Review by Alex Weiglein
Photos by Craig Weiglein – http://www.mansionhillstudio.com/
Days are getting longer, temperatures are getting higher, and the grass in your lawn is growing taller. Road construction is in full swing and the concert season is back for another round of deafening, ground-shaking, and energetic shows. This can mean only one thing: it’s summertime in Cincinnati. With it comes the fifth year for Cincy’s own music festival, Bunbury.
PromoWest seemed to go for a more concise approach this year, with only 3 stages and notably fewer acts than previous years. Yeatman’s Cove Stage, serving as the main stage this year, and the CVG River Stage, located on the Serpentine Wall, remained mostly unchanged from where they have been located in past years. The Sawyer Point Stage offered a different approach, with the current permanent stage used in past years serving as the VIP area and a temporary adjacent stage being added for artists to perform on. This gave a better viewing angle for more people, as the orientation of the concrete stage restricted the number of people who could get a good view of the performance. With there being only 3 stages this year, this was a smart move. Though it seemed a bit odd to see two stages nearly on top of each other at first, it became quickly apparent that this was the right way to go.
They also implemented a new cashless system, where festival-goers used a wristband instead of cash or credit cards. Top Up stations were scattered about on the festival grounds, where patrons could add more money to their wristband. Given this was the first year this system was used, there were a number of hiccups, but should PromoWest decide to continue with the wristbands, they ought to have it down to a science in no time. A number of patrons were upset with the fees required to both activate the wristband and get back any leftover money, though, so time will tell if this system will be popular down the line.
Despite the changes made to the logistics, the weekend still felt characteristically Bunbury, with river breezes, food trucks, and even the seemingly annual rain delays. Saturday saw a number of downpours, with brief breaks in between where people would run out to see different bands play for a bit before any more rain pushed back other set times. The grassy area around the Yeatman’s Cove Stage went from a sea of mild green to mostly large brown patches where thousands of footprints mixed together a slippery mixture of mud and grass. Those trying to avoid the threat of slipping and falling tried to use alternate routes, which resulted in even more mud patches. By the end of the day, it was almost impossible to leave the stage without some mud making it to the bottom of your shoes. The mud lasted into Sunday, posing a challenge to patrons all day, though it was slightly less slippery than Saturday.
This year’s headliners covered a range of musical tastes and offered something for most everyone. Indie rock veterans, The Killers offered a lively and colorful performance. Fireworks went off during the concurrent Reds game just a short distance away, which the massive crowd welcomed enthusiastically. The band also offered a Cincinnati tribute, performing a cover of the WKRP in Cincinnati theme song. Deadmau5 brought a different kind of party to the festival, with near ear-splitting bass thumping behind a vivid and varied lightshow. Despite it being a late night show, the iconic mau5 head proved a bit too hot to wear throughout the set, and was taken off and on a number of times. That being said, loud cheers welcomed each return of the glowing white eyes staring back into the crowd. Florence and the Machine brought a sizeable crew of musicians on stage with a sound to match. Encouraging the audience to play the role of the choir that was left back home, audience participation was indeed a focus of their set. A shimmering backdrop provided an excellent complement to the energy of lead vocalist Florence Welch as she pranced around on stage, leading audience members to look back and forth as if they were watching a tennis match.
In conclusion, Bunbury 2016, as those in the past, was a great success. Large crowds, popular artists, great food, and the quintessential Bunbury spirit made for a great weekend. Rain proved to be an unsuccessful deterrent, as people were happy to dance along to their favorite bands, soaking or not. Despite the changes made by PromoWest this year, they still kept the Bunbury spirit alive. This can only bode well for future years down the road, with more great music and people. And just as past years have done, this year’s Bunbury left everyone eager to see what next year’s festival will bring.