The city of Columbus was brought, for the second year in a row, the What? experience. This is our first time attending the event, and frankly even hearing extensively about it. After reaching out, we were elated to hear that what? was down for us to be a part of the event and then bring it to you. So thank you to the What? Music And Arts Festival, for having us out! With no real expectations, the day we spent at the festival really left us in awe. What? really sticks out as a one of a kind very approachable experience of some amazing building Columbus culture. We hope to uncover all the layers of art, as we go on with this post.
The festival was held on the outskirts of the Scioto Mile, in Columbus. The venue, in regard to address, was located at 400 W Rich St. This address is home to a massive warehouse, where the walls wear nothing but art. We discovered later that the venue hosts art events constantly, some of which we have gone on to attend. In addition to the events, the venue has studios built-in, for the artists of Columbus. The 400 has this beat-up and tattered vibe, that makes it so welcoming to artists of any type. The whole building, inside and out, is a quilt of visual art- even before all the installments were brought in for What?.
Synthesizing the music side, of music and arts, What? created an indoor and outdoor stage amongst the art. The outdoor stage took up the parking lot and played into the garage doors of the building. It was awesomely designed, adopting the triangular theme of the stages. It was quite large and produced an ample amount of sound. Being surrounded by graffiti, live art installments, and vendors between the entrance and garage doors inside really gave a push and a pull to the music at any time. The push comes from the idea that the sound can still be heard as you move further into the venue, to explore. The pull then exists through the sets calling you back to the stages, and not wanting to miss artists and vendors and their unique splendors/talents. Before we move to describe the inside, we also want to highlight the small silent disco tent featured outside. It gave a nice little area tucked out of the main dancefloor, to catch another variety of music.
Within the building, art was everywhere. Like we said this place is a sanctuary for the creative, and it gave so many talented visual artists walls to and rooms to fill. Hallways and stories of art and studios vibrated with the music of the second stage. Planted in the main pass of the building, the indoor stage was an art experience in itself. The stage, in general, was rather basic in the north end of the building- just providing the staple space for the artists to make their musical magic. Yet, the full-room visual was the must-see aspect of the stage. Seemingly random stretched pennants of fabric were tightly lining the ceiling. Different sizes and spread almost the entire distance of the vast corridor. Walking further from the stage soon brought into focus their purpose. The positioning led to creating a full visual screen for the stage ahead. The visuals were complex projections on the maniacally placed ceiling ornaments. So unique, so clean, and most importantly a wild synthesis of the triangular theme, of the stages.
This lineup featured a lot of talent and unfortunately, we were not able to be there for a piece of every performance. Due to some family in town, we were jumping in and out of the festival. We are still leaving the full-lineup since we wanted to see way more. But for write-ups, we only include those for whom we saw.
Christian Bistany: Had to show out for this long-time friend and WTV member. On the indoor stage, he brought the groove for us to move to. Seeing him incorporate his house music, and hone his set to highlight that sound, is what made his stage time pop. He has begun branding his sets with such precision; a precision which opens your eyes to both the natural talent/passion he posses, as well as, extensive time spent studying his craft. We always love the energy his shows inspire.
Mersiv: We luckily strolled back in just as the special guest went on. We were even luckier to find out Mersiv was our surprise. This marked our first time experiencing a set, by the bass DJ. What a first experience it was. Wubs came out as the sun went down. The set filled the entire parking lot and the building will a horde of headbangers. His sound is one we want to continue to see, because there is really so much he seems to be able to do, with all the bass.
Yheti: Playing two sets to close out the night, we were sure to see at least one. Yheti really fit perfectly with how we moved in and out of the festival. The wonky and weird bass that holds a craze of energy was a perfect way to re-enter. His set featured a lot of crazy sounds, and really brought that vibe of whatever inspires. The magic was all in bringing so many different sounds to the set while keeping the bass going.
Done Wells and Needs Work
The whole venue brought everything that was advertised- and gave What? the perfect space. So much art, so much music, and unique stage designs really made sure the festival was the perfect meld of music and art. In addition, the great Columbus location was supplemented by great Columbus talent. A festival that boasts and vouches for its city from set-up to line-up deserves commending. What? Fest even came to the table with very clean merch- that we are kicking ourselves for missing out on.
With a cleary strong planning team, there was not much error that slipped through. The only work points we can scrub up are directional and expansion. We want nothing to change about the vibe of the festival- the very underground and authentic experience is important. So when we say direction and expansion, we do not mean the aims of the festival. We literally just want some more signs and some more fest.
With the maze of the building, it would be awesome for What? to just have a couple more signs. There was plenty of staff to ask, but a couple of road signs to highlight where certain artists are/how to run loops through the studios would be awesome. Keeping people excited, while assuring there are things to be excited for. If What? paired this with even a simple map flyer, that had featured artists studios/displays highlighted AND featured their contact info, would make this the perfect version of organization. It gives everyone something to take home to remember What? and also makes sure the artists are given true trackable exposure, even for people who do not buy that day or express interest. The assurance that anyone can go back through their day and follow or pursue the art (music or visual) that they love is such a unique opportunity, which the festival can provide.
With developing direction, we would also like to see more places to direct to. The 400 provided even more than What? was using. We would love to see another outdoor and/or indoor stage that synthesizes art with music. The creative and imaginative talent seems to be a part of the What? team, so we hope that they throw that all into more areas of that venue. More of What? is what we want more of.
Not even being there the entire day, we see What? as one of our favorite experiences in Columbus. We know that year two will be the second of many many more, for this event. Pride in the city, the people of it, and the art they create is What? Productions LLC’s base. And from two of us Columbus creatives, their core values will stay growing. New talent emerges in the city every day, more people come into the city every day, and as those two cycle, the art will come. All that art needs a place to go and with that the necessity and possibility of What? inflates- with no popping point. Thank you to the What? Team for having us out, we hope to continue working with such a heartening organization. Thanks to everyone who came out to the event and supported the people of this amazing city. Another thank you goes out to Brock DuPont and Taylor Franz, for the all the photography they let us use in this post. Finally thank you to every artist, of any form, that made this event such a wild experience.
Until next time.