MusicNOW Festival entertains once again

By: Justin Worthing ~Staff Writer~

The National returned to its hometown to perform at Cincinnati’s MusicNOW Festival with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO). Originally founded in 2006 by The National’s guitarist Bryce Dessner, the festival has been an opportunity for classical and indie musicians to collaborate and experiment with new music.

This year’s festival took place March 11-15 and featured Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly and Arcade Fire guitarist Will Butler, among others.

Butler, along with Cleveland band Cloud Nothings, kicked off the festival with a show on March 11 at the Woodward Theater. Jeff Zeigler and concert:nova followed with a March 12 performance. The main events occurred at the Cincinnati Music Hall on March 13 and 14, beginning with The National’s performance with the CSO. Together they performed new renditions of The National’s songs, including “Runaway” and “England.”

Dessner returned to the stage on March 14, but this time with singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens and contemporary classical music composer Nico Muhly. The three musicians, along with the CSO, performed selections from “Planetarium” during the event. Live performances concluded on March 15 at Memorial Hall with a performance by The Lone Bellow, Perfume Genius and Mina Tindle.

The Contemporary Arts Center played the video “A Lot of Sorrow” as a part of the festival until March 20. The video captured The National’s live performance of their three-and-a-half minute song “Sorrow,” which is repeated and subtly changed throughout the six-hour video. The event was free to attend. “Many of my most significant memories as a musician have taken place in Cincinnati during the MusicNOW Festival over the last 10 years,” Dessner said in an interview with “Pitchfork.”

“When we started, we were driven to create an intimate music festival that was as much a creative refuge for the artists as it is for the audience to partake in intimate and rare performances. We have celebrated works in progress and new commissions, new collaborations and detailed music of all kinds regardless of genre or popularity.”

MusicNOW has featured many well-known performers throughout its 10-year history. Musicians such as Andrew Bird, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Kronos Quartet, Owen Pallett and others have previously performed. For more information about the festival, visit