Cincinnati’s Summer Music Festivals Offer Something for Everyone

Summertime Blues (and Rock and Hip Hop and R&B…)

Jun 5, 2019 at 9:41 am

click to enlarge Black Signal - Photo: Chris Kromer
Photo: Chris Kromer
Black Signal

Adjust Your Eyes Music & Art Festival 

June 28-29 • Various Northside Venues

Locally based independent label Grasshopper Juice Records has been presenting the Adjust Your Eyes Music & Art Festival since 2006. The fest has grown from being a single-location event to its current status as an all-neighborhood (Northside) showcase featuring multiple venues. Along with showcasing some of the city’s most creative original music makers, the event has raised thousands of dollars for organizations like the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen. The 2019 AYE fest will benefit the local nonprofit Women Helping Women. 

AYE has long been notable for its eclectic lineup and this year is no different, featuring Hip Hop, EDM, Hard Rock, Indie Rock, Americana and various other styles. This year’s fest is also again heavy on local acts, including Wonky Tonk, Vusive, Black Signal, Sons of Silverton, Audley, Counterfeit Money Machine, BRWN BEAR, Black Tractor, Old City, Sleepy Drums, D-Eight, Firecat 451 and Jared Presley Experience. GRLwood and Eyenine & Farout are among the touring acts. 

Participating venues for this year’s AYE include The Comet, Northside Yacht Club, Junkers Tavern and Taft’s Brewpourium.

click to enlarge The Blues Beatles - Photo:
The Blues Beatles

Cincy Blues Fest 

July 13 • Schmidlapp Event Lawn

First held in 1993, the classic Cincy Blues Fest (believed to be the longest running volunteer-driven Blues fest in the U.S.) is on the move this year. But it’s not moving too far from its longtime Sawyer Point spot. Retaining the stripped-back, one-night approach the festival returned to in 2018, Cincy Blues Fest will be held this year at the Schmidlapp Event Lawn near Smale Riverfront Park. 

The fest has also switched to a primarily local-music-focused event. This year’s Blues Fest includes Greater Cincinnati favorites G. Miles & the Band of Helping Hands, the Ben Levin Band with special guest Philip Paul, Leroy Ellington’s Sacred Hearts and the TBA winners of this year’s Cincy Blues Challenge (who will also go on to compete early next year at Memphis, Tennessee’s International Blues Challenge). The only non-local act on the bill is The Blues Beatles, a globally-touring Brazilian band that — if you couldn’t guess from the name — performs Blues arrangements of Beatles songs.

click to enlarge Mary J. Blige - Photo:
Mary J. Blige

Cincinnati Music Festival 

July 25-27 • Paul Brown Stadium

A recent article from Newsweek named the long-running Cincinnati Music Festival one of the "13 Best Music Festivals of Summer 2019." The local R&B fest was included alongside heavyweight events like Coachella, Hangout Music Festival, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Boston Calling, Outside Lands and Woodstock 50.

For CMF 2019's opening-night kick-off event on July 25, Hip Hop legends Slick Rick, EPMD and Kid Capri are scheduled to perform. The lineup for the weekend concerts showcases the event's familiar mix of contemporary R&B/Soul favorites (like Mary J. Blige and Maxwell) and old-school heroes (like Earth Wind & Fire and Frankie Beverly & Maze). On July 26, the classic lineup of New Edition ("Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky and Mike") is booked to appear, but under the name RBRM, due to early member Ralph Tresvant owning the trademark on the New Edition name (Tresvant has been touring with another former member, Johnny Gill, but not as New Edition).

click to enlarge Cold War Kids - Photo: One Beat PR
Photo: One Beat PR
Cold War Kids

Bellwether Music Festival

Aug. 9-10 • Renaissance Park (Waynesville, Ohio) 

In Paste magazine’s roundup of the “Best American Music Festivals in 2019” it name-drops the Bellwether Music Festival, the Southwest Ohio event (founded by Bunbury and MidPoint Music Festival creator Bill Donabedian) that debuted last year in Waynesville with a lineup that included The Flaming Lips, Japanese Breakfast, Echo and the Bunnymen and more.

