Wonderbus 2019 Complete Coverage
August 25th, 2019
Ohio's newest festival, Wonderbus had its inaugural edition in Columbus, Ohio on the weekend of August 17th and 18th, bringing the busy summer fetival season closer to its end. Internationally-known acts such as Walk the Moon, X Ambassadors, and Ben Harper took the stage over the two-day event. Temps hovered in the mid-nineties both days, but that didn't stop the festival grounds from being completely packed, although attendance on Saturday was higher.
It was somewhat surprising how different both days of the festival were from each other. Saturday was filled with many popular as well as up-and-coming alternative music acts such as Walk the Moon, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, and The Revivalists. Sunday saw more jam-band type of acts like Ben Harper and Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue.
Saturday kicked off with Cousin Simple taking the smallest of the three stages (Crook and Marker Stage) followed by Effee, the first act on the main stage (Music Elevates Stage). She had extremely powerful vocals and joked along with the audience, thanked them for being there in the sweltering heat so early in the day. Perennial LaureLive fave Magic Giant kicked off the second stage (River Stage) following Effee’s performance. They had one of the largest audiences out of all of the earlier bands throughout the entire weekend. Their set was extremely high energy and lead singer Austin Bisnow jumped into the crowd multiple times. They were one of my favorite discoveries of the weekend and I would highly recommend checking them out.
Morgxn then took the Music Elevates main stage. His voice was full of power and emotion and conveyed many positive messages about mental health and LGBTQ+ rights during his set. He brought out the lead singer of Walk the Moon, Nicholas Perticca, so that they could sing their hit song "Home," together.
Parachute took the River second stage next and had their crowd singing along the whole set. Going back to the main stage, Chelsea Cutler took turns with her set. I was familiar with a few of her songs prior to seeing her live; she played both guitar and the keys with a band behind her, totally owning the stage.
Back to the second River stage, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness performed. I have been a fan for quite some time so I was quite thrilled to see them, as was the rest of the crowd. McMahon had everyone in the crowd singing along with him as he was in total control of the crowd. He leaped off of his piano several times but not before stomping all over the keys. About seven songs into his set, the crew brought out a massive inflatable pool unicorn. Andrew then proceeded to crowd surf through the crowd while singing as his band continued to play on the stage behind them. They also performed several songs from the bands Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin, two of Andrew’s previous bands. They finished their set with their popular song, "Cecilia and the Satellite."
Bishop Briggs played next on the Music Elevates main stage. She was extremely energetic and bubbly on stage as she performed and used the whole stage as she ran from side-to-side and front-to-back to get the crowd's energy up, which she did so very successfully.
The last act of the night before the headliner was The Revivalists on the River Second stage. The eight-piece band put on quite the performance with their lead singer David Shaw jumping in the audience several times during the first few songs. With two drummers, a pedal steel guitar, and many other instruments, it was almost impossible for the crowd to not sing along to their performance. They were another one of my favorite discoveries from the weekend and I would highly recommend checking out the extremely talented Nawlins-based outfit.
Walk the Moon headlined on Saturday night. They had extremely dramatic lighting all throughout the show which, really, enhanced the mood. The band played their classics such as "Different Colors," "Kamikaze," the fan fave "Shut Up and Dance," and "Anna Sun." There were fans waiting on the barricade for Walk the Moon to perform since they lined up at the festival gates at 8 am (when gates didn't even open until 11:30 am!) and the band performed at 9:30 pm. It was well worth the wait for them as they sang along during their whole set.
Sunday’s festivities started off with a concept band called MNQN (pronounced Mannequin). The festival was their first ever live performance and they did a fantastic job, considering the power to the stage was completely cut in the middle of their first song. Once the electrical problems were sorted out, they put on a fantastic show for those who were there early. It's a new project from the lead singer of Columbus native rock band Starset. This project has a completely different vibe from Starset and it's incredible that one musician can be so versatile.
Another early-day crowd favorite was Ripe, with their “green headband gang” fanbase singing along to every word. Flora Cash then took the main stage. The duo, supported by a band, sang chill songs but still managed to keep the crowds energy up. Red Wanting Blue was up next on the River second stage as they sang classic sounding rock ballads.
After a technology delay, Weathers took the Crook and Marker third stage with force. Taking the twenty-minute delay into consideration, they made the absolute most of their set time. I recently became a fan of theirs and have seen them live once before, and as always they did not disappoint. Their lead singer, Cameron Boyer, ran around the stage swinging the microphone stand everywhere. His performance style reminds me a lot of Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys.
Mt. Joy then took the Music Elevates main stage singing their chill songs with the crowd melodically singing along. Ashe took the third stage next. She leaped around the stage wearing a bucket hat, red sunglasses, and no shoes. She was extremely energetic and another great discovery from the weekend. Jenny Lewis took the second stage next. The singer/songwriter was surrounded by pastel pink and blue props and instruments as well as her band all wearing white dress shirts and dress pants. Jenny herself looked like a turquoise disco ball wearing a sequined turquoise long-sleeve romper with plenty of feather accents and huge pink sunglasses. Her voice was extremely powerful and filled up the entirety of the festival grounds.
Castle Comer took the third stage next. They brought as much energy to the stage as they possibly could due to the size of it. I had recently become a fan of theirs after seeing them at LaurelLive in June and as usual they did not disappoint. They even did their own rendition of the pop hit “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X. They also had a “basketball” tournament during their set to see who would get the upgrade on their flight back home to Australia after their tour ends in a few weeks.
Up next on the main stage was crowd favorite, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. The jam-band group had many musicians on stage including brass and horn players, backup singers, two drummers, as well as guitarists and a bass player. They got the crowd moving and dancing along as they played their hour long set.
The last performer on the second stage for the festival was X Ambassadors. They played many of their well known songs such as "Unsteady," "Jungle," and "Renegades." Like with Walk the Moon the day before, there were fans waiting front row all day for the band. I really enjoyed watching them perform as their lead singer, Sam Harris, sounds identical to how he does on recordings.
The final performance of the festival was Ben Harper accompanied by his band. They jammed out on stage while comfortably playing their instruments sitting in chairs. Ben Harper’s voice, like always, was extremely powerful.
Aside from all of the performances at the festival, there were many activities supporting mental health including a giant children’s parachute which said “It Gets Better” on it. Another activity was ribbons hanging from trees where people could write positive notes and tie them to the ribbons to inspire those who read them.
Overall, the first year of the festival was a huge success and I look forward to attending and seeing how it evolves over the next several years.
Review and Photos by Alexa Jae Eyler