This year's MusicNOW festival featured several returning acts, including one notable late addition: Folk singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, better known as Bon Iver.
"It's exactly the kind of thing I want to do at MusicNOW," the National guitarist Bryce Dessner said. "I think hearing this in Memorial Hall is going to be pretty historic."
Keeping MusicNOW small, and in Cincinnati, has worked in the festival's favor, said Dessner, a 1994 graduate of Cincinnati Country Day School. Musicians who are used to playing for audiences of thousands around the world, like MusicNOW regular Richard Reed Parry of Grammy Award-winning band Arcade Fire, get the chance to experiment here, away from the media circuses in cities such as New York and London.
"They can really make it about the kind of human exchange with the audience and with the other artists," Dessner said. "That's quite a refreshing experience for people. I get a lot of artists coming back and asking to come back. Very often, we can't pay people what they're worth, but they still come."