If you love the opportunity to see a lot of live acts over the span of a few days, this summer’s music festival offerings won’t disappoint. From huge artists to quality local bands and giant outdoor stages to smaller clubs, 2016’s summer fest scene features several anticipated returning events as well as a few compelling new ones.
For the past few years, Greater Cincinnati’s summertime music fest options have continually expanded. While we’ve spotlighted seven below, there are many others on the horizon, including June’s Northside Music Festival (northsidemusicfest.com), July’s Northside Rock n’ Roll Carnival (northsiderocks.com) and August’s Whispering Beard Folk Festival (whisperingbeard.com) and Ohmstead Music Festival (ohmstead.net).
BUNBURY MUSIC FESTIVAL
When: June 3-5
Where: Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove, Downtown
What: You can dive right into the summer festival season this weekend as one of the region’s most buzzed-about events returns to Cincinnati’s riverfront. Founded in 2012 and modeled after larger three-day affairs like Lollapalooza, Bunbury was an instant hit. And the crowds seem to be getting even bigger since the festival was sold to Columbus, Ohio’s PromoWest Productions, which produced Bunbury for the first time last year. Bunbury’s lineups are similar to other big outdoor festivals around the country (Hangout, Outside Lands, Governors Ball, etc.), featuring established and up-and-coming Alternative, Indie, Electronic, Hip Hop, Rock and Pop acts on multiple stages.
Lineup: The Killers, Florence + the Machine, Deadmau5, Ice Cube, Haim, Of Monsters and Men, Grimes, Elle King, The Dear Hunter, The Mowgli’s and many more.
More info: bunburyfestival.com
NO RESPONSE FESTIVAL
When: June 23-24
Where: Woodward Theater, Over-the-Rhine
What: This first-time celebration of avant-garde music has drawn national attention thanks to its lineup loaded with several prominent Experimental music creators. Cincinnati-affiliated artists are adding even more allure to No Response. Onetime participant in the local Experimental scene, C. Spencer Yeh, is performing in Cincinnati for the first time since moving to New York several years ago, where he’s developed a world-renowned reputation for his diverse and innovative work. And Cincy’s John Bender, whose rare DIY electronic recordings from the late ’70s have fostered a cult following and recognition of him as a pioneer of “minimal synth” music, is performing live for the first time in more than three decades.
Lineup: Hair Police, Bill Orcutt, Sissy Spacek, Aaron Dilloway, Sarah Davachi, Kevin Drumm, C Spencer Yeh and John Bender.
More info: noresponsefestival.com
CINCINNATI MUSIC FESTIVAL
When: July 22-23
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Downtown
What: Since its origins more than 50 years ago, the Cincinnati Music Festival has gone by several different names (Kool Jazz Festival, Macy’s Music Fest), moved locations a few times and even entirely shifted its musical focus (from Jazz to R&B/Soul). But for the past several years, the event has settled into its longtime home at Paul Brown Stadium and consistently featured tried-and-true lineups that mix crowd-pleasing R&B veterans with younger emerging artists. Still widely referred to as “Jazz Fest,” the event has become a community staple on the level of Skyline and the Reds.
Lineup: New Edition, Charlie Wilson, Babyface, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Fantasia, Ledisi, The Whispers, Leela James, Judith Hill and The Deele.
More info: cincymusicfestival.com
ADJUST YOUR EYES (AYE) MUSIC & ART FESTIVAL
When: July 29-30
Where: The Comet, Northside Tavern, Urban Artifact, Tillie’s Lounge, Northside Yacht Club, Chameleon, The Listing Loon, Junker’s Tavern and CincinNative, Northside
What: Charity, local art and a wide array of unique and (mostly) local musical acts are what the Adjust Your Eyes festival is all about. Organized by local label/collective Grasshopper Juice, this year’s AYE will take over Northside with shows spread across several bars and clubs. Every year, a different organization is chosen to receive AYE’s fest proceeds. This year, it’s the Apple Street Market cooperative, which is trying to establish a full-service grocery store for Northside’s diverse residents.
Lineup: The Slippery Lips, Go Go Buffalo, The Harlequins, Coconut Milk, Counterfeit Money Machine, Black Signal, Fluffer, Gran Bel Fisher, JetLab, Jamwave, Intro Signal, Lemon Sky, mr.phylzzz, Tiger Sex and many others.
More info: adjustyoureyes.com
BUCKLE UP MUSIC FESTIVAL
When: Aug. 5-6
Where: Summit Park, Blue Ash
What: Initially created in the summer of 2014 by the founders of Bunbury, Buckle Up was part of the deal when PromoWest Productions bought Bunbury later that year. After taking a year off and making plans to move the event to Blue Ash’s Summit Park, Buckle Up is back this year, shifting primarily to a mainstream Country focus (the original fest mixed in a variety of Roots and Americana acts).
Lineup: Brad Paisley, Chase Rice, Corey Smith, Maddie & Tae, McGuffey Lane, Tyler Farr, Bobby Bones & the Raging Idiots, Noah Smith, Mo Pitney and more (another major headliner will be announced June 20).
More info: buckleupfestival.com
CINCY BLUES FEST
When: Aug. 12-13
Where: Sawyer Point, Downtown
What: One of Cincinnati’s music fest gems, the Cincy Blues Fest is considered to be the largest, longest-running Blues festival managed entirely by volunteers in the United States. Created by the Cincy Blues Society in 1992, the Blues Fest routinely books quality headliners and is unequivocally the best showcase of Cincinnati’s finest Blues artists. The event’s annual Boogie Woogie piano stage makes it especially unique, while other specialized “side stages” often add interesting and unexpected elements to the overall lineup (this year, there is a “Women’s Showcase” stage).
Lineup: Walter Trout, Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers, Tinsley Ellis, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Albert Castiglia, Teeny Tucker Band and more.
More info: cincybluesfest.org
BIRDS OF A FEATHER MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL
When: Aug. 19-21
Where: Thornhill Farm, Morning View, Ky.
What: This first-time festival is a camper-friendly affair located on farmland that sits between the Licking River and Thornhill Lake. So if hiking, swimming and bonfires are your cup of festival tea, Birds of a Feather is well worth checking out. The diverse lineup features regional and Cincinnati-area acts playing Americana, Bluegrass, Reggae, Rock and World music.
Lineup: Jahman Brahman, Elementree Livity Project, Dead Man String Band, Common Center, Wonky Tonk, Hickory Robot, Peridoni, Jerry’s Little Band, Hu-Town Holler, Android 86, Working Class Villain and more.
More info: birdsofafeatherfest.com