words DOUG GEYER | photography MATT STEFFEN

In Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest , Algernon uses his imaginary friend Bunbury to escape boring commitments. If you find yourself bored at the Bunbury Music Festival, you may want to scale back on your stimulation.

Perpetually buzzing as beats and vocals reverberate, the annual music festival, now in its eighth year, offers hungry music fans an eclectic menu on which to feast. Framed by the Purple People and Big Mac bridges, Cincinnati’s skyline and the Ohio River, the venue becomes a village unto itself for three, ebullient days. Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove swell with food trucks and craft beers as vendors add clothing, jewelry, and art to the musical mix.

Jack White, Imagine Dragons, Wiz Khalifa, Incubus, The Chainsmokers, and Paramore are past visitors who have strutted, strummed, raged, and bounced across their trio of stages. The 2019 lineup was no less ambitious and diverse. Fall Out Boy, Greta Van Fleet, and The 1975 headlined each night on the Monster Energy Stage with their own legion of followers singing and dancing from their grassy vantage. With over fifty performers, there was something for nearly every musical inclination. Seasoned acts like Stone Temple Pilots drew equally seasoned fans while freshman like Jeremy Zucker embraced the opportunity to build on his base. Girl Talk, AWOLNATION, Run the Jewels, and Streetlight Manifesto, highlighted Bunbury’s range and broad appeal.

Throughout the weekend, festival-goers of all stripes flowed back and forth between the staggered shows. Most were on a mission while others were content to simply float with the current. Festival partner, Sleepy Bee Cafe, dusted Bunbarians with “bee pollen” to advocate for their favorite pollinators and Pantene stylists glittered beards and braids. As barges churned and bands played, Eli’s Barbeque and Braxton brews were consumed. I ventured outside of my own typical diet to try Hot Bamboo’s Spam Musubi (Spam and rice wrapped with seaweed). Tattoos of every size and complexity were on full display as arms waived and hips swayed. More than a few babies dozed in their strollers with dreams colored by a live soundtrack.

As the weekend wrapped, the weather seemed eager to collaborate with twilight welcoming a crisp night and The 1975. As the foursome from Manchester poured themselves out beneath the stage lights and a canopy of stars, fans were celebrating the moment and longing for the next. With this summer’s experience bearing witness, 2020’s Bunbury will be worth the wait.