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FESTIVAL COVERAGE: Bunbury 2018 - Back at it Again

Review by Miranda Woody-Martin Bunbury Music Festival has become a well-loved and long-lived tradition on the Cincinnati river bend, nestled neatly into Yeatman’s Cove and Sawyer Point city parks. This early-summer blowout kicks off festival season for many avid festival goers and music fans, and 2018 did not disappoint. The 2018 lineup (which was released in February, 2018) was promising. Jack White, Blink-182, The Chainsmokers, Foster the People, Incubus and Post Malone all took top spots on the bill. However, two days before the festivities began Blink-182 unexpectedly dropped themselves from the lineup. Canceling their appearance at Bunbury festival (as well as a handful of other shows) left fans disconcerted, and frankly a little annoyed. However, the show must go on, and it did. Bunbury 2018 kicked off on June 1st, 2018, sans Blink-182. Promising to headline the festival in 2019, Blink never did make an appearance at the event. Despite their absence, the festival turned out a record number of fans and glittered-up festival fashionistas as The Front Bottoms kicked off Friday’s top-billed performances. Friday: The Front Bottoms, Fitz and the Tantrums, Young the Giant, & The Chainsmokers The Front Bottoms (well known for their eclectic pop-punk sound) began Friday’s top-billed performances on the Sawyer Point Stage. The band’s lead vocalist quipped, “Hey! Who’s ready to see Blink-182 tonight?” which garnered more than a few laughs, and a handful of Blink fanboy tears. Alas, the band did not disappoint with their set, opening with the catchy-but-short hit song “Au Revoir”. The bound rounded out their set with both old and new Front Bottoms favorites, such as “Vacation Town”, “Skeleton”, and (my personal favorite) “West Virginia”. The set was well received, with the New Jersey band amassing a crowd of what I would assume was a couple thousand people. Not bad for a band that barely amassed a crowd of fifty people ten or less years ago. The same could be said, though, for the enigmatic funk-pop-alternative band Fitz and the Tantrums. Fitz and the Tantrums have been around for a while, but they soared to superstardom with the success of their hit songs “The Walker” and “Out of My League” (both of which they performed at Bunbury festival, along with many, many more great Tantrum tracks). The main takeaway from this performance was, without a doubt, the electric, sexy chemistry between the band’s lead vocalists Michael Fitzpatrick, and Noelle Scaggs. These two danced the evening away, enraptured in one another’s performance, without missing a beat. Needless to say, I was incredibly impressed and I am definitely a bigger fan of Fitz and the Tantrums than ever before. One of the two headliners of the night were up next: Young the Giant on the Sawyer Point Stage. Although I, myself, didn’t get to take in much of this performance, I heard from friends and YTG fans that it was one for the books. A band member was actually celebrating a birthday in tandem with this Friday night performance, so this set was rife with birthday cake (which front-row fans left covered in, in the best way possible). Young the Giant are known for their wholesome and genuine crowd interactions, and I’m told this performance was full of it. From cake throwing to conversations with fans, this performance involved the crowd in many unique, dynamic ways. I’m told from a source that YTG played songs both old and new, and that their sound was tighter than ever before. I wish I could’ve taken in more of this set, but when you have a seventeen year old niece who wants to get a good spot for The Chainsmokers on the Nissan Stage, you must humbly oblige. That, of course, leads me to the last (and most explosive, literally and figuratively) set of the evening: The Chainsmokers. The Chainsmokers got #lit, in more ways than one, throughout the performance. The EDM-meets-synth-pop duo turned trio came out on the stage with lit flares in each hand. The Chainsmokers’ enigmatic lyrics “I am the, I am the, I am the sick boy” played ominously over a heavy bass riff, complete with a giant bass drop halfway through the song and a sea of teeny-boppers dancing their heads off. It was glow-sticks and fire galore, people. The Chainsmokers’ newest addition, Matt, played drums with two drumsticks strategically (and literally) set on fire for an entire drum solo. He literally had to dowse the drumsticks later to make them stop smoking; they were actually on fire. The other two (and original) members of the group, Andrew and Alex, stood in awe of their latest musical companion. After a moment, Andrew said, stunned: “we got this guy from the internet. No joke. Isn’t he great?” Indeed, he was great. The Chainsmokers gave an electrifying and surprisingly