It’s a nice feeling when things go according to plan. It’s a wonderful feeling when things go even better than planned. At work, I was assigned a project that was running off the rails the day before the weekend of the 4th of July. Practically, I had 5 business days to get the project back under control and re-plan it.
I had planned to take yesterday off, so I could have a leisurely morning getting ready for Bunbury. Once I got this flaming project tossed in my lap, taking the day off was out of the question. After roughly 40 meetings and what felt like a zillion emails, and hundreds of problems solved this week, I was able to get a half-day off.
By some miracle, I was able to close out all of my pending work, and keep my four meetings of the morning on schedule. By noon, I was headed to Sawyer Point to get my press credentials. This task went quickly, and I had enough time to change out of work clothes and head back to the fest.
I bought my VIP passes at the fest last year. I had a good enough time that I felt confident about the purchase without knowing the line-up. I had since lost that email receipt. At will call they looked me up, and printed my tickets in less than 5 minutes. Then I headed to the media tent to get my camera sticker. This also took about five minutes. Getting into the fest on time: Success!
I headed to the River Stage to see Royal Teeth. They were just as adorable as I was expecting. They were shiny pop goodness with a dash of hipster. They sounded great, seemed happy to be there, and were really chatty with the crowd.
After a brief stop in the VIP tent for a 2 dollar beer, I headed to The Main Stage to see X Ambassadors. They’re music isn’t exactly my bag. But, my spidey sense told me that they would put up a solid performance. Plus, they have been regularly selling out their shows on this tour, so that’s got to count for something. They didn’t disappoint.
I wasn’t feeling particularly drawn to any of the bands in the time slot following X Ambassadors. I checked in on a couple of songs by Let It Be and Panama Wedding. Let It Be made me think of every pop punk show that I saw in the late 90’s. I think that could be interpreted as an insult, but that’s not what I intend. I like pop punk. I really like it when it’s tight, as they were. I was drawn off because I had to get back to The Main Stage, but I would happily go see them again.
Wild Cub was just as excellent as I expected. They were great the other two times I saw them, so there were no surprises there. The singer said that Ohio was special to them because a dj in Columbus was the first to play their song on the radio. This spawned a conversation later about how Ohio radio stations are less tightly controlled and thus makes Ohio a bit of a trend setter. I have never heard this before. When I have 5 minutes to blow this will be googled.
I stopped by at J Roddy Walston and the Business and Family and Friends. J Roddy was rocking. I will be seeing them again. Like X Ambassadors, their music isn’t my bag, but I always love a stellar performance.
I heard great things about Cage the Elephant. That great lip service is justified. At this point I thought, ah this will be the best performamce of the day. That turned out completely wrong.
I missed Bad Suns, but my friends that made it said they were great. Next up was Fitz and the Tantrums. I saw them this past fall. They have been touring for more than 7 months. They are great performers, but I have to say their vocals were a little worse for the wear. Fitz was clearly struggling. Their only option would have been to cancel, and I commend them for powering through it. Regardless of sounding a little rough, they were just as engaged with the crowd as they were early in the tour. The band sounded excellent. Net, not the best I’ve seen from them, but they get big ups for not disappointing their fans with a cancellation.
I am sure it’s nostalgia that makes so happy to see Heartless Bastards play in Cincinnati. I think of the many times I saw a then slightly different lineup playing the claustrophobic basement of the CAC, the original Southgate House, and Northside Tavern. It was around their inception and early shows that I started engaging in the local music scene. Zero regrets there. Erika Wennerstrom said it was good to be home, and it made me feel sappy and thankful for how good Cincinnati has been to me.
Last up for the evening was Empire of the Sun. When they were booked, I had thoughts. Thoughts like, what idiot booked this? I kept these thoughts to myself, because I wasn’t familiar with the band. I did some listening. I liked their sound. For the most part, feedback on social media was similar to my first thought. But there were sporadic dissenters suggesting that this booking was a huge win. “They never tour in the states”, they said. “They have an amazing live show”, they said. I skipped checking out any YouTube videos because, I do most of my listening via Spotify and can’t stream video at work.
The photography pit was packed. Empire of the Sun hit the stage. My mouth was agape. It took minutes for me to recover my wits from the awe I was experiencing. My words just aren’t good enough to describe what happened there. The pictures aren’t really either. But they’re all I have. I will say this, their show blew my expectations out of the water. If you can see them, MY GOD YOU MUST DO IT. I DON”T CARE IF YOU DON”T LIKE THEIR MUSIC.
In summary, Bunbury day one, you win. I freely admit, I wasn’t feeling your line-up this year. But, damn, if Saturday and Sunday are even half as good as yesterday, I am calling this fest a massive success.