The best way to fall in love with a band is to see it live.
There's something to be said for that perfectly crafted song that catches the ear on the radio, online or even in a commercial, but nothing matches the connection possible when hearing an artist perform those songs live.
The problem is, most of us aren't going to spend the money and the time to see an act we don't care about already.
That's the great thing about music festivals. We go to see an act or multiple acts we already like and then have the chance to sample everything else that's there. Oftentimes, I'll come home raving about a band I'd never heard before instead of the act that made me get tickets in the first place.
I spent last Friday and Saturday in Cincinnati at the Bunbury Music Festival, a three-day festival featuring music on six stages in a park area that runs along the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati. It's a bucolic setting (albeit one without a lot of shade) with the major city conveniences that make getting in and out relatively easy.
I don't know that I fell in love, but my daughter and I certainly left infatuated with some of the bands we saw.
For the first day, we had three bands we wanted to see - Red Wanting Blue, Walk the Moon and fun. - more or less in that order.
RWB was great as always and probably won some new converts with its 45-minute set. But I've seen the band at least 10 times in the last 2 1/2 years, and 45 minutes is less than half of what I'm used to getting, so it was hard for the set to match up with shows at Cedars in Youngstown or Musica in Akron or Mr. Smalls outside Pittsburgh.
But to make sure we had a good spot for RWB, we were right up front for The Dunwells, who played on the same stage. Except for the song "I Could Be a King," which I have on Summit music sampler that I got after pledging money to the public radio station, I'd never heard them before and was expecting something similar to Mumford & Sons from the boys from Leeds, England.
Instead, "King" was the only song with a banjo, and the band's set was distinguished by the pristine harmonies of brothers Joseph and David Dunwell on anthemic songs that hinted at U2 without trying to ape its sound.
Walk the Moon's "Anna Sun" is one of my favorite songs of the last year, but on the five-hour drive to Cincy, I realized I hadn't listened to the rest of its self-titled debut that much. Maybe it was playing on the main stage for a huge hometown crowd (many of whom were wearing bright "war paint" like the band members), but Walk the Moon was the best band we saw all weekend.
Frontman Nicholas Petricca switched between a rack of keyboards and pounding a tom drum in a manic performance. I picked up some Talking Heads' influence while listening to the album on the drive down, and a cover of "This Must Be the Place" was an appropriate lead-in to the band's most Heads-ish original, "I Can Lift a Car."
Walk the Moon is playing House of Blues on Sept. 9. I wouldn't miss them.
Those who have tickets for fun.'s sold out show tonight at Stage AE in Pittsburgh are in for a good time too (and make sure to leave early to catch opener Tegan & Sara, which also played Bunbury). Being the Friday headliner, fun. had the advantage of its full stage set up, and the group definitely brought a strong visual component to its theatrical pop/rock. That said, I probably wouldn't go see them again. It was ... fun. Once was enough.
Cake, led by droll singer (and Louis CK doppleganger) John McCrea, was the main lure on Saturday's lineup and didn't disappoint. But the day's big surprise was The Mowglis, an 8-piece California band with a communal vibe that is infectious. Its whole set, not just the wonderful single "San Francisco," was a treat. Frankly, I enjoyed the songs live much more than I did listening to the CD we bought at the show on the drive home.
Then again, heading up I-71 late Saturday night after about 18 hours of music over two days, maybe I was just tired.