By: The Busted Amp Staff
Cincinnati's Bunbury Music Festival, on the banks of the Ohio River, is in its 5th year already, and 2nd under the management of Columbus, Ohio based PromoWest Productions. This year's festival saw the removal of one of the smaller stages, a smaller, more compact bill of artists, and the introduction of mandatory cashless wristbands. Derek and Joseph traversed all three days to bring you the good, the bad, and the WTF of Bunbury 2016.
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires
Derek: The 67 year old crooner took the Yeatman's Cove main stage to a mid-sized crowd on Friday afternoon. Aptly nicknamed "The Screaming Eagle", Charles and his band spent their hour long set tugging mercilessly at the crowds' heartstrings. Playing songs from his new album, Changes, Bradley was truly mesmerizing. His powerful voice fit perfectly on the peaceful banks of the Ohio River. Even HAIM, who would play later that evening, checked out his set.
His rendition of the classic Ozzy Osbourne song, "Changes", also the title track on the album, gave me chills. It was a moment to behold. If you have the opportunity, nay, privilege to see him, do it.
Joseph: I went into this set with....tempered expectations. After all, at this point The Killers haven't had a huge hit in 10 years and have only made 1 album since 2008 which was 2012's lackluster Battle Born. But what we got was ultimately my favorite set of the entire weekend. The band knows how to put on a freaking show, and they tore through their brief 75 minute sets as the crowd jammed out to some of their favorite mid-2000s hits. Their relevance (or lack there of) didn't matter. It was just a grand ol' time.
Derek: I would agree that The Killers put on a great set. A few of the standout moments were their cover of Interpol's "Obstacle 1" and a sweet partial cover of the "WKRP in Cincinnati" theme. The Reds Friday Night Fireworks provided a perfect, colorful backdrop to the stage, even though I think lead singer Brandon Flowers was a little annoyed by their length. As far as headliners, I was expecting The Killers to be my favorite of the weekend. That was before Florence + The Machine showed up.
Florence + The Machine
Derek: Having heard Joseph's less than stellar thoughts on Florence + The Machine's show in Nashville and me being less than enthusiastic about Florence's singing style, I was preparing for the worst. But boy oh boy was I wrong. Joseph and I camped for over two hours at the main stage, seeing a phenomenal set by Of Monsters and Men and skipping sets on the other two stages from Elle King and Here Come The Mummies. It was a great decision. From the moment she arrived on stage, Florence was in full control of the crowd. Spinning and jumping and running around the stage, she and the band powered through 75 minutes of the greatest hits from her three albums to date. I was in absolute awe of the the way she instantly captured the collective imaginations of every single person in attendance. During one song, she sprinted down the center aisle, giving high fives before climbing up the sound booth and singing out to the fans towards the back. I always love live shows that makes instant fans. For me, this was one of them.
Holy White Hounds
J Roddy Walston and The Business
Of Monsters And Men
The Worn Flints
Derek: Automagik was one of our favorite local Cincinnati bands for the longest time. We've seen them, collectively, nearly a dozen times. Sadly for us (and them), their meteoric rise in our hearts was almost as fast as their decline. Key lineup changes and a sound that has become too noisy to attempt to fill the holes in their sound, the band has become a shell of what we knew and loved. Only lead singer Zachary Evans and guitarist Devin Williams remain from the core group that wowed us, and their Bunbury performance did nothing to change the course. They were loud, jumbled, and noisier than ever.
Joseph: Has The Neighbourhood heard the expression "A little bit of rain never hurt anybody?" Clearly not. About halfway through their set the rain started coming down. It had been raining off and on all throughout the day, and to this point everyone had played through it. After all, these bands are playing under awnings so what's the worst that could happen to them, right? Well for whatever reason this rainfall was too much for The Neighbourhood, who quickly broke into "Sweater Weather" and busted off the stage as soon as possible for some reason when the heavens opened up. It's hard for me to respect a band for cutting their performance short on their own accord because it's raining. Not to be outdone, G. Love & Special Sauce persevered through the same rain not 45 minutes later, playing as much of their set as possible before the festival shut their set down due to lightning. Well hey at least we got to hear "Sweater Weather" right?