The camper-friendly Bellwether’s second year lineup is equally packed with AltRock favorites, including Cold War Kids, Beach House, Twin Shadow, Real Estate, Pinback, Caroline Rose, Cake, Guided By Voices, STRFKR, Black Moth Super Rainbow and more. Bands with local ties performing at Bellwether this year include Young Heirlooms, Multimagic and R. Ring (Mike Montgomery of Ampline and Kelley Deal of The Breeders).

click to enlarge Screaming Females - Photo: Christopher Patrick Ernst
Photo: Christopher Patrick Ernst
Screaming Females


Aug. 23-24 • Urban Artifact

Hosted on three stages in and around Northside church-turned-brewery-and-music-venue Urban Artifact, beWILDerfest is described as a “wild culture music and beer festival.” The event returns this year with a lineup that includes several of Cincinnati's finest musical acts (like Tweens, Lung, Moonbeau, Us, Today, Soften, Common Center and In the Pines), as well as top-of-the-line national/international touring artists like Surfer Blood, Screaming Females, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Zach Deputy and Green Jello. 

"It's been very fulfilling to see the festival grow like it has every year," says fest booker Jeremy Moore in a press release. "It's really great to get the opportunity to put local acts on the same bill as nationally recognized bands. The amount of quality eclectic bands here in Cincinnati is almost staggering at times. I could fill out multiple beWILDerfests and still not scratch the surface of what gems lay beneath these hills."

click to enlarge Ryan Bingham - Photo:
Ryan Bingham

Whispering Beard Folk Festival 

Aug. 23-24 • Smale Riverfront Park

In January, the hugely popular Whispering Beard Folk Festival announced it was moving from its cozy confines in small-town Friendship, Indiana to Smale Riverfront Park (where The National hosted its huge Homecoming music fest in 2018). The 2019 WBFF lineup is in keeping with the event’s high-quality mix of local, regional and national artists. 

National acts performing at this summer’s WBFF include M. Ward, Ryan Bingham, The Felice Brothers, Peter Rowan, Lost Dog Street Band, Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, Charlie Parr, Chicago Farmer, Possessed by Paul James and The Wild Reeds. Greater Cincinnati acts like The Tillers, Frontier Folk Nebraska, Maria Carrelli, Slippery Creek, Krystal Peterson and Chalk Eye round out the bill.

Taking advantage of the new locale, area artists like Whiskey Bent Valley Boys, Buffalo Wabs & the Price Hill Hustle, Joe's Truck Shop and the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars will play "exclusive riverboat shows” throughout the weekend.

click to enlarge Triiibe - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Overcast Hip Hop Festival

Sept. 21-22 • Top Cat’s

The Overcast Hip Hop Fest is returning for a second year of showcasing local and out-of-town underground Hip Hop musicians, DJs and dancers. The Scribble Jam-inspired event debuted in 2018 at Urban Artifact in Northside with headliners Mr. Dibbs and Blueprint. This year’s Overcast fest will take place at Top Cats in Corryville on the final weekend of the summer. 

Overcast’s 2019 event features another strong lineup that includes Triiibe, the reigning Cincinnati Entertainment Award winners for Artist of the Year. Joining Triiibe as top-of-the-poster headliners are Vast Aire (half of the renowned duo Cannibal Ox) and Chicago twosome The Palmer Squares, who’ve amassed a huge online following since releasing their debut, Finna, in 2013.

The lineup also includes several returning champs, including Dope Knife, Eyenine and Spoken Nerd, as well as local favorites like Raised X Wolves, Audley, Sons of Silverton, Jaybee Lamahj, Devin Burgess, Ronin Halloway, Weirdose and Counterfeit Money Machine, whose Juan Cosby (and Grasshopper Juice Records) founded Overcast. The event will also see the return of Ill Poetic, the onetime Cincinnati-based MC and producer (and CityBeat columnist) who now resides in California.