Nearly lost in the stack of CDs that recently flooded the PCB offices, was a visit to Columbus, Ohio and the Fashion Meets Music Festival this past Labor Day Weekend. Many Midwestern towns are holding festivals these days, but leave it to Columbus to put a slightly different spin on the concept.
At once cosmopolitan and slightly provincial, Columbus has for years tried to move out of the shadow of fellow Ohio metropolises Cleveland and Cincinnati. In many ways, it’s surpassed those cities and developed its own distinct personality. The FMMF is just another indication of this development.
The festival took up residence along Nationwide Boulevard in front of the sports arena that also bears the name of the insurance giant. It then took a left turn into Arch Park, so the entire grounds formed an ‘L” shape. As the name implies, the festival features both music you would find at such an event in other parts of the country, along with fashion. Yes, smack in the middle of the festival is the Fashion Tent where designers and apparel makers displayed their wares to some pretty sizeable crowds.
The music side featured over three dozen acts performing on the main stage and two smaller stages. The separation between the stages was fine, but the smaller stages, at times, couldn’t quite handle the crowds. For example (I say) Luda (you say) cris, worked the crowd into a proper frenzy as fans completely packed that section of Nationwide Boulevard. It was Luda Day Weekend according to the rapper, and he received quite a welcome for a guy that hasn’t charted in ages. He’s still got it though as evidenced by the enthusiastic response.
Saturday’s attendance got a boost from fans of O.A.R., the Maryland-based jam band who travel well, and are perfectly suited for the festival circuit, as are their fans. However, it wasn’t all hipsters and earthy types, as Rachel Platten, a recent visitor to the top the U.S. pop singles chart (“Fight Song”), played one of the smaller stages. Unfortunately, it was smack in the middle of O.A.R. though she still drew a good sized audience. Young the Giant closed the first night in rollicking fashion, proving to be a more than worthy headliner.
Sunday afternoon was brightened by LIGHTS, the Canadian synth-pop chanteuse. Known for her ability to, as she says, “tickle a gnarly synth,” she played quite a bit of guitar to a sizable mid-day crowd. She was preceded by Albany’s very fine Northern Faces, who at first were playing for about a dozen folks, but succeeded in drawing in festival goers one great song at a time, until they finished with a decent-sized audience.
Of course, there is a downside to festivals. Sometimes you have to make choices. The following day, AWOL Nation overlapped with Taking Back Sunday and later St. Vincent. Folks seemed to run back and forth between TBS and AWOL (both tore it up), and as soon as AWOL finished most of that crowd bolted toward the main stage to catch St. Vincent.
Talk about the prefect closer for the Fashion Meets Music Festival, her Devo-meets-Laurie-Anderson style and dynamic stage show was flawless. It’s hard to imagine a better closing night headliner. Fortunately, the AWOL fans got back in time to see most of her set, though they sadly missed some great opening numbers.
The only problem with this festival in particular is one that can’t easily be remedied. Columbus, you see, doesn’t have a huge outdoor space like Cincinnati, or Louisville with their expansive riverfronts. Having half the festival on a city street took a way a bit form the outdoorsy festival feel. Of course, being in the heart of the city offers some advantages. Lots of great restaurants are literally steps away, and the hotels where most of the out-of-town attendees stayed were also just a short walk from the festival. Very handy.
As St. Vincent’s crew set-up for the final performance, messages flashed on the video screen reminding fans that the date for FMMF 2016 were already set for next Labor Day weekend, and many of those present likely were marking their calendars.
9 Stars Out of 10
PF Wilson has been writing about music, TV, radio, and movies for over 20 years. He has also written about sports, business, and politics with his work appearing in Cincinnati CityBeat, The Houston Press, Cleveland Scene, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine, Atomic Ranch, and many more. Check out his podcast PF’s Tape Recorder available from Podbean or in iTunes.