I guess this would fall under concert reviews since this is a festival I attended for the music. But Comfest is unique is several ways. What follows is more of a reflection than a review of the couple of hours I had to swing by this year.
Comfest is one of Columbus, Ohio’s many highlights of the summer festival season. The festival has existed since the 1970s and hasn’t changed too much since then, so that ought to give you a good idea of what it’s like. While the free music and arts festival is open to all, and families with small children can frequently be seen wandering the grounds, it should be noted that the mindset of the festival is definitely progressive – the alcohol flows freely, body-painted boobs hang out (pun-intended), and the occasional marijuana haze will be encountered, so parents should use discretion when deciding to take their small children there. Now that this disclaimer of sorts is out of the way, on to the music!
Comfest is home to roughly a half-dozen stages spread out over the grounds of Goodale Park, sandwiched between downtown Columbus’ Arena District and the charming Victorian Village neighborhood. Entering the festival, I passed by the Off-Ramp Stage, which typically features the edgier bands in Columbus. At this point in time Churches Burn was playing but I preferred to get my bearings and do some people watching first. I eventually found myself at the Gazebo Stage, where jam bands hangout and there is dancing aplenty. Reggae band All-Star Jammerz was working the crowd extremely well, and they had several dedicated fans interspersed throughout the audience. I’m not too familiar with the Reggae genre but I found the dreadlock-flinging troupe to be enjoyable to watch. The sound mix was superb for a temporary set-up, too. My favorite part of this set was their cover of The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” – probably the most unlikely candidate for a reggae jam band to pull off, but I must say they did it well.
I also spent a bit of time watching the headliners at the main stage, known to festival goers as the Bozo Stage. EOP, also known as the Evan Oberla Project delivered with a fusion of hip hop, soul, and funk. Evan Oberla is someone you’ve probably heard even if you don’t live in Columbus – his main gig is being the trombone player for O.A.R., the Columbus band known for national hits like “Hey Girl” and “Love and Memories.” The small portion of the performance I saw showed the ensemble’s ability to deliver. The audience was pulsing (although the Mary Jane haze might have had something to do with it too) and the performance was tight, precise, and musically spot-on.
The day was a memorable one. Some other bands I heard in passing that are worth mentioning here include Apocalypse and Jahman Brahman for much the same reasons I’ve mentioned the other bands were worth seeing. Til next year, people!