musical performance, which left me pretty pleased (for a grumpy old lady in a sea of tweens, that is). The Chainsmokers closed out the evening with a burst of confetti from a giant cannon, as well as pyrotechnics exploding from underneath the stage. They lit up the river bend for sure, and the place was abuzz with energy after the group ended their set. Everyone was hyped up and ready for more after a successful, and high-energy, first day. Saturday: MisterWives, Third Eye Blind, GRiZ, Foster the People, & Incubus Saturday began with high expectations from a record sold-out crowd. Beautiful people in flower crowns and glittered faces stood, in the thousands, ready for a day of music and love on the levee. The first set I fell into was MisterWives on the Sawyer Point Stage, which turned out to be a pretty fun time, indeed. MisterWives are an up-and-coming alternative group, gaining popularity (and fast) with the success of their hit single “Reflections”. They played this track, of course, along with many others from their latest release. However, my personal favorite moment of this set was MisterWives rounding out the afternoon with an impassioned cover of Destiny’s Child’s late-nineties hit “Survivor”. Talk about getting the crowd hyped up; the cover was a hit with fans young and old, and the entire field of MisterWives fans danced and clapped uncontrollably throughout the performance. One of the most anticipated sets of the day was up next: Third Eye Blind on the Nissan Stage. Apparently TEB making it to the stage was, in and of itself, a miracle: lead vocalist Stephan Jenkins addressed the crowd with a bit of a PSA, stating, “This morning I was diagnosed with bronchitis and walking pneumonia. However, I just got a steroid shot in my neck, and I feel f**cking great!” And, on that note, the show began with a loud guitar riff and the beautiful, notorious pop-punk vocal stylings of Jenkins (who, at fifty-three years old, still sounds twenty-five and better than ever). The band played their classic hits, such as "Jumper", "Semi-Charmed Kind of Life", and "How’s It Gonna Be?", which did not disappoint Third Eye Blind fans both old and new. What impressed me most about this set, though, (other than my own ability to recall every single lyric to "Semi-Charmed Kind of Life" without missing a beat even though that song is nearly as old as I am) was Jenkins’ grateful nature and honest, genuine dialogue between himself and the crowd of TEB fans that had stood behind him (and now, before him) for years. Jenkins addressed the crowd over and over, continuously thanking us all for being there and for allowing the group to play music for all these years. It was a heartwarming reminder that, no matter how “big” a band makes it, they still rely on their fans in the end to be able to do what it is that they do. Without music fans there would be no music industry, and Jenkins seemed more acutely aware of that than most performers I’d seen in my lifetime. Another grateful, kind performer that graced The Nissan Stage on Saturday evening was the EDM hero, GRiZ. GRiZ, a saxophone aficionado, took the stage with a bandmate on the electric guitar and a large screen behind them both that read, “THIS IS A SAFE SPACE”. This message was a nice backdrop to GRiZ’s set, which often referenced the popular saying “Love Trumps Hate”, and “Love Will Prevail”, most likely in honor of June being Pride Month all over the world. GRiZ had images of protestors, peace signs, and flowers all around him during his set, which added a nice touch to his uplifting lyrics and fun, funky EDM beats. GRiZ played sax over heavy bass, which was something I’d never heard from an EDM act before. I danced my tail off, naturally, and so did everyone else in the (rather large, actually) crowd of baseheads that had amassed to take in GRiZ’s electric, high-energy set. Before I could finish watching the show, though, I realized that it was almost time to head across the park toward the Sawyer Point Stage for the performance of my late high-school dreams: Foster the People live, in all their alt-rock glory. As I ran over to witness Mark Foster *in the flesh*, I heard hints of electric guitar riffs here and there as soundcheck commenced. Fans uproariously clapped with each note, even though the band wouldn’t come on stage for another few minutes. Foster the People amassed a crowd of mostly younger people, but full of vibrance and energy. Not one person in the crowd stood still; fans were dancing, laughing, and running about through the field in front of Sawyer Point stage, which made my heart feel full of joy. I laughed out loud with delight as Mark Foster strutted his way on to the stage, because as soon as he did, fans of all ages embraced one another, danced about, and sang their hearts out as if no one was watching. It was a truly fun, liberating