All photos by Kaiya Gordon
Over the past eight and a half months I’ve spent living in and writing about Columbus, I’ve been introduced to so many crevices of the city’s arts and music scene, each one as remarkable and needed as the last. Columbus houses long-term open mic nights, hip-hop collectives and labels, jazz improvisers, experimental electronic musicians and DJs, publishing houses and presses (both well-known and new), a DIY scene that draws touring acts from around the country, locally-own galleries, and ever-expanding dance companies. It is, in relative terms, a small city; one in which even the most illustrious artists can be seen in intimate venues with dirt-cheap well drinks. In Columbus, I can see slam champion Rachel Wiley at a small burlesque bar; award-winning writers Hanif Abdurraqib and Kaveh Akbar in a black box theater; rising star Nnamdi Ogbonnaya on a stage almost floor-level; I can go to a book fair hosting emerging neighborhood library projects alongside punk cornerstone Don Giovanni Records. And–for better or worse–in Columbus I can (and will) run into people I know at each and every one of those events: teachers, colleagues, co-organizers, classmates, and friends.
Last weekend, at Columbus’ Flyover Fest, I did all of those things–all of the events, the socializing, the book buying, and more–within a two-block radius. The Fest, which was started last year by Two Dollar Radio, a local book-publisher and film producer, is held in a smattering of independent bars and venues, as well as in the Wexner Center for the Arts on OSU’s campus. Stages are shared by both community and touring artists, and at the heart of the fest is an interdisciplinary approach to the city’s art-making scene. I was excited by the varied bills, which never stuck to one genre or aesthetic, and which, though long, always felt worth staying through. Crowds were casual and light-hearted; unlike so many of the shows I go to, I was never pushed, or hit on, or yelled at, or spilled upon. It was nice.
The moments when I felt most held, most inspired, came while watching performances by local musicians. Sharon Udoh of Counterfeit Madison, who played at the Ace of Cups on Friday night, continues to be one of the most joyous and talented performers I’ve ever seen, able to simultaneously play an almost impossibly electrified keyboard, breeze through a technically challenging vocal performance, and recklessly manipulate her body onstage. While Udoh flipped her keyboard from its stand, continuing to play it even as it dropped across her body, my friend turned to me, amazed. “I can’t believe how much control she has,” he said.
Equally exciting was Sarob’s performance at Spacebar on Saturday night. The rapper was sandwiched between local band WYD and hip-hop pillar Open Mike Eagle, who Sarob repeatedly cited as an inspiration and icon. Sarob is young, but looms large during his performances, engaging willfully with the crowd as he dances and jumps between the stage and the floor. His songs move between soul and verse; even when he raps too fast to catch all of the words, the delivery is sharp enough to sting, smartly, like a slapped ruler. Like Udoh, Sarob plays at local shows frequently, and, like Udoh, he’s worth seeing at every possible opportunity.
Check out my photos from Flyover Fest to see more of my favorite moments:
SMUT / NNAMDI OGBONNAYA AT SPACEBAR
COUNTERFEIT MADISON / MOTHERS AT ACE OF CUPS
JENI’S SPLENDID BOOK AND RECORD FAIR
JENN MARIE NUNES / MARCUS JACKSON / RACHEL WILEY AT BOSSY GRRLS PIN UP JOINT
WYD / SAROB AT SPACEBAR