Every year, Columbus-run Steadfast Festival to provides the city with a new set of alternative pop and rock artists, both local and regional. Run by Tuned Up, a music publication here in Columbus, the festival and its founder Ryan Getz have always been on top of the indie pop game in the area, featuring artists before they become bigger names. This year’s festival, held on March 9, was no different.
Last year, Steadfast moved from its former home of Veritas Church to the event space at Strongwater Food and Spirits on Town Street. The shift added authenticity to the festival, and this year, it felt more like a legitimate concert with rustic walls and an open space, and the sound quality was great from every point in the space. Performances alternated between the two rooms, with five minutes between sets for fans to transition, so there were no long wait times for music.
The festival also set a personal record for attendance this year, selling 420 tickets with around 45 guest spots. Its previous record was in Steadfast’s second year, when the event sold 260 tickets.
Though the majority of those 420 ticketholders were absent near the beginning of the festival, bands like O.D.D.I.T.Y and Spirit of the Bear lacked no enthusiasm earlier in the evening, performing with plenty of energy and engaging an excited crowd. Later, local bands like Zoo Trippin’ and label me lecter played with an almost overwhelming zeal, jumping around onstage to their own alternative rock and hip-hop, respectively.
It is important to note, however, that among the 11 bands and one solo act who performed at Steadfast, there were fewer than ten femmes or people of color involved onstage. This is not meant to demonize the festival’s leadership but instead to point out that the phenomenon of overly white, male lineups at major music festivals is not limited to national events; it can (and often does) happen right here in Columbus, despite the incredibly diverse music scene that lives in the city.
Regardless, the headliners were where Steadfast truly shone this year. SHAED, fresh off a performance at CD102.5’s Big Room Bar only a few hours prior, drew the largest crowd of the night, treating fans to a catchy, bass-heavy pop set. Neon stage lights in the shape of a triangle added an almost ethereal effect as frontwoman Chelsea Lee was bathed in the ever-changing glow, and though fans were excited throughout the band’s performance, screams of, “This is it!” accompanied the intro to the band’s hit, “Trampoline”.
And despite the crowd thinning somewhat for the final performances of the night, Captain Kidd and Mike Mains and the Branches, the two bands put on no less of a performance, featuring fun lighting and more than enough dancing to go around, both onstage and in the audience. The musicians clearly enjoyed themselves onstage, and that bled into the crowd’s energy, too.
If you missed the festival, don’t worry – head over to Tuned Up’s website to read more about up-and-coming alternative pop and rock artists.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that this was Steadfast’s first year at Strongwater. That was incorrect; this was the festival’s second year at that location.