, that the staff was more than well accommodating during my three-day stay at the fest (including golf-carting me around to the rather humble media tent).
• Food and beer prices were surprisingly reasonable, although the food lines, at times, verged on the obscene.
• The Techbury tent seemed like something of a waste of space, although the gadgetry was pretty cool and the air conditioning was much appreciated.
• The Landor stage, at the base of the Serpentine Wall on the waterfront, was clearly the coolest stage around. The addition of assorted beach balls and other props didn’t hurt, either.
• While the AliveOne stage was the most remote, it was a nice escape for those who made the trek.
• Although some questioned the positioning of the Globili Main Stage (e.g. why wasn’t it facing east as opposed to West?), the setup posed no problems for the large crowds who packed in for the main headliners.
• The few number of bike racks is something that could most certainly be improved upon in future fests.
All in all, Bunbury was a winner, and one that everyone in attendance would very much like to see become a grand tradition in Cincinnati.
To build that kind of first-time success, with the World Choir Games packing the city as well as the Reds/Cards series going on literally next door, was truly an admirable accomplishment, and Donabedian & Company should deservedly be patting themselves on the back.
And as for those with the “wait and see” attitudes? Post-fest, those commenters are preaching a gospel more along the lines of a duly proselytized convert.
“I’m so glad I went, and I hope this comes back next year,” was the most prevailing sentiment.