Tennessee has Bonnaroo. Chicago has Lollapalooza. Milwaukee has Summerfest. Michigan has Electric Forest Festival. While Cleveland doesn't have a signature music festival (CMJ tried and failed at producing a festival here a few years ago), Ohio has a growing number of destination festivals well worth the drive. Because why should we be left out of the sweltering, all-day, jam-til-you-drop summer evenings? Here's a rundown of this year's eclectic offerings.
All Good Music Festival • July 18-21
Headliners Furthur (featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir), Pretty Lights, Primus
Tix $189 four-day pass
Where? Thornville is east of Columbus, just south of I-70. There will be two huge side-by-side stages set up for maximum concert-going ease. Stay tuned to the website for additional travel/parking info.
Don't Miss! The Soul Rebels bring a NOLA-style party wherever they play, so do get ready to dance your ass off for this one. Also, if you've never seen the North Mississippi Allstars, this is the perfect time to dig into their riotous musicianship. Furthur: Of course! It's the band's only date this year between New Jersey and Colorado. "I'm always thrilled and honored to be working with Furthur," All Good founder Tim Walther says, adding that they've headlined three of the past five fests.
Skip It To be upfront about it, there are actually no scheduling conflicts throughout the festival. But if you're lookin' to get away from the music and maybe throw down some serious yoga on the grounds (yes, do), feel free to take a walk during Digital Tape Machine, the inconsequential side project of several members of Umphrey's McGee.
What To Bring "Shade" is the most important word when camping at summer fests. Bring some sort of canopy to top off your tent. Also: water. And, probably: more water. Leave your Cleveland mids at home, though. There'll be plenty of greenery on the grounds and — duh — you don't bring sand to the beach, as they say.
Good Grub All Good boasts some of the finest food and craft brew vendors from around the country. In fact, they have to turn sellers away because the demand to be on the grounds is just so high.
Green Cred Volunteerism is a cultural meme at All Good. Cleaning up the surroundings is highly encouraged, and campers are given all the supplies they'll need to maintain a clean home for the weekend. There's also the *don't leave anything but footprints* ethos espoused throughout the event.
The History It's the 17th year for All Good, which has been through six locations in four states over that time. The idea started out as a tight-knit outlet for the jam band scene (fewer than 1,000 initially attending), and it exponentially blossomed into a MAJOR ANNUAL EVENT.
Watch Out For... That guy's dread tentacles are about to whip you in the face as he goes for his sixth attempt at some sorta hula-hoop record — DUCK! Also, those dudes who always seem to be mumbling/shouting "Who's got my molly?" Yes, they clock in as the most annoying bros this side of Austin, Texas. (Eric Sandy)
Bunbury Music Festival • July 12-14
Headliners fun., MGMT, The National, Cake
Tix $55 for a one-day pass; $110 for all three days
Where? Take 71 to Cincinnati. The festival's at Sawyer Point and Yeatman's Cove, contiguous city parks along the Ohio River.
Don't Miss! If you're only springing for a one-day pass, make that day Sunday—with pedigreed stalwarts like Camera Obscura, Yo La Tengo, Belle & Sebastian, and Cincy natives The National, Sunday's lineup bolsters the festival's buzzband roster (and ultra-twee title) with substantial indie cred. But up-tempo rockers Tokyo Police Club, artsy electropop duo Chairlift, model-cum-precocious synth starlet Sky Ferreira, and Wolf Parade/Spoon supergroup Divine Fits make the whole weekend a worthwhile investment. And be sure to check out Walk the Moon and Youngblood Hawke, two local groups poised to blow up nationally this year.
Skip It You could try to muscle your way to the front of the squirmy dayglo-clad crowd during fun.'s set, or you could retreat to your car for some bong rips and Extreme Doritos and just turn on the radio if you're really jonesing to hear "Carry On" or "Some Nights" for the 27,000th time.
What To Bring The six stages span a mile-long riverfront park, so bring some good walking kicks and folding chairs to veg out in. Also kids ten and under get in for free, so grab a few short friends. And we totally wouldn't be caught dead here without acid-wash cutoffs, neon-framed aviator sunglasses, and ultra-shamanistic tribal accessories.
Good Grub The festival's food vendors are a who's who of local and regional foodie faves, with nary a national chain in sight. Favorites from last year likely to crop up again include authentic Liège waffles from Taste of Belgium, wood-fired pies from Fireside Pizza, home-style carne asada tacos from Taco Azul, exotic gelati from Dojo Gelato, avocado and peach-sriracha popsicles from Street Pops, and Hawaiian-style soba from Island Noodles. Also check out local brews from Morlein brewery in the festival's "craft beer village."
