The music scene in Dayton has always been packed with great talent. From the new-age bluegrass and folk artist Todd the Fox, to the great indie rock band Me and Mountains, to the energy Orange Willard brings to each set-the Dayton music scene is impressive.
However, a lot of people outside Dayton don’t see that way. Actually, they don’t see anything. The popularity of the music scene in town has dropped some, to where only the people in the town are really the only ones that pay close attention to what’s going on. And with the accessibility of local music (websites, Facebook, record shops), the scene isn’t what it once was.
Matt Luongo noticed this dilemma, and wanted to change it. For eight years Matt crafted an event that would bring Dayton music back to the way it used to be, and also have major recording acts come to the party as well. Thus, the Downtown Dayton Revival Festival became reality. The festival just had their first weekend take place on September 8th and 9th.
The first performance to get the festival started was Dayton’s own, The Giant Steps. Their slow, psychedelic sound made the early crowd slowly ease themselves into getting ready for a full day of music. The Giant Steps blasted the stage with smooth guitar play that was well beyond their years of age (the oldest members are close to, if not already, 17 years old).
Bronze Radio Return made their presence known early in the day. The band’s soulful, indie rock provided the crowd to get into the music early and often. After their set, the lead singer, Chris Henderson, met up with me and just raved about how the festival was going. “This is incredible”, Chris mentioned. “The people here are amazing. I can’t wait for us to come back.”
Griffin House talked about being a waiter when he was younger. He mentioned that he was just awful at it. He was so bad that he knew that it wasn’t going to make enough to pay rent. So, he took his guitar with him after work one night, went to a corner, and just playing and singing. People started dropping money down for him, and he soon realized that this was going to help him make money (and pay rent). House’s alternative, very mainstream-friendly sound had the crowd singing and dancing to his music.
One of the most powerful performances on the first day of the festival was the one that Kristy Lee gave. Kristy immediately engaged the crowd that brought her in with open arms. She talked about having gone through bad breakups, seeing her friends go through rough times, etc. Her music was very Adele meets Tracy Chapman-stripped down vocals with amazing acoustic guitar play. It was truly a performance that a lot of people, including myself, left talking about.
One act treated us to a show that was very much like seeing Phish-a psychedelic rock band with instrumental play that is simply out of this world. The band is Dayton’s own, The Werks. The chilled out band ripped on their guitars as if they were gods standing on the clouds of the sky. The play of the bass was impressive. The drum play was off the charts. The crowd danced throughout the whole set with freedom and joy, as if they channeled themselves to the days of Woodstock. The Werks had everyone in the palm of their hands. For the people that follow them, this set was just another fantastic show. To the others that were seeing them for the first time-they will make it a point to make it to see them time and time again from this point on.
Wheels brought a show that made everyone in the crowd completely stunned. The 5 member band from Yellow Springs brought a show that was filled with folk rock and bluegrass. The band showed their musical range throughout their set, including a brilliant Dr. Dog cover. Their dreamy play of the harmonica and banjo only enhanced the experience of watching Wheels perform.
Guster has always been known to always have a show that is different. During a recent tour, they requested their fans to bring things to put on the stage. For example, they ask their fans to bring matchbox cars to put on the stage during one of their sets. It’s fun for the band and their fans to have that interaction. At the Revival Festival, Guster made a young girl become a fan for life. The lead singer, Ryan Miller, noticed a young girl that was holding up a sign mentioning that this was her first concert. Miller asked the young girl to come up on stage, and they wrote a song together on the spot. Everyone in the crowd loved it. If anything, this was the top 5 moments that the weekend brought us.
Guided By Voices came home to Dayton to be part of the inaugural event. They haven’t lost a step after all these years. Robert Pollard and crew took the stage as if they were still in the teen years. With their garage rock influenced sound blaring through the guitars, their trademark short songs, and their punk-like attitude; it was simply tremendous to see the boys back home. They gave their old fans more reason to keep trucking along with them, and it gave the younger generation to true sense on what Dayton music is all about.
The headliner on Saturday was John Legend. The hometown boy (Legend is from Springfield, Ohio) gave a performance that was simply one word-sexy. The singer brought the crowd to frenzy with his smooth, signature sound and his lyrics about love. ‘Slow Dance’ featured a young lady that came from the crowd and danced with Legend on stage.
On the second day of the festival, another hometown act came home. Heartless Bastards came in town and absolutely brought everyone to their knees with Erika Wennerstone’s haunting, Janis Joplin-like vocals, and the bands incredible instrumental play. ‘My face is melting with excitement’, screamed people from the crowd. I have to admit-one of those people was me.
Andy Grammer brought the crowd a performance that didn’t almost happen. Grammer had some issues getting to town that day, and it seemed like he wouldn’t be coming to town. Luckily, he got into town and gave the crowd an acoustic set that didn’t disappoint.
Some other highlights on the second day of the festival included The Ohio Players bringing their signature funk sound to the Dayton festival. It was a true honor seeing the band play. Much like the way Guided By Voices, some of the young people in the crowd got a chance to see a band that has influenced many after them. Rusted Root gave their ‘Fortunate Freaks’ another suburb show. Buffalo Killers brought their signature sound, and made a few people in the crowd become diehard fans going forward. Robert Randolph and the Family Band had a dance party break out on stage during their set. They promised to bring a party, and they delivered. Train performed a fun, energetic set that closed the weekend off in style.
The two day festival brought a lot to the people that attended. It brought music that included folk, soul, R&B, alternative, rock, and so much more. What the festival brought most of all was the awareness that Dayton is still alive and well in the music scene. Walking around the festival, you noticed the attendees of the festival enjoying every act that took to the three stages. You saw people old and young joining together to hear music from the past and present. People from all around the United States came to this festival. People who never heard of some the local acts got to see the fantastic music being played here. You can say the festival gave Dayton music the revival it needed.