Best Of 2019

Best New Hometown Music Festival: Homecoming

In 2006, Aaron Dessner of The National founded the annual MusicNOW festival in his (and his bandmates’) Cincinnati hometown, bringing to town artists from the Indie Rock and “New Music” worlds for one-of-a-kind events and performances. MusicNOW has featured the likes of Justin Vernon, Sharon Van Etten, Sufjan Stevens, Eighth Blackbird, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and many others, often performing together in different configurations and almost always offering performances you couldn’t see anywhere else. In 2015, Dessner noted in an interview with CityBeat that the unusual, intimate nature of the festival also made it a favorite among his fellow musicians: “The reason most artists play festivals is they pay better than the average gig; in our case it’s really about the experience.” In 2018, MusicNOW spawned a sibling festival, Homecoming, to carry on a similar vision and experience on a bigger scale. Held in conjunction with MusicNOW in April at Smale Riverfront Park near Paul Brown Stadium, Homecoming was more of a “Rock festival” and, by all accounts, it was a big success, drawing thousands of fans from across the region to Cincinnati with two days of Indie Rock heavyweights like Father John Misty, The Breeders and the host band, The National, who performed spectacular headlining sets each night. Homecoming drew a lot of attention to The National’s hometown, with the likes of Billboard, Uproxx, Stereogum and even The U.K.’s Independent sending reporters and running glowing reviews of the event. It also gave Cincinnati Indie Rock lovers an amazing musical experience that was fan-friendly and featured programming (including less high-profile vanguard artists like Alvvays, Moses Sumney, Mouse on Mars and Julien Baker) that helped set it apart from a lot of the huge corporate fests. Before the 2018 event, Dessner told CityBeat that Homecoming (presented with promoter AC Entertainment, which specializes in niche, artist-curated fests while also founding powerhouse events like Bonnaroo and Forecastle) was a test run, with an option of becoming a recurrent showcase; late last year, the band announced Homecoming wouldn’t return in 2019, but organizers said they “look forward to doing it again in the future,” so stay tuned. Homecoming, ntlhomecoming.com.