Green Cred Since the grounds are rented from Cincinnati's Park Board, which is committed to preserving green spaces, the festival's pretty eco-savvy, with abundant bike parking, free water to discourage plastic bottle purchases, entirely compostable serving containers and utensils from vendors, and recycling bins aplenty.
The History Just in its second year, Bunbury takes its name from Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, and refers to any fabricated excuse to avoid boring social obligations. Works for us.
Watch Out For... Indie bros who volunteer themselves for the skins team in pickup games of ultimate between sets. Also we recommend devising some kind of drinking game inspired by trendy headliner haircuts—one hearty swig every time you spot someone sporting Jack Antonoff's Hitler youth sidebuzz, MGMT's Marc Bolan hobbit shags or The National's balding indie dad forelock wisps. (Hannah Franklin)
Dark Star Jubilee • May 24-26
Headliners Dark Star Orchestra, Mickey Hart Band, Yonder Mountain String Band
Tix $119 three-day pass ($235 for VIP)
Where? Thornville is east of Columbus, just south of I-70. Legend Valley is, to be repetitive, legendary in the canon of the Grateful Dead.
Don't Miss! Ohio boys The Werks are one of the ascendant jam bands on the scene these days. But for being semi-local, they don't stop in CLE too often. Be sure to catch their set. Also, get spacey and give Marco Benevento a listen. He played Beachland Tavern recently and fucking ROCKED. John Brown's Body, for their part, has been through monumental ups and downs over the years. Their latest album showcases just how on top of the game they remain. Check 'em out. And Dark Star Orchestra is the mantelpiece here. Don't be a spun-out fool; catch their show!
Skip It The whole lineup is absolutely riddled with gems, but you can drop Elephant Revival from your schedule. Their avant-gardey folk vibe is nicely chilled-out, but it feels rather apart from the rest of the weekend's offerings.
What To Bring This is a mostly Dead-themed festie, so toss a flower in your hair and pack your picnic basket full o' Jerry Rolls.
Good Grub Much like the festival's "older brother" All Good, the demand to bring fresh tastes and heady brews from around the country to Jubilee is high. Offerings aren't announced yet, but you can bet that your cravings will be taken care of with delicious diligence.
Green Cred Recycling bins, trash cans and bags are available throughout the grounds. But, seriously, if you're trying to hang at a Dark Star fest and you're not living a "green" lifestyle, then you've gotta realign your approach. The scene revolves around care and concern for the natural and human world around you; do your part to pitch in and keep things clean and green.
The History Last fall, organizers held the first Dark Star Jubilee. The whole thing went over extremely well, offering Deadheads a unique outlet for their love. "Intimate" was a word used frequently by co-founder Tim Walther. He noted that the bands freely interacted with attendees and even got in on a few impromptu drum circles. "It's about reliving experiences from the past and just feeling the experiences in the present," Walther says.
Watch Out For... The vibe is sure to be peaceful, but beware the holier-than-thou jam vets who espouse their knowledge of the scene as if it were gospel. ("Man, you missed out big-time on the Beacon in '76! What were you thinking?!") Also: bunk acid. (Sandy)
Gentlemen Stopover • Aug. 30-31
Headliners Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Tix $109 two-day pass
Getting There Troy, a cool little slice of Americana, is located along I-75 just north of Dayton. You're looking at a three-and-a-half hour drive from CLE.
Where? Mumford (duh) will bring the heat Aug. 31. Note also that this is one of their few appearances anywhere near Cleveland this year (according to dates released so far). And Old Crow Medicine Show — goddamn; this band is fantastic and they'll definitely dish up a terrific set. We'll give a nod to Half Moon Run, as well. Great stuff.
Skip It Those Darlins, while firstly eliciting mostly "meh" reactions, also don't entirely fit in with the overall sound of the Stopover. The thing with festivals of any size is that there's always so much to do beyond the scope of the music. G'head and drop this set and check out the multitude of offerings presented by both the event organizers and the city of Troy.
What To Bring Your camera will be your best friend as you spend the weekend camping on the historic levee on the banks of the Great Miami River.
Good Grub Kick-ass food vendors will be on hand, but please do wander into Troy to grab a bite at K's Hamburger Shop, which casts a hearty tip o' the hat to 1940s burger joint aethetics (and prices!). Leaf and Vine is a local wine bar that also sells cigars. Get in the mood with some vino and a tidy smoke before ducking into the Magnetic Zeros' set.
Green Cred Tour producers picked their tour stops by taking into consideration the city's "green initiatives." We got nothing more specific, but we'll take their word that Troy is all about the recycling and conservation.
The History The Stopovers started in earnest last year. "We spent months selecting unique places, creating venues, building the lineups, planning the aftershows and getting to know the local people who helped make the whole thing work," organizers explain. It's a massive undertaking, but the vibe is rather up-close and personal. Taking national acts/phenomena and producing an inherently "local" community is a beautiful thing. A trailer for this year's round of shows is available on YouTube. (It's a really cool video, by the way.)
