Columbus’ Thriving Music Scene
South Florida is well known for a lot of things, its riveting music scene is not one of them. I had fewer music venues within 20 miles of me than airports. Columbus, Ohio, was a breath of fresh air, a city that loves its local musicians as much as they love their city. Within Columbus, there so many spectacular venues that host international headliners to small local bands.
My wife and I moved up to Columbus in May of 2018 from South Florida. We never planned on making this our home. Honestly, we figured that we would spend the summer here before heading somewhere warm for the winter. When I tell people this, I am constantly asked the same question, “Why?” I never really know how to answer that question. I can’t tell you why we moved here, but I can tell you why we stayed.
There are bars that also have a stage. Places like Ace of Cups, Rumba Cafe’, The Big Room Bar, The Shrunken Head, and The Basement, where every show is intimate. There’s A&R Music Bar and Skully’s Music Diner, still smaller venues that have a bit more breathing/dancing room. Then you have Newport Music Hall, The Bluestone, Express Live, and Express Live Outdoors. All of which can host some of the biggest names in EDM, rock, and hip hop. For the biggest names in the world, there’s Nationwide Arena and The Schottenstein Center. This is just a small fraction of the places that have live music happening throughout the week in this city. All of them are within 15 miles of each other; Columbus is a music lover’s paradise.
If this weren’t enough, there are also a handful of killer music festivals that happen in Columbus and the surrounding area. There’s the multiple decade-old Com Fest, a massive, free, non-corporate music and arts festival that takes place every June in Goodale Park. This year, Mapfre Stadium is hosting Sonic Temple, a three-day celebration of all things that make rock and roll and heavy metal great.
Within an hour drive of the city, you have Lost Lands, a prehistoric journey through heavy bass and insane laser shows. There’s Smoky Run Music Festival, a jam and indie rock camping fest held next to a lake. Bellwether Festival is a two-day camping fest held in a Renaissance village. If you feel like driving 2-3 hours, there’s Bunbury, Forecastle, and Bourbon & Beyond; some of the most well respected and established city festivals in the country.
Local Columbus Music
The music scene in Columbus is so alive. Any night of the week you can head to one of the dozen venues within city limits and see an electrifying local band burn the stage to the ground. Since I moved here, I have been to around 40 shows, and my ears and soul are still craving more. Columbus is alive and shines brighter than ever when the stage lights are on and the amps are plugged in.
Some amazing musicians and band got their start playing on the small stages in Columbus; now they are internationally known. Attack Attack!, Beartooth, Twenty One Pilots, OAR, The Rascal Flatts, and Joe Walsh are all from Columbus. I wonder if the fans at those shows could have imagined the fame that laid ahead of these groups when they saw them playing to crowds of 30 people.
Over the past nine months, I have seen some frisson-inducing local bands, but there are three that have stood out more than others, bands that I instantly added to my library and have been in constant circulation ever since.
Year of the Buffalo
Ok, they’re not technically from Columbus, but they’re within a 30-minute drive, so it counts. Year of the Buffalo sets out to make you feel feelings that you didn’t even know you had. Their live show is an intimate journey of the heart and a meditation of the soul. Lead singer/guitarist Jake Trego‘s voice is like nothing I have heard or experienced before. It wanders around the room before introducing itself to you with the grandeur and poise of an old oil tycoon. Delicate acoustic guitar drizzled with smooth bass creates an atmosphere like no other. I have never seen a crowd become as quiet and in tune with a band more than when I saw Year of the Buffalo.
You’ll like Year of the Buffalo if you like – Chris Stapleton, Johnny Cash, Neil Young
My Favorite Songs “Whiskey and Fire”, “Winter Skies”, “1949”
The first time I saw Cousin Simple take the stage I was not ready for the absolute explosion of ferocity that was about to occur. These five college kids brought more energy to the stage than almost any other act I have ever seen. They look like any other group of students you might find wandering around the Short North, but don’t be fooled; they are destined for greatness. I left their set floored with urgency to tell everyone I knew about what I just witnessed.
You’ll like Cousin Simple if you like – Cage the Elephant, MayDay Parade, Catfish and the Bottlemen
My Favorite Songs “Nothing Sweeter”, “Honeybee”, and “Strangers”
Girl Fox manages to transcend a variety of different genres to create something all their own: an eclectic mix of indie rock, experimental psych, and grunge. Frontman Ryder Delavern is a lyrical madman and genius. Reminiscent of a young Lou Reed, riddled with the voices of his inner demons, every Girl Fox song is an intimate window into the mind of one of Columbus’ most talented musicians.
You’ll like Girl Fox if you like – Car Seat Headrest, The Velvet Underground, The Black Lips
My Favorite Songs – “Forever & Flawed by Design”, “Zoned Out”, and “Laura”
Why Didn’t You Go to a Show This Week?
Don’t make excuses; as busy as most of us are, you should always make time to go see a live show. Don’t research the bands, don’t make plans; just go. Wander into one of the many venues in Columbus and see some live local music. There is nothing purer than a local band playing live in their hometown. There may not be a better place to experience local music than Columbus, Ohio.
Are you a Local Columbus Band?
If so, I want to come to see you play! I want to hear your music, feel your energy, and experience what you offer. Send us a message on Facebook, or send me an email: John.Ferreira@MusicFestNews.com. I want to become your fan so I can share your music with our fans. Hope to hear you soon!