By: Kyle Rutherford
Over the last couple years, it has become fairly apparent that Ohio is becoming a mecca for music festivals. Whether it is more jam-oriented festivals like Resonance and The Werk Out, rock n’ roll based gatherings like Rock on the Range, or even the alternative onslaught that is Bunbury, Ohio is indefinitely a destination for music lovers all over.
Just outside of Athens, Ohio, ColorDance Music & Arts Festival kicks off the festival season for many multi-genre music lovers. Located amongst the gorgeous Appalachian Mountains at the Wisteria event site, Color Dance is the perfect opening for both Ohio and even the Midwest’s amazing festival season.
“ColorDance was born from the friendship of two Ohio University engineering graduate students who shared similar interests. One, a suburban, middle class, music festival enthusiast and the other an international student from India searching for his place in Athens” says founder Ryan Miller. “The more cultured, international student had invited his friend to an ethnic springtime celebration known as Holi. Later, the two wondered what could happen if they combined this type of celebration with the culture of a campout music festival. Those conversations led to the creation of ColorDance.”
The inspiration and core tenant of the festival is “Unity in Diversity.” This idea comes from Holi and is practiced throughout the festival in many ways. Along with the festival’s eclectic mixture of electronic, jam, funk and world music, “Unity in Diversity” is practiced through the festival’s various activities, workshops and overall vibe.
“Holi, often referred to as the Festival of Colors, signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forgive and forget, and repair broken relationships” continues Miller. “Per tradition, Holi participants decorate themselves in colored powders made from cornstarch and dyes, and smear the colors across their faces and bodies, as well as friends. This activity is commonly referred to as ‘color play.’” The “color play” activity that takes place on Saturday stands as a physical representation of “University in Diversity.”
After taking a year off in 2016, ColorDance is looking to have a colossal return for their 4th festival. With previous headliners including Dopapod, TAUK, Future Rock, and Turkuaz, this year’s lineup continues the consistency of the festival’s stellar collection of national and regional acts.
Starting out the festival on Friday will be Athens based bass act Comisar on the Unity Stage, followed by Cincinnati psychedelic rockers SolEcho on the Weird Music Stage. On a side note, SolEcho features Alex “Vusive” Vu on percussion, who be performing on the ThazDope stage at The Untz Festival. The day will continue with Columbus, OH funk rockers Love Alive on the Unity Stage, along with the psychedelic funk sounds of Cleveland, Ohio’s Jones for Revival.
The couple hours features a troupe of headliners that rivals the diverse aspect of festivals five times the size of ColorDance.
Tom Hamilton’s American Babies has a perfect sound to be playing the early evening. The Philly based indie/Americana group makes music meant for dancing in the sunshine, and the small festival will be happy to hear music from those have collaborated with members of the Grateful Dead, The Disco Biscuits and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead.
The blissful, psychedelic sounds of Dirtwire have the honor of playing the sunset set on ColorDance’s first night. The Oakland, CA trio’s world music based performance will be amazing to witness while among the gorgeous wooded landscape of Wisteria.
Papadosio frontman Anthony Thogmartin will be making his return to southeast Ohio for two sets, along with ‘Dosio drummer Mike Healy. His EarthCry project has been really taking off for him, and the rare performances are really a spectacle to witness, due to Thogmartin’s phenomenal electronic production skills coupled with Healy’s improvisational chemistry.
After the headliners it is back to the regional acts. Ohio favorite Peridoni will keep the Unity Stage rolling into the early evening with some pristine progressive jam sounds. They’ve been at every single ColorDance and are always a crowd favorite.
Two Athens acts will be rounding out the WEIRD stage following the closing of the Unity Stage. The dynamic duo of Wren Fenton and Josh Wicker make up Hellnaw, and you’ll be saying the same thing when you hear them play. Fenton plays percussion and Wicker slaps the bass, creating a colossal sound that is both gritty and funky. Les Claypool would be very pleased. Fenton will stay seated for the Pink Floyd tribute set with his other group Any Colour.
The third stage at ColorDance is a small sound lab, where both booked acts perform late at night and festival attendees with performance equipment can play earlier in the evening. Vocal trip hop duo Echo Mecca will be kicking off their impressive summer festival tour with a 4 am set. Still working to make a name for themselves, the two will also be performing at Rootwire, Disc Jam, and Clustxr. Dayton based DJ/producer Overwaves (hey that’s me) will be hosting a birthday party during his set to end the first day’s music.
Kicking off Saturday’s sounds will be funky jam group Waivada will be reuniting at the Unity Stage after a long hiatus, followed by Omniview on the Weird Music Stage. The electric guitars and basses will then be replaced with acoustic instruments for Terros on the Unity Stage, followed by female power trio Jemntonic on the Weird Stage.
Columbus favorite Sassafraz will get a funk fueled late afternoon block started on the Unity Stage, followed by Canada’s After Funk on the Weird. The two groups will also be joining forces to present a James Brown tribute during the early evening on the Weird Stage.
Though a little out of the place at a more jam based festival, Brooklyn’s Gibbz will be sure to please the ColorDance crowd. The multi instrumentalist/vocalist will be bringing along a live band to further perfect his astonishing synthpop sounds. Manic Focus will be returning to Wisteria after his stellar live band set last year at Paradise. His headlining set will be sure to be heater, full of tunes from his most recent LP, Minds Rising.
After a set from Indianapolis’s Magnetic, Love Alive will be returning to the Unity Stage to perform a Beck tribute set. Athens based tribute act Bulls on Parade will then take to the Weird Stage for a stellar set of Rage Against the Machine tunes. Local rapper Emcee Schwartz has a voice and flow that so closely resembles that of Zack de la Rocha that it makes the group one of the best tribute acts in the state.
Cincinnati’s funky powerhouse Ernie Johnson from Detroit will also be making their return to Wisteria to help close out the main stages, while Sound Lab sets from Mild Movements and Kashermik will close out the festival until next year.
Tickets will be available at the gates for $80.