Derek: Grimes brought her glitchy electro art-pop to a very large and curious Sunday afternoon crowd on the main Yeatman's Cove Stage. What ensued for the next hour can best be described as K-Pop on meth. Singer Claire Boucher, sporting pointed sunglasses to help with the glare of the setting sun, danced and jumped around stage with her backup dancers. Unfortunately, much of her vocal was so low in the mix that it was hardly audible. That being said, what we could hear was so nasally at off pitch that it wasn't pleasant, and she even admitted during her set that she was more of a button pusher and less of a singer. Speaking of button pushing, the sun made it difficult for her to tell what buttons she was pressing, and she pressed play on the wrong beat at least three times. The biggest jaw-droppingly bizarre moment came when she performed the song "SCREAM" from her latest album, Art Angels. It is exactly what the name sounds like, and it was horrifying. The one redeeming factor of the set was Claire's quirkiness; when she was talking in between songs, she genuinely sounded like she was enjoying putting on her show and took her art very seriously. But as far as the music, after watching her set, I'm honestly not sure what the big deal is.
Joseph: This was a set I had been looking forward to for a while. There was a lot of hype surrounding Ice Cube. He was initially supposed to headline Saturday evening but this was dropped in favor of deadmau5 when Saturday day sales were down. Ice Cube must have been hurt by this, so he hyped up that he was even going to bring a member of N.W.A. on the stage with him Saturday evening. Obviously the speculation was whether the legendary Dr. Dre was going to pop up and start playing The Chronic, (because ya that was going to happen) but what we ended up having to settle for was a brief appearance from Cube's own son, O'Shea Jackson, Jr. That was just one WTF moment of this entirely bizarre set. Cube basically used the set as a marketing platform, boasting about how "anti-establishment" he was one minute then performing a song while clips from his (establishment-made) films were playing in the background. While I ultimately had a blast listening to some history-making songs from both Cube and N.W.A., there was undoubtedly a level of narcissism lying underneath all of it.
Dead Man String Band
Final Festival Thoughts
Joseph: I HATED the cashless bracelets. It's one thing to be like Bonnaroo and allow you to use them if you want in addition to cash, but to FORCE us to use them and then charge us "convenience fees" for putting money on them AND taking it off is absolutely ridiculous. It ended up costing me something like $6 just to use the damn thing. It didn't irk me at first, but then when I saw the simplicity of the SAME FREAKING CONCEPT used at Bonnaroo, (link your wristband to your card, use it if you want, no strings or charges attached since the festival also accepted cash AND credit cards) it really rubbed me the wrong way. This was a blatant cash-grab, and as I've allowed my feelings on this to fester has honestly lowered my opinion of the entire festival. Please, DEAR GOD please accept cash next year. You can do the cashless thing, fine. I'll even accept no cards allowed. But to not accept cash and force us to use the cashless bracelet and then charge us convenience fees to use it? That is unacceptable.
A few other notes....hated that one beer vendor set up in the middle of the main (and pretty much only) walkway between the two main stages. I get the target of opportunity idea and can even appreciate it, but the festival sacrificed a lot to make a few extra bucks. Not only was the vendor stationary in the middle of all these people, the people that stopped to grab a quick beer were, you know, stationary as well. And when your walkway is only 6 or 7 people wide and 3 have stopped in the middle of it to buy (or sell) a beer, those backups form in a HURRY. Especially in between sets. We learned to just avoid this pathway altogether and take the muddy route instead.
Derek: For all of the worries about the festival going cashless this year, I had absolutely no issues with cashless bracelets. Yes, the fees were annoying, and I didn't realize other festivals did the same concept without all the fees, but I would do it all over again given the convenience of not carrying cash and how not giving change really cut down on the wait times in line. Being a show poster buff, I really missed the independent poster vendors, but I loved this year's festival poster design. The food options ($5 Late Night Slice, $6.25 Montgomery Inn sandwich and chips) were solid, but the $7.25 "craft beer garden" that was Braxton, Blank Slate, West 6th and "crafty" Blue Moon, Leinenkugel stands left something to be desired. Unfortunately, Miller was a sponsor. The new water stations were so much better than last year. Having faucets that actually worked and had decent water pressure was a huge and important change for my festival experience.
I thought that one fewer stage would equate to bigger crowds at each act, but it didn't seem as overcrowded as last year, which was nice. I still missed the smallest stage last year that was a VIP area this year. Seeing Royal Blood there last year was awesome.
There was apparently an exit at the back of main stage, but we never used it because it was hidden with no signs that we saw pointing towards it. Most people walked all the way around to the other side of the festival grounds to exit, which made it feel like we were cattle being herded to slaughter.
But overall, I thought this year's festival was much better than the year before, and for a local festival, any complaints are far outweighed by the convenience of seeing top acts twenty minutes from home.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: