By GUY D’ASTOLFO
When it comes to major rock and country music festivals, Ohio is still a player.
Once again, there will be at least 10 multi-day gatherings in the state this summer, mixing top bands with good vibes and warm weather.
Though there are no truly major festivals in Northeast Ohio, or western Pennsylvania for that matter, there are many within driving distance of Youngstown.
Closest to home is The Ville (May 21-24) at Clay’s Park Resort, near Canton. Nestled in a resort atmosphere, it’s a smaller, jam-band event, but it has big aspirations.
The lineup includes Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Papadosio, Lettuce, EOTO, ekoostik hookah, Carbon Leaf and Youngstown’s Jones for Revival, plus several more.
The Ville has taken place twice every summer since 1994 at locations around the state (most recently at Legend Valley), but moved to Clay’s Park in 2013. Michael Hermann of Crazy Legs Productions, the festival promoter, said The Ville is now in the third year of a five-year contract at Clay’s Park, and plans to stay there.
“The reason we moved was to turn the festival into a more family-friendly event,” said Hermann. “Clay’s Park fits that bill.”
The site has a water park and swimming holes, water slides, kayaks, canoes, miniature golf, white-sand volleyball courts, basketball and other family activities. It also has RV campsites and shaded camping areas.
As a concert venue, Clay’s Park offers a huge stage and a scenic “bowl” area for fans. “We have the room to grow this event exponentially,” said Hermann. “We see this year as a great launching pad for that growth.”
Hermann also pointed out that Clay’s is close to Interstate 80 and an easy drive from Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Detroit.
The most impressive rock fest in the state might be Cincinnati’s Bunbury Music Festival, which is returning for its fourth year.
Columbus-based Promowest bought the festival during the off-season and has put together a lineup that rivals the best in the country.
The 2015 version of Bunbury represents Promowest’s first foray into the festival business. For its rookie attempt, the company hit a home run, securing the Black Keys, the Avett Brothers, Snoop Dogg, Decemberists, Walk the Moon, Matt and Kim, Twenty-One Pilots, Brand New and Kacey Musgraves, plus dozens more.
Promowest booked a range of genres, giving Bunbury star power and a sampling of up-and-comers.
“We try to offer a diverse range of artists, bands and entertainment in all of our venues, and really wanted to put that touch on Bunbury as well when we purchased it,” said Marissa Luther, marketing director of Promowest,. The company’s venues include Stage AE in Pittsburgh.
Bunbury has always leaned toward rock and indie-rock. The 2015 edition also caters to that base, while mixing in alternatives, such as pop-country singer Musgraves and hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg.
“We think that music can cross over multiple genres while still staying true to their core audience,” said Luther.
Bunbury takes place at the riverfront park in downtown Cincinnati, a long strip of grassy land along the Ohio River. It will feature two main stages and two smaller stages.
The festival had taken place in mid-July its first three years but is moving to early June this year so as not to compete with the Major League Baseball All-Star game, which is July 14 at adjacent Great American Ballpark.
“The All-Star game was the main factor in changing the dates,” said Luther. “There were also routing issues that we had to take into account, and the heat. Everyone had said how hot it gets on the river in July, so hopefully it’s a bit more comfortable in June.”
Here is a look at music festivals within a day’s drive from Youngstown this summer:
Rock on the Range, May 15-17, Mapfre Stadium, Columbus, sold out, rockontherange.com; Anthrax, Godsmack, Judas Priest, Linkin Park, Marilyn Manson, Papa Roach, Slipknot.
The Ville, May 21-24, Clay’s Park, North Lawrence, thevillefehstival.com; Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Papadosio, Lettuce, Carbon Leaf, EOTO, ekoostik hookah.
Dark Star Jubilee, May 22-24, Legend Valley, Thornville, Ohio, darkstarjubilee.com; Dark Star Orchestra, Keller Williams, Los Lobos, Steep Canyon Rangers, Railroad Earth, Robert Randolph and the Family Band.
Nelsonville Music Festival, May 28-31, Hocking College, Nelsonville, Ohio, nelsonvillefest.org; Merle Haggard, Flaming Lips, St. Vincent, Built to Spill, Brandi Carlile, Trampled by Turtles.
Bunbury Music Festival, June 5-7, Cincinnati, Bunburyfestival.com; Black Keys, Avett Brothers, Snoop Dogg, Decemberists, Matt and Kim, Old Crow Medicine Show, Walk the Moon.
All Good Music Festival, July 9-11, Summit Point,W.Va., allgoodfestival.com; Cake, Dark Star Orchestra, Keller Williams, moe., Primus, STS9, Lotus, Lettuce, Yonder Mountain String Band.
Camp Bisco, July 16-18, Scranton, Pa.,campbisco.com; Big Gigantic, STS9, Disco Biscuits.
Forecastle, July 17-19, Louisville, Ky., forecastlefest.com; Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Sam Smith, Widespread Panic, Cage the Elephant.
The Peach Music Festival, Aug. 13-16, Scranton, Pa., thepeachmusicfestival.com; Dark Star Orchestra, Papadosio, Rusted Root, Willie Nelson, Old Crow Medicine Show, Bob Weir, Greg Allman, G. Love and Special Sauce, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers.
Fashion Meets Music Festival, Sept. 5-6, Arena District, Columbus, fmmf.com; O.A.R., Taking Back Sunday, Young the Giant, ZZ Ward, Northern Whale.
Buckeye Country Superfest, June 20-21, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, schottensteincenter.com; Lee Brice, Clole Swindell, David Nail, Tyler Farr, Cassadee Pope, Parmalee.
Country Concert, July 9-11, Fort Loramie, countryconcert.com; Carrie Underwood, Florida Georgia Line, Jake Owen, The Band Perry, Chris Young, Justin Moore, Frankie Ballard.
Jamboree in the Hills, July 16-19, Belmont, Ohio, jamboreeinthehills.com; Toby Keith, Dierks Bentley, Neal McCoy, Florida Georgia Line, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Justin Moore, Sara Evans.
Country Jam, Sept. 4-5, Legen Valley, Thornville, Ohio, legendvalleyfestivals.com; Eric Church, Joe Nichols, Thomas Rhett, Big & Rich, Aaron Lewis, Love and Theft, Mark Chesnutt.
Note: The Buckle Up Festival in Cincinnati is on hiatus this year and will return in the summer of 2016.