moment that I look for in every festival I attend. I knew this set was going to be the one to beat, and I was definitely right in that assumption. Foster the People played their hits and some deep tracks from their debut 2011 album Torches, which is definitely what I (and most other Foster fans I spoke with) came to hear. Starting with my personal favorite, "Helena Beat", the band came out strong and kept the energy going all evening long. Playing "Don’t Stop", "Coming of Age", "Houdini", and so many more, I hardly wanted to leave. Alas, before Foster the People could get around to playing what I’m sure was their closer, the radio mega-hit "Pumped up Kicks", I had to head back to The Nissan Stage to see Incubus, which my dear friend (and owner of East Coast Live) Nina Martin had been dying to see for the twelfth time. Yes, they’re that good. At least, that’s what Nina had assured me. As I ran back across the park to Nissan Stage, I saw Nina standing in the very front row. She let me know that she’d been there, securing her spot along with other Incubus mega-fans, for hours, and when Incubus began their set I quickly learned why they have amassed such a group of mega-fans throughout the years: in short, it’s because they’re awesome. Incubus played a slew of their hits, which is quite a few songs if you look at their lengthy career in music, and blew me away with their kind, humble interactions with the crowd and seemingly effortless mastery of their instruments (including Brandon Boyd’s voice, which still sounds like it did way back in the “Drive” days). Brandon Boyd often jammed with the rest of the band on bongos and other assorted percussion instruments in a drum-circle fashion, which really blew me away. The way Boyd felt each and every song with his body (which could be seen in his movements and mannerisms as he performed) was an incredible thing to witness live. The band played some of my personal favorites, including “Adolescents”, “Nice to Know You”, “Stellar”, “Are You In” (which ended with a little verse of Snoop Dogg’s infamous “Gin n’ Juice”), “Wish You Were Here” (both their original version and the Pink Floyd version, respectively) as well as, of course, “Drive”. Incubus ended their set by throwing their drumsticks, guitar picks, and so on into the crowd and taking one giant bow. The park was alive with energy as music fans from all-over anticipated the final, and perhaps biggest, day of the festival ahead. Sunday: Manchester Orchestra, Coheed and Cambria, Lecrae, Post Malone & Jack White Sunday was full of back-to-back awesome acts (literally one headliner after another), so I must start this by saying that I didn’t actually get to see Coheed and Cambria live. My friends and I split off into two different groups due to the demanding line-up ahead, and in the end, I had my will set on one performance and one only: Jack Freakin’ White. Before I get to Jack White, though, let me serve up a recap of the other acts I did to get to see on Sunday (sorry Coheed, my niece loves Lecrae too much to let me miss his set). The first major act I saw on Sunday was Manchester Orchestra. Being my second time at a Manchester show, I mostly took it easy as the band played a myriad of their fan-favorites (including my personal favorite Manchester song, “I’ve Got Friends”). Although Manchester’s crowd interaction is very limited during their performances, they still connect with their fans on a deeper level than most bands I’ve seen live. Manchester fans know every word (and I mean every word) to their discography, it seems, which made the performance feel alive and impassioned all around. As the day turned into the afternoon, my niece rushed me off to rapper and R&B star Lecrae’s set. I hadn’t ever listened to Lecrae, honestly, so I hardly knew what to expect from his performance. Running a few minutes late, Lecrae came out to a sea of fans dancing along to the warm-up DJ’s beats. The energy was high, and Lecrae dove right in to an electrifying performance. I mean, this guy literally jumped up and down, talked to the crowd non-stop between tracks, and went absolutely wild on the stage. I had no idea Lecrae was that great of a performer, so I was very impressed to say the least. Every bit of energy the crowd fed into the performance Lecrae fed right back, and the mood was extremely high for the entire hour-long (which was supposed to only be forty-five minutes long, but he was closing the CVG stage, so oh well) set. Lecrae preached to his fans on everything from life and death to money and relationships, but not in a pedantic/authoritative kind of way; in other words, Lecrae continuously spoke wise words of advice to his younger fans, like an older, very-talented brother. The mood didn’t die down for the entire performance, even when Lecrae talked for minutes on end between songs about witty anecdotes