The third and final day of Bunbury began with some disappointing news that buzz group Passion Pit had to cancel due to illness. Many people were looking forward to seeing them play some new tunes, but since they were going up against local group Guided By Voices, it was like the choice had been made by default.
First came the cancelation and then the much-needed but annoying torrential downpour in the early afternoon that ended up delaying set times . Around 3:30 p.m., bands started playing with abridged sets and by 6 p.m. everyone was back on the regular schedule.
Sunday didn’t seem quite as packed as Weezer night on Saturday, but music fans still came out in droves.
Cincy’s Wussy played a blend of excellent Americana and alt-country from all of their recordings including last year’s “Strawberry.” Bassist Mark Messerly wore patriotic red, white and blue pants and co-vocalist Lisa Walker equally impressed in her ripped black leggings. People piled into the Serpentine Wall amphitheater for pedal steel powered songs like “Funeral Dress”, “Pulverized,” “Maglite,” “Death By Misadventure” and “Happiness Bleed.”
“I don’t know what cartoon character you feel like but I feel like Jem,” Walker said and then played a song about being from her hometown of Muncie, Ind., “Pizza King.” At the end of “Rigor Mortis,” the band prematurely launched into fuzzy distortion saying it was their last song, but that wasn’t true.
“Sorry, that was anti-climatic. We actually have eight minutes,” singer Chuck Cleaver stated. They used those few minutes wisely and performed “Don’t Leave Just Now” and then they really did depart.
I spent rest of my afternoon hopping from one stage to the next and watched a lot of local bands shine.
The twangy Arlo McKinley and the Lonesome Sound played a languid, shady spot on the CMC stage while next door at aliveOne riot grrrl-esque group UME contrasted with a much louder sound.
Seedy Seeds played their Death Cab inspired songs and whipped out an accordion against a blinking lighting board.
Another local band, Bad Veins, brought the biggest crowd yet to the aliveOne stage early evening. Many fans helped themselves to a gyro from Kalamata’s Greek Grill tucked near the stage and took a seat to watch the duo sweat it out to their catchy pop songs. Some female groupies gathered in front of the stage and danced to songs “Gold and Warm” and “Falling Tide” from their self-titled debut and songs off their latest album “The Mess We’ve Made.”
It may seem like it was just local bands but Canadian group City and Colour introduced their folk-rock to an American audience. Lead singer Dallas Green told an anecdote about playing hockey on tour and how an American asked where he got his equipment from and he responded with from Walmart.
“You have Walmart in Canada?” the guy said which prompted an audience member to shout out, “America!” “Why are you so insecure?” Green joked.
Green and band played a song about his folks, “The Grand Optimist,” the love ballad “The Girl” and the “dancing shoes-inspired” “Fragile Bird” that was much more upbeat than its predecessors.
With only two records out, Utah band Neon Trees drew quite the crowd, but I honestly didn’t see the big deal about them. The lead singer Tyler Glenn was funny and commanded his audience to “shake their assets like they haven’t all weekend.” He yelled at them to put their hands up in the air and said, “We’re all part of the same club Cincinnati. If you’re too cool, go see some other boring band.”
He sang “Habits,” “1983” and “Your Surrender” from the first album and “Everybody Talks” from their newest one. They saved their smash hit “Animal” for last, and the crowd gave a spirited sing-a-long.
Now it was time for one of the best rock bands from the great state of Ohio: Guided By Voices. Frontman Robert Pollard took a swig of liquor and was ready to go. Guitarist Mitch Mitchell let a cigarette dangle from his mouth during the entire show and assisted with new music from this year’s albums “Let’s Go Eat the Factory” and “Class Clown Spots a UFO”.
In a brisk 45 minutes, they managed to squeak out 18 songs, mostly new material like “Laundry and Lasers,” “Chocolate Boy,” “We Won’t Apologize for the Human Race,” “Class Clown Spots a UFO,” “Keep It in Motion,” “Spiderfighter,” “No Transmission” and “Hang Over Child” from their forthcoming “Bears for Lunch” record. Fans in the pit fist-pumped the air, jumped up and down and showed non-stop enthusiasm for their cult band.
“It’s always good to come down and hang out with you,” Pollard said.
The new songs fit so well into their discography, they already sounded so classic as if they’ve been playing them for years. Speaking of classic tunes, Pollard performed “Game of Pricks” and “The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory” before ending on, “You’ve been a lovely crowd but our hips are hurting and we’re running out of alcohol.”
After they walked offstage, those loyal fans kept chanting “GBV” to no avail but Pollard already had a beer in hand and looked pooped. Besides, Death Cab for Cutie had already started their 90-minute set.
During the course of DCFC’s 18 songs they delved into a wide-range of material. Their first three songs, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” “Home Is a Fire” and the slow burner “I Will Possess Your Heart” were pretty standard for them but then came “Crooked Teeth” and “Summer Skin” from “Plans,” “Grapevine Fires,” “Cath…” and “Why Would You Want to Live Here” from “The Photo Album,” “Doors Unlocked and Open” from 2011’s “Codes and Keys,” “Lowell, MA” from one of their earliest records “We Have the Facts and Are Voting Yes” and “Amputations” going way back to their 1998 debut “Something About Airplanes.”
“Who really should be closing out this fest is Guided By Voices, Ohio’s own, and the greatest band ever. This is dedicated to them,” lead singer Ben Gibbard prefaced his song “Portable Television” as the sun set in the background.
DCFC played PNC Pavilion last fall but tonight’s set wasn’t just greatest hits, it was pretty much a completely different set of newish material and older nuggets, which served them quite well. By digging into their earlier works it made me want to go back and track how they’ve evolved over 14 years. The song “We Looked Like Giants,” from breakthrough record “Transatlanticism,” hints at an instrumental drum session near the end, so Gibbard joined drummer Jason McGerr on a full-throttle jam lasting several minutes before Gibbard returned to centerstage and ended the song plucking his guitar. DCFC came back for a two-song encore and closed out the fest with hit “Soul Meets Body”.
By the time they’d reached “Soul,” I’d already started walking across the bridge to Newport, Gibbard’s dulcet voice carrying me the entire way.
I stopped and reflected how the first-place Reds were simultaneously playing next door to one of the most popular rock bands in the world and how something as amazing as this might never happen again. Cincinnati’s fertile music scene has come a long way in the past few years and Bunbury was evident of what a bright future a festival will hopefully have along the waterfront.
Many people complained about the lack of diversity in the lineup over the weekend. Sure, it wasn’t as eclectic as Outside Lands Festival with Metallica, Stevie Wonder and Neil Young headlining and it remains to be seen if Bunbury was successful enough for another round, but it was such a well-organized and fun festival I don’t see why not.