This story is featured in CityBeat's July 26 print edition.
Fairview Fest started as a house show in 2020, celebrating the birthday of Sweet Action band member Connor Loughran. This year, the annual tradition returns on Aug. 12 at Oddfellows Liquor Bar. This time, it returns with the support of an official venue, 20 bands and over 10 art vendors, graduating the event from its DIY origins without sacrificing its grassroots of independent booking and fundraising.
The Fairview Fest seed was planted after Sweet Action’s first live performance, which was set to take place in July 2020, was canceled due to the emergence of COVID. The band was itching to play, and faced with the urge to celebrate their band member’s birthday and play for a live crowd, Sweet Action decided to throw a party and play in their guitarist’s backyard on Fairview Avenue. K Kroencke, a member of Sweet Action and the founder of Fairview Fest, recruited local band Dead Humor to play alongside Sweet Action, and the tradition was born.
The following year, in 2021, a catchy name was attached to the event: Fairview Fest, a nod to the DIY venue’s location on Fairview Avenue in Over-the-Rhine. A few more bands were invited to play and Kroencke felt enamored with the thrill of event organization. Bands were platformed, a crowd of over 100 people came and had a blast, and Kroencke felt her passion for music event coordination swelling.
After another year of a DIY set-up in 2022, Kroencke felt it was time to upgrade Fairview Fest into a proper, ticketed event.
This year, Fairview Fest will be held at Oddfellows Liquor Bar in Over-the-Rhine, which is equipped with two stages, allowing the festival to host more acts and attendees with a curated set schedule according to musical style, Kroencke tells CityBeat.
Although the original vision was to hold the festival at Fairview Park, the hurdles of accomplishing the plan proved insurmountable this year. Permitting and insurance fees plus a lack of infrastructure at the park, such as sources of water, restrooms, electricity and stages led Kroencke’s team to opt for an alternate venue in hopes of generating enough funds to host the event outdoors in coming years, she says.
“When we officially decided to step back from trying to do it at Fairview Park and were like, ‘Let's just do it at Oddfellows,’ there was a huge sigh of relief. All of us felt like we were stuck for like a month trying to figure out how we are going to make this work. And as soon as we decided on Oddfellows we were like alright, we can do this. We've got a venue with the sound system setup, we can make all these other details work,” said Andrew Moss, a member of the Fairview Fest team.
Kirby Fortney, a talent buyer at Oddfellows and member of Fairview Fest’s team, bridged the connection between Fairview Fest and the venue. With ample indoor and outdoor space, in-house food and drink options, and quality live music equipment, the venue touts an ideal space to host Fairview Fest, Fortney says.
Oddfellows possesses an eccentric ambiance welcoming to all walks of life, which Fortney says lends to the eclectic nature and DIY roots of the festival. The venue’s design motifs seemingly shift every turn you take — a speakeasy-esque bar and sitting area with dim lighting and wood and leather furnishings; a stately liminal space leading to restrooms floored with black and white floor tiles and a fountain housing shaggy house plants; and an otherworldly glow-in-the-dark room are a few of the dramatic decor schemes Oddfellows boasts.
With numerous musical styles that aren’t typically found in a single setting, live graffiti and art, and vendors selling crafts from scented hand-made soaps to screen prints and clothing, the diversity of the setting matches the diversity of the event, says Fortney.
Oddfellows’ location in the heart of Over-the-Rhine will also serve to showcase the neighborhood and permit crowds to trickle in and out at ease to grab food, explore and relax, says Kroencke.
“I'm trying to make it affordable for people in a good location so they can roam around and have fun and come back and feel like they don't have to stay there. I want people circulating, coming in and out,” Kroencke tells CityBeat.
Twenty bands are slated to play Fairview Fest, ranging from punk and hardcore to alternative and hip-hop. The setlist aims to cohesively mesh genres that reflect the DIY scene. The top floor stage will feature pop-punk and alternative acts throughout the event; the basement floor stage will kick off with hip-hop that will become progressively grungier and disjointed, flowing seamlessly into hardcore.
“It's just a celebration of DIY, basically, and hip-hop and punk-rock is the most DIY that I can think of,” says Kroencke.
Most of the musical acts hail from Cincinnati, but a few will travel from Cleveland, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. By slashing the lines of genres and art mediums, bringing them into a single environment, Moss anticipates the opportunity for artists and attendees to mingle will strengthen unity within the Cincinnati art and music scene while getting artists exposure among new crowds.
The lineup for this year’s festival includes Arlen Gun club, The Rosies, Fruit LoOops, Sweet Action and more.
All musicians and vendors will be paid for their time and talents, says Kroencke. The team has held one benefit show to generate funds to invest in Fairview Fest T-shirts, which will be sold to help cover musician payments and reinvest in Fairview Fest’s future. Another benefit show will be held in July with the aim of generating funds to pay the musicians.
Art vendors paid a $30 operations fee to hold a vending booth throughout the day. The revenue they earn through sales will be theirs to keep.
Kroencke hopes the success of this year's Fairview Fest will fuel its continued growth and begin drawing its footprint as a hallmark of the local music scene. The long-term vision for Fairview Fest is to become a symbol of the city’s thriving music and arts scene, evolving into a multi-day, outdoor event featuring local and big name acts. The letdown of failing to secure Fairview Park as the festival venue taught the team the importance of steady growth and managed expectations, leading them to focus on executing what’s feasible to reach its peak potential, says Kroencke.
With everything falling into place as the show day approaches, the goal is giving fans and artists an experience to remember.
“That feeling is priceless, and it's my goal to instill that in other people,” says Kroencke.
Fairview Fest takes place 2 p.m. Aug. 12 at Oddfellows Liquor Bar. Info: facebook.com/fairviewfest.
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