Bunbury Music Festival. Photo: Cincy Shirts

The unofficial start to summer has just passed. While Spring went M.I.A. this year, the warm weather here in the “Queen City” means lots of opportunities to listen to some of the best local and national music in the great outdoors.

And updating you fine gentlemen on the latest and greatest outdoor festivals and concert series in the area is always one of the columns I look the most forward to every year.

Without further ado…

Bunbury Music Festival (June 1-3)

The little festival that could from the mind of Bill Donabedian has rapidly grown into the big boy on the block here in Cincinnati. Entering it’s sixth incarnation this year, the festival has gone through many changes from that inaugural event where the ATM’s weren’t always working, there wasn’t enough water, only one admission gate created a bottleneck that took some people hours to enter to see their favorite acts, but the music was OUTSTANDING!

Jane’s Addiction. I need not say more.

In 2014, PromoWest Productions out of Columbus purchased the festival from Donabedian. While the crowd experience got a lot better, the lineups changed as well. And not always for the better in my opinion.

Whereas Donabedian’s original idea was to attempt to keep things as alternative as possible (and yes Jane’s Addiction still fit that description), PromoWest tends to skew the lineup as more of a mix, both in terms of the size and popularity of acts, as well as the styles of music.

This year’s lineup is no different in that sense. (Full lineup can be found here)

If you attend, you’ll get everything from the well-known and solidly rock band Incubus, to well-known alternative rock like Foster the People and Young the Giant, to popular hip-hop artist Post Malone. You’ll also be able to find up-and-coming acts spanning genres like Lecrae, McLovins, and Lillie Mae.

And then there’s the incomparable Jack White.

What you probably won’t find a lot of is local Cincinnati acts. This has been a continual complaint since PromoWest took over.

Bellwether Music Festival (August 10-11)

Donabedian is back!

After selling Bunbury, he stayed on with the new company for a while. But eventually decided to strike back out on his own. Bellwether is his newest creation.

Happening for the first time on the grounds where the Ohio Renaissance Fair takes place – Renaissance Park in Waynesville, Ohio. Bellwether strips things back and is attempting to go for a vibe that is something akin to ‘Alternative Woodstock’.

Gates open both days at noon with most of the music occurring in the day hours. Once the music ends at 11pm – which is early by music festival standards – the place turns into a massive campground. So if you’re a true outdoors person, this new festival will be to your delight.

Regarding the music, Donabedian seems to have gone back to his familiar alternative roots; both new and old school. Headliners include some original alternative bands from back-in-the-day in The Flaming Lips, The Psychedelic Furs and Echo and the Bunnymen (if you remember the 80’s you can’t miss these guys, right?), as well as some alternative acts that haven’t been around as long in MGMT and Local Natives.

Remember that complaint about the local flavor missing from Bunbury once it was sold? Mr. Donabedian has you covered there too. Local favs Dawg Yawp are on the bill. Full lineup here.

Forecastle (July 13-15)

Let’s say that beer and alternative rock isn’t your jam. Fair enough. I can get behind that. Now let’s say that bourbon, blues and some alternative country IS your jam? Then getting yourself down the road to Louisville for Forecastle should be on your to-do list this summer.

The bourbon lodge is an experience unto itself and truly can’t be described. The closest I could come is that I don’t remember much of the surroundings last year because I was too busy drinking rare bourbon. And isn’t that the best testament of bourbon lodge, really?

But I digress…

When I wasn’t in the lodge, I was sipping in some tasty tunes. Last year was headlined by Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and Sturgill Simpson among alternative favorites LCD Soundsystem. Again this year, as promised, they are mixing in the blues and alternative country with Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and Courtney Barnett balancing out alternative rock bands Arcade Fire and Modest Mouse.

Full line here.

Red, White and Blue Ash (July 4)

Not all of you gentlemen are into a full weekend festival. I get it. But there are other options – besides the one-off concerts at Riverbend-for outdoor music listening.

One of the longer July 4 traditions is Red, White, and Blue Ash. For one night only the city of Blue Ash and Rozzi’s fireworks turn Summit Park into a light show the likes of which you won’t forget.

While the fireworks are for everyone, the music that helps start the party way before the fireworks start is especially geared for certain demographics. If you love vinyl record collecting (I do!) and/or you love classic rock (guilty as charged), then this night is right up your alley.

After a one-year cancellation due primarily to construction not finished in the park, the celebration kicks back into gear this year with one of the original rockin’ chicas, Pat Benatar, along with former Bad English frontman, John Waite.

Great American Ballpark Concert Series (June 16, July 28, August 4)

Back for a second year is a unique experience: buy a ticket to the Reds game and get the game AND a concert!

If you think that the acts in this series are a bunch of local cover bands, you would be wrong. Very wrong.

The series is limited however. There are only three acts performing this summer; once per month during the primary part of the baseball season. But they are well-worth your time.

June 16: Luke Bryan with Sam Hunt
July 28: Walk the Moon
August 4: Zac Brown Band with Leon Bridges
August 11: Jake Owen

Obviously if your musical tastes aren’t into large radio play bands, and especially if you don’t like baseball, then this isn’t your thing. But a game and a concert for a reasonable price ain’t all that bad a deal, gentlemen.

Bonnaroo Music Festival (June 7-10)

Finally, we have Bonnaroo. It truly is in a class of it’s own. Four-days of complete musical exhaustion is what you’ll get with Bonnaroo.

Every conceivable musical genre, in every size, will be represented at some point in the four-days. Music usually starts around 2pm each day and doesn’t end until dawn the following day. No gentlemen, that is not an exaggeration. The last DJ set ends on Friday’s schedule at 7am SATURDAY morning.

Obviously, you camp out if you want to attempt to take it all in. Then again, if you want to take it ALL in you just don’t sleep, period.

I would give you a taste of some of the acts represented this year but it’s too large to even begin. And frankly, I’m stumped as to where to start. And it’s rare that I get stumped.

Just click here and choose what you like.

So get outdoors this wonderful summer season and listen some great tunes. And be thankful that we live in city that has such an amazing and supported music community.

Until next time, gentlemen.