Watch Out For... Mumford's cred is through the roof right now, so do beware the screaming hordes. Also: Beware the waves of jealousy you'll encounter from ticketless friends before and after the event. (Sandy)
Jamboree in the Hills • July 18-21
Headliners Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, Toby Keith, Neal McCoy
Tix A four-day pass costs $215 and three- and two- day passes are also available.
Where? The festival takes place in Belmont, Ohio, just off Route 70 in Eastern Ohio. It's in the sticks (and borders on West Virginia) but there are over 2,500 camping sites.
Don't Miss! Luke Bryan, who headlines on Friday night, is an up-and-comer who just won the Academy of Country Music Award for entertainer of the year. Veteran Dwight Yoakam caters more to old school country fans and he had a nice return to form last year with 3 Pears. Miranda Lambert hasn't put out a bad album in her storied career. Plenty of good acts to catch this year.
Skip It Don't let their awards fool you, the poppy husband/wife duo Thompson Square deals in cliches about romantic love that would even make lovey dovey singer-songwriter couples like the Captain and Tennille puke.
What to Bring A country concert isn't a country concert if you can't bring your cooler and organizers actually encourage you to bring one, albeit as long as it's loaded with "malt based beverages" and meets the size restrictions. Sorry, but
you'll have to leave that bottle of Jack in the car or somehow find a way to stash it and sneak it in.
Good Grub More than 30 food and beverage vendors will be on hand and general stores stocked with necessities are located just outside festival gates.
Green Cred Aluminum can recycling containers are located throughout the grounds and the cans are picked up each day.
The History This fest has been going strong for 36 years now and regularly draws crowds of 100,000. If you've been to a country concert in the last decade, you know these people know how to party.
Watch Out For... Guys with spray bottles of water. A Jamboree tradition, this isn't as innocent as it seems as unsuspecting women can suddenly find themselves in informal wet T-shirt contests. (Niesel)
Macy's Music Festival • July 26-27
Headliners R. Kelly, Jill Scott, Charlie Wilson
Tix Field-level tickets for one day are $68
Where? Take 71 to Cincinnati. The festival is in the Paul Brown Stadium, aka "The Jungle," home of the Bengals.
Don't Miss! R. Kelly's surprise cameo at this year's Coachella almost made up for the fact that there were no dead rapper holograms. The legendary—if controversial—R&B performer ignites (get it?) any venue he plays, and thankfully he's back to his trademark raunchy stuff after a couple boring-ass, repentant adult-contemporary albums. We're also pooping our pants (that's what "Chocolate Factory" is about, right?) in anticipation of TGT, the has-been supergroup comprising Tyrese, Ginuwine, and Tank. But we're most pumped for Cincinnati-bred Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins, the self-proclaimed "P-Master of the Universe." 'Nuff said.
Skip It We're just praying Kells doesn't bust out "I Know You Are Hurting," the tribute he composed for the victims of Sandy Hook. Kinda makes us feel weird after "Feelin on Yo Booty."
What To Bring Condoms, dude. This place is slow jam central. What not to bring: your barely-pubescent children. Anywhere near R. Kelly.
Good Grub The Macy's fest has a cool auxiliary street fair, Festival 513, right across from the Paul Brown stadium. We recommend the BBQ alligator. For real.
Green Cred Um, recycling?
The History Originally the Ohio Valley Jazz Festival, the Macy's festival has been around in varying capacities and under several names for a whopping 51 years, with a three-year hiatus after the Cincinnati race riots of 2001. The festival returned in 2005 rebranded with the Macy's logo, because nothing solves racial strife like shopping.
Watch Out For... Tyrese's semi-literate fat-phobic tirades and misguided dating advice. The singer recently caught flak for referring to overweight people as "fat and nasty," and routinely dishes up gems like "Ladies...Don't independence your way into loneliness" via his Twitter handle "Vision Implementer." Wear those Spanx, ladies, and don't independence too hard at the fest. (Franklin)
Midwest Reggae Fest • Aug. 9-11
Headliners Yellowman, Victor Essiet and the Mandators, Pato Banton
Tix $100 for the weekend but look for discounted early bird tickets to go on sale soon.
Where? Nelson Ledges, where there will be a main stage along with a "beach stage."
Don't Miss! Victor Essiet is the godfather of African reggae who's known for his covers of classic Marley tunes. The guy's shitty web site doesn't tell us much about him, other than the fact that he's from Nigeria, where he's hugely popular (try fact-checking that bit of info). Regardless, promoter Packy Malley says he'll be the festival highlight.
