Review by Bill Whiting
Photos by Bernice Whiting
The third and final day at the Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio was climactic and exhilarating. Storms entered into the area, and set times were adjusted until the festival could get back on track. Festival organizers were very professional in handling all aspects of operations throughout the weekend. They kept things sharp, tight, clean and running smoothly. The hot weather returned, but there was plenty of cooling tents and watering stations, along with enough bathrooms for an army. Cincinnati’s Pomegranates enlivened a side stage with an energetic set that tapped into their recordings Heaven and One of Us. Joey Cook and Isaac Kams fronted the collective on vocals and lead guitar, and Jacob Merritt on drums with Curt Kiser on bass provided rhythmic chemistry to hold everything together. Incredibly progressive, and providing some of the loudest and most powerful bludgeoning riffs was UME from Austin, Texas. Playing compositions from their 2009 EP Sunshower and disc Phantoms, UME raised the bar with a caucophonous hootenany that delivered the punk metal goods in a crushing, defining fashion.
Cincinnati’s The Tillers have become consistently dependable at festivals around the tri state region and beyond. Their acoustic folk and bluegrass has increasingly gained an inspired following, allowing them to leave the conventions of the genre, and take bold chances with their harmonies and jazzy, jamming explorations. Mike Oberst, Sean Geil and Aaron Geil have gradually grown into an unexpected treasure, and those that sought the trio out on the side stage at Bunbury were treated to a uniquely moving experience. Philadelphia, PA’s Good Old War also provided many sunny and upbeat moments at Bunbury on Sunday. Their self titled 2010 recording, and 2012’s Come Back As Rain CD had a basketful of melodies the denizens on the Serpentine Wall could harmonize along to. Keith Goodwin and Dan Schwartz complimented each other’s lead singing and guitar soloing, while drummer Tim Arnold held steady on the backbeat percussion. Arnold also impressed with his Harry Belafonte impression during Good Old War’s cover of “Day-O(The Banana Boat Song).” The following act on the Serpentine Wall was one of the most anticipated, and Dayton, Ohio’s legendary Guided By Voices lived up to their immense reputation as a stellar live act. They featured razor splitting cuts from 2012’s Let’s Go Eat the Factory LP througout most of their set, and “We Won’t Apologize For the Human Race,” “Chocolate Boy,” “Doughnut For a Snowman,” Spiderfighter,” and “The Unsinkable Fats Domino” made for a pleasurable, rough and tumble, streetwise urban pop/punk rock sequence of songs. Lead singer Robert Pollard kept everyone’s attention focused on the riveting masterworks “The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory,” and “Game of Pricks,” while he casually swigged simutaneously on a bottle of alcohol and a beer.
Bellingham, Washington’s Death Cab For Cutie was an appropriate choice to close out the 2012 Bunbury Music Festival. Their solid live concerts have become a welcomed reason to celebrate in the area. And, the venerable alternative rock tribe has produced some of the brightest, most inventive slabs of vinyl during the last two decades. Starting with an acoustic foray seemed ironic, and Death Cab For Cutie’s lush harmonizing on “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” reached the back of the main stage’s sprawling lawn. 2011’s recorded gem, Codes and Keys, provided ample fuel to power the Death Cab engine as Ben Gibbard’s iconic vocals wrapped around a driving spin on “Home Is a Fire.” The festival patrons slowly filed into the final staging area, filling it to capacity as the band tore into “Crooked Teeth.” Death Cab’s rhythm section of Nick Hamer on bass and Jason McGerr on drums painted around the edges of the hypnotic, improvisational barn burner, “Doors Unlocked and Open.” It was an unforgettable moment at a festival that breeded with ease one brilliant snapshot in time after another. Death Cab For Cutie’s stew of tight melodies and mixed, expanding instrumentation found a home on the Codes and Keys classic, “You Are a Tourist,” and the pounding, anthemic “The New Year” from the popular 2003 LP, Transatanticism. As Death Cab For Cutie walked off the stage following the riveting encore of “Soul Meets Body,” it was apparent that Cincinnati had gained a world class outdoor music festival for the ages.
Death Cab For Cutie 2012 Bunbury Music Festival Setlist: I Will Follow You Into the Dark-Home Is a Fire-I Will Possess Your Heart-Crooked Teeth-Why You’d Want To Live Here-Doors Unlocked and Open-Grapevine Fires-Summer Skin-Lightness-Portable Television-You Are a Tourist-Lowell,MA-Amputations-Cath-We Looked Like Giants-The New Year Encore: Blacking Out the Friction/St. Peter’s Cathedral-Soul Meets Body