about his life, his relationship with God, and so on. Overall, Lecrae may have actually been one of my favorite performances of the festival. After Lecrae’s pumped-up set ended, I was abuzz with energy and ready to take on the sea of teenagers that I knew I would have to fight to get a good spot for Post Malone. Once again, my niece was a huge fan of this white rap-star that I’d barely listened to, so I vowed to get her a good spot (on the condition that she allowed me to leave early to get an even better spot for Jack White, muahaha). Once we were “posted” up for Post Malone (wow, that was bad), we waited for the braided and bearded young man to appear on stage at any second. A long, relentless stream of bass blared from the speakers without much rhythm or tone for literally two minutes or more, then there he was: Post Malone appeared from a cloud of yellow fog and flashing lights, which was perfectly fitting for his Beer Bongs and Bentleys aesthetic he’d so carefully cultivated in the earlier months of 2018. When Post got on the stage, the crowd erupted. From what I could gather, every Post Malone song that was performed was a hit; as in, this guy only makes hits. Furthermore, this guy was all alone on the stage. A backing track with a beat and a microphone in his hand, Post Malone is a true solo act (which I can respect, seeing as most solo artists rely on a multitude of backing performers to carry them through). Post Malone gave a great performance of some fan favorites including “Rockstar”, “Taking Shots”, “Candy Paint”, “No Option”, and more; however, we didn’t get to see him deliver his mega-hit “Congratulations”, because we were well on our way to Jack White at that point. My niece in tow, I was literally running to the Nissan Stage to make it in time for Jack White’s opening song. Luckily, I made it with time to spare. Jack White’s stage wasn’t completely set up by the time I pushed my way to the front-left barricade (I’d never been that close for any performer at a festival before, so that was something special in and of itself). Roadies in matching tuxedos and fedoras set up the stage, and the Jack White vibes were already abounding. A security guard told my friend Nina and I (who had now been reunited with me) that all of Jack White’s staff and team dressed the same, kept very quiet, and acted incredibly professional; he’d apparently never seen anything like it. At this point, I was dying of anticipation and excitement mixed with the hope of getting Jack White to notice me singing (and by “singing” I mean “screaming”) along to his songs at least once. By the time the countdown clock began (which was also decked out in Jack White style, as images of him appeared to come on and off the screen as a tease) I was ready to erupt. This was the set I’d been waiting for all weekend long. When the countdown clock hit the final “ten, nine, eight…” second mark, I braced myself and grabbed on to my friend Nina’s arm. I shook her with excitement and jumped up and down, then there he was: Jack freakin’ White himself, in a polka-dotted shirt and all. White opened with “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” in true blues-man style, and continued to play Jack White, The White Stripes, and The Racounters hits all evening long. Sadly, he didn’t play any Dead Weather tracks, much to my chagrin. However, White played some ridiculously famous tracks: “Icky Thump”, “Steady as She Goes”, “Over and Over and Over”, “Lazaretto”, “Freedom at 21”, and (of course) his closer: “Seven Nation Army”. White’s energy and perfectly harmonious relationship with his incredibly talented band resonated throughout the entire performance; the band performed like a well-oiled rock’n’roll machine, all while keeping up a pitch of energy like I’d never seen. The drummer (a super-cool chick with long, black hair) jumped up and down from her seat constantly, clashing the cymbals with all of her might while the keyboardists banged and clanged their keys with perfect precision. All the while, White (who didn’t really have time to address the crowd much, other than to tell them to shop at a local record store he really enjoyed in the Cincy area) sang his heart out and played guitar like some new-age, ghostly white blues-meets-punk rock icon. Needless to say, I was in shreds by the end of the performance. Jack White had officially blown my mind. In Review: Bunbury Music Festival 2018 Overall, this year’s Bunbury festival was one for the ages. With electrifying performances from every artist (some surprisingly good and others right on-par), I am looking forward to next year’s line-up which promises this year’s absentees: Blink-182. Now, I’m off to Firefly, friends. Keep up with me and check out my latest music festival review right here on East Coast Live. Peace.

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