Skip It We love Carlos Jones and the P.L.U.S. Band but the guys play Cleveland regularly. You're better off seeing the international stars that will be in town for the event. Again, no disrespect!
What To Bring Malley says, "You can bring in anything to drink as long as it's not in glass bottles. So you can bring in your own coolers and beer but it has to be in cans." Good luck finding Red Stripe in cans!
Good Grub Standard Nelson Ledges vendors will be on site, but Malley will bring in Jamaican cooks from Cleveland to prepare special dishes especially for the weekend. Here's to hoping fried plantains are on the menu.
Green Cred Malley says he wouldn't want to pretend that he's an environmentalist but he says Nelson Ledges will have recycling containers on site.
The History Now in its 22nd year, the Midwest Reggae Fest started small at Meadowridge Farm in Huntsburg and has grown into one of the biggest reggae festivals in the country.
Watch Out For... At a reggae festival, everyone should be chill and feeling irie, but with so many stoners in one place, you never know when someone will start acting all aggro. (Niesel)
Nelsonville Music Festival • May 30 - June 2
Headliners Wilco, Cat Power, John Prine
Tix $110 four-day pass
Where? Nelsonville is located off Route 33, just north of Athens.
Don't Miss! If you haven't (or have) seen Wilco live, then there's your answer. They stand tall as one of the greatest live acts in the country these days. And Mavis Staples is a legend. (I mean, why are you even considering not checking out her set?) There are a lot of cool, under-the-radar outfits rounding out the bill, as well. Wild Belle, for instance, is a slick little duo that will surely dish up a relaxing midday show.
Skip It Calexico can be taken or left, as you please. The band's got talent, but they seem to be shipping something a little less than that on each release. Check out Algiers to get a sense of where their sound is these days.
What To Bring It's all about the environment, so opt for aluminum or stainless steel containers for water instead of a case of plastic
Good Grub O'Betty's Red Hot from Athens is a hot dog LEGEND in Southeast Ohio, if you're into that kinda thang. (Of course you are.) (And, um, we recommend the "Varla." Tell 'em Scene sent you.) Jeni's Ice Cream from Columbus is widely known for offering some of the greatest ice cream ever.
Green Cred The umbrella phrase is "zero waste." In tandem with Rural Action and the Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative, fest organizers and attendees seek a full-scale recycling and composting op with an emphasis on self-awareness and responsibility.
The History The fest first cropped up in downtown Nelsonville in 2005. The setting is ideal: bucolic, collegiate and home to a top-notch opera house. Andrew Bird once called it "a hell of a lot better than Coachella," to which we Ohioans respond: Hell yes it is.
Watch Out For... Be sure to check out the No-Fi Cabin. "We take one of the cabins [at Robbins Crossing Historical Village] which is an old schoolhouse and have it as a stage all weekend where musicians play with no electricity - as acoustic as it gets," marketing director Brian Koscho says. (Sandy)
Rock on the Range • May 17-19
Headliners: Korn, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden
Tix: The best deal is to get a weekend pass for $119.50. Tickets for Friday only are $39.95 while tickets for Saturday and Sunday run $69.50.
Where? The three-day festival takes place at Crew Stadium in Columbus (a map of all the stages can be found at rockontherange.com).
Don't Miss! The odd ball on this bill of hard rock and alternative acts is clearly Cheap Trick, which is slated to play on Friday alongside Korn, Buckcherry, Hollywood Undead and a slew of other heavy hitters. The classic rock band has an arsenal of hits at its disposal, though we're not sure how well tunes such as "The Dream Police" and "No Surrender" will go over with a stadium full of head-bangers. Also, this year marks the debut of the "Old Milwaukee Comedy Tent" which will feature performances by comics such as That Metal Show host Jim Florentine and local hero Bill Squire. The festival will also feature Soundgarden's first Ohio performance in years. They've been touring heavily since reuniting a couple of years back so count on them to bring their A game.
Skip It The Smashing Pumpkins are now essentially just singer-guitarist Billy Corgan and a group of hired hands. No reason to bother, especially since their particular style of alt-rock hasn't aged well.
What To Bring Earplugs. It'll be loud.
Good Grub The concert website doesn't list the name of food vendors but vegetarian options will be available, and that's a good thing since the venue doesn't allow outside food or beverages.
Green Cred In the past, the festival has promoted a "Go Green Initiative" that encouraged fans to trade in old cell phones and MP3 players.
The History: The festival started in 2007 (when it was only a single day event) and now regularly draws weekend crowds of 70,000.
Watch Out For... The mosh pit. General admission seating on the field means it's a free-for-all and you know how big and burly (and mean) metal dudes can be. Also, expect to encounter long lines while waiting to get shots of Jager. (Niesel)
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