Section: Arts

Bass, banjo, bluegrass and the pastoral unite at Ohiolina

Bass, banjo, bluegrass and the pastoral unite at Ohiolina

Cora Markowitz, Collegian

By Anna Dunlavey

During his set at the Ohiolina Music Festival, veteran performer Eric Sommer remarked  to the crowd piled on haybales and blankets on the grassy slope in front of the stage, that he has not seen many live music venues stick around for long. Ohiolina, however, may have staying power.

The festival, which celebrates the folk musical traditions of Ohio and North Carolina, came back for its second year on Aug. 30. With new additions such as local food trucks, baby goats and a side stage that allowed more bands to perform, it came back even bigger than the first time. 

One of the founders of the event, Chris Koenig, said the idea for the festival stemmed from a simple love of music. “My wife and I met in North Carolina, and are both from Ohio,” he said. “We love this type of music, [we] met some people who had a great farm and we’ve just taken it from there.”

Ohiolina took place on a family farm not far from Mount Vernon and the Kenyon campus. A total of 419 people bought tickets to the event — a huge increase from last year. 

Eleven different artists performed, all representing the Ohio and North Carolina area. The first act, Rabbit Hash String Band, began at noon, and the last, the Spikedrivers, ended close to midnight. Larger bands took to the main stage, where band members could spread out with their array of guitars, banjos, mandolins, upright basses and varying forms of percussion. Solo acts and smaller bands performed on the side stage between main-stage acts.  

Some of the acts were relatively new. Two bands, the Mighty Troubadours and Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle, had only been together in their current formats for about 10 months. Koenig noticed both bands in Columbus. He spotted he Mighty Troubadours at a weekly bluegrass jam they frequent, and reached out to Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle after attending one of their gigs. 

Other bands had been together for much longer. The Hackensaw Boys, who have been playing together for 19 years, didn’t know anything about Ohiolina until Koenig reached out to them. “They found us, which is great, because we’ve had a good time,” Hackensaw Boys guitarist David Sickmen said.

Koenig also reached out to bands who had performed at Ohiolina last year, like Buckles and Boots, the husband-wife duo of Jessi and Brian Maxwell, and Noah Shull, who brought his friends Barry Chern and Tom DeLombarde to perform with him. 

Koenig found the bands by searching online, attending other bluegrass festivals and through word of mouth. “I feel like the bluegrass, string band, fingerstyle guitar movement is kind of a niche category, and it’s easier to find people [to play],” he said. 

Shull agreed. “The folk music scene is pretty close — knit, and the circles intertwine here and there; they intersect,” he said.

The performers fell in love with the festival’s pastoral setting just as Koenig had. “It just feels so intimate,” said James Wooster, who played with the Mighty Troubadours earlier in the show and the Ginger Lees that night. “It feels like people are pretty attentive to what’s going on.” 

“We didn’t know what to expect when we got down here, but it was just like an old hoedown,” Ian Mathieu of Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle said. His bandmate Casey Campbell agreed, saying people were “really receptive.”

Ohiolina was hardly the  last stop for anyone. Both the Mighty Troubadours and Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle plan to record their first full-length albums by the end of the year. The Hackensaw Boys are starting a European tour that will take them through the rest of 2014. Buckles and Boots just moved from Columbus to Memphis, Tenn. Shull and Chern had to leave early to perform a gig in Columbus that same night. Sommer summed up what each performer was striving to do: “Play music and be good at it.”



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