Updated Wed, Sep 4, 2013 12:02 pm
When Aquabear Legion, an Athens-based collective of Ohio musicians and artists, was launched in 2004, it was "just a website and a general promotional tool," according to co-founder Brian Koscho.
This weekend, Aquabear Legion is hosting its 7th annual County Fair, featuring 14 local and regional bands at The Union and Casa Cantina, including Cincinnati's critically acclaimed Wussy.
WOUB's Bryan Gibson caught up with Koscho to talk about the weekend's lineup and why it's important to support homegrown talent.
WOUB: How did the Aquabear County Fair get its start?
Brian Koscho: In spring of 2005 we had a big showcase at The Wire--an awesome old DIY space in Athens--with about eight bands and it struck us as a great way to promote and celebrate all the great Ohio music there was by simply having a huge show. In March 2007 we had the first Aquabear County Fair at ARTS/West and we've done it every year since.
WOUB: How has it changed over the years?
BK: It's evolved and involved lots of different venues--ARTS/West, Casa Cantina, The Union, Donkey Coffee and O'Betty's, in various combinations--and brought in lots of great Ohio bands. There was a film component years ago and visual arts as well, but the last few years we've focused on trying to put together a solid music lineup and getting people out to see the bands. That's been a big part of making it free in recent years: We just want everybody to come out and see the great music in this state.
WOUB: I have to ask...what's up with the name "County Fair?"
BK: (laughs) Man...I don't remember exactly. I honestly think it rhymed and sounded good together and we just kept it. I think the concept of an event celebrating and showcasing Ohio music seemed to lend itself to having a name like a County Fair. We didn't want it to just be "Aquabear Fest" or something. We've always had fun playing with the imagery of fraternal organizations--the Aquabear 'Legion' serving as a gathering spot for Ohio musicians, like an Elks, Moose Lodge or Kiwanis--and the concept of a County Fair was one we thought had potential.
WOUB: You've got 14 acts scheduled this weekend: Some are well-known to those who follow the local scene, others not so much. Could you give a general description of this year's lineup?
BK: On Thursday at The Union, we've got Weird Science, a great Athens band led by Zach Fuller (We March) with awesome songs and even some covers from The Kinks and The Grass Roots thrown in. Palaces, a newer band from Cleveland featuring old Aquabear friends, are post-rock/shoegaze/stoner/experimental rock. Good stuff. Princess is a band that's been around Athens for a year or so--great songs, and a little bit in the shoegaze genre. Night Stalker is a brand-new Athens band led by Chris Lute (Whale Zombie, Weird Science). I haven't seen them myself, but I imagine it's some good old-fashioned Athens rock and roll.
On Friday at Casa, it's The D-Rays, an unbelievable surf-rock band from Athens that has been tearing it up the past few years and fresh off a new LP. Hyrrokkin are some friends from Yellow Springs--crazy post-rock/free jazz played by three very talented musicians. Really looking forward to them. Supernobody is a new band from one of my favorite Athens songwriters, Mike Elliott. It's a local supergroup, and I've been playing their recent album almost non-stop. The Dead Hand of Man is a new Athens band from Bram Riddlebarger (Wailin' Elroys).
On Saturday we return to The Union with We March. The Athens punk legends are playing a rare show and closing out the night and the Fair--a perfect end to the weekend, cannot wait. Wussy is a legendary band from Cincinnati featuring folks from The Ass Ponys and other great Ohio bands. One of the most solid rock and roll bands you would find anywhere and it's even better they're from Ohio. I've loved those guys for years and always thought about how great it woud be to have them at the Fair. After they came to Nelsonville Music Festival this year, I kept thinking about it and it worked out.
The County Pharaohs are led by one Athens legend (Chris Biester) and feature two more in the rhythm section (Scott Winland and Brandon Robinson). It doesn't get any better than hearing these three rock out old Appalachian Death Ride songs. Hex Net is a great psychedelic garage-rock band. Unmonumental is my band...the booking was an inside job. Weedghost have played every County Fair and will play in-between acts, probably from somewhere on the floor. They're an experimental/improv/ambient duo from Athens and Fairborn.
WOUB: That's quite a collection of musicians. You've always been a big supporter of local music--what would you say to someone who's not familiar with our region's talent, but might be interested in exploring it?
BK: Well, Ohio has some amazing music happening and we think that's a very good thing for everybody. Athens itself has always had a strong and well-known music community, and the County Fair is a celebration of that and a chance to showcase it. In our community, there is a huge involvement by folks in promoting local businesses, groups, food, farmers and art, but at the same time, a lot of people don't know how important local music is, too.
We think that buying and supporting local is important for everything, including music, and I think the County Fair is a good snapshot of what's out there. It's important to point out that this is all happening in Ohio. These bands and musicians aren't going to Brooklyn, Chicago or Portland to play music and create--they're doing it right here. And I think that is something that people should at least check out and take a listen to. You might find something you really like. And just like the Farmers Market or something, it has a direct personal connection--these are people in your community playing music and that makes it even better.
The 7th Annual Aquabear County Fair is scheduled for Sept. 5-7 at The Union and Casa Cantina. Admission is free for all shows. For more information, visit Aquabear Legion's website, Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.