"Without music, life would be a mistake."--Friedrich Nietzsche

Would the occasionally fantastically misunderstood German philosopher have understood the massive appeal of super-energetic sing-along songs of teen-angst? Or a free festival's fear of the riot potential of a band playing N.W.A.'s "Fuck the Police" on a Saturday night?

Yes, because he understood power.

Consider what went down the last full week in June here in our little nest-egg of an American dream town.

21 Pilots, two twenty-something Columbus musicians who were America's biggest breakout act in 2016, sold out two arenas and an outdoor amphitheater, plus the Newport and a small basement club the last full week of June. That's about 45,000 people, from near and far coming to see a two-man band--a drummer and a front man who played ukelele or bass part of the time.

"That's power, Oskar," as Amon Goeth, SS commandant, said in 'Schindler's List.' "That's power."

Perhaps we can say music has the power of life and maybe the power of death and destruction. Again, consider the latter at of all places, ComFest on its Saturday night.

ChickenShack BirdGetters (CSBG), a free-ranging jazz group dedicated to making 'jazz offensive again' (when did it ever do that?), openly contemplated performing a version of the incendiary anti-police song during their 7 p.m. performance. The pillars that be of the free festival lost their shit when they got wind of the possibility and forbade the band's choice of song--a clear case of censorship. Or of hypocrisy. Or of a sense of self-survival as a festival. Riots tend to jeopardize beer sales.

This over a song before it even got played--and which never got played.

BirdGetters' feathers got ruffled, threats and promises were made of electricity plugs being pulled, feelings got hurt, anger and resentment resulted, the ComFest love suffered. But the beer kept being poured!

I do get it from the organizers point of view as well as the band's. I've also known for more than a decade ComFest's true nature of group conformity. And to the not-so-chicken Bird Men of Alcatrash, I ask if you wanna be offensive and dangerous?

Well, Nicolas Cage said it best in, uh, some movie, "You fuck wit' da bull, you get da horns." I mean, young black men get shot in Compton; at ComFest young white men get a time-out on the jazz playground. I do find this whole episode highly amusing.

However, the Columbus Police were not amused. And who can blame them, summer of '16 having been an obscene season of loathsome police ambushes? I say jazz wit' attitude is a beautiful thing--boys, was that an instrumental of the song you were thinking of playing?

Strangely enough, this year was the first in many I actually went to ComFest and really enjoyed the damn thing. Huh! How 'bout them apples, Cousin Bubba?

Rhinestone--Joe Diamond Tribute Band on Sunday was numero uno performance in my slender reporter's notebook, cloud-blowing and grooving high through Charlie Parker's 'Yardbird Suite', Kenny Dorham's 'Blue Bossa', the standard 'Alone Together' and closing with Bird's "Billie's Bounce." Randy Mathers blew heaven through his beautifully worn and aged sax as puffy white clouds resembling the Hawaiian Islands with Puerto Rico attached floated across the crystal blue Sunday sky. Brett Burlison chorded and soloed with a relaxed in-the-moment presence that marks him as one of our best guitarists. The rhythm section provided the movable feast of a fertile bottom. Lord, I was in jazz church and the saints didn't take a rest with me. Long live the late Joe Diamond, father of jazz at Dick's Den.

Vaughn Wiester's Famous jazz orchestra preceded the Diamond trib as a sextet, tripping lovingly through the American songbook. One of the high points of ComFest was Vaughn reciting Johnny Mercer lyrics to 'Days of Wine and Roses' prior to playing it. Who does that? Vaughn Wiester, trombonist. He then urged the crowd to check out Mercer's words to 'Midnight Sun.' I shall, Sir Vaughn-devoid-of-funk.

A really great couple of hours was Saturday at the Live Arts Stage checking out the Square Dance Columbus performance with a live and very capable string band providing accompaniment to caller and audience members. Too much fun! Most wholesome thing ever! I shall be at their next performance wherever it might be.

Then, what my entire life was leading up to and I didn't even know it: watching Darryl and Ro-Z Mendelson doing their tai chi with Paul Brown on hearts-of-space guitar behind them. I could tease them all day about this but truth was, it was kind of beautiful in its own way. I will NOT make any tactless 'downward-facing old hippie' jokes. Ro-Z was great, Darryl was it Monkey's Retreat Ballet, 'meditation movement music', it was accurately subtitled. Pretty cool, gents.

Back to Sunday: I wish Terry Davidson would eschew the tasteful additions to his music--congas, horns, commercial songwriting--and just do two very fuzzed-out dirty-low-down songs for an entire set, both by Steppenwolf: a 35-minute version of 'The Pusher' and then "Born To Be Wild,' with a Godz encore of his own choosing. That's three songs, so be it. Harley-Davidson rock'n'roll must live, mud-splattered and wild, not tastefully attired in Vegas aspirations.

Haha, that's partially a joke.

Back to Saturday: the Apostles, dressed in white like north African caravan travelers, laid down a helluva funky good time. Sunday, The Deeptones 10-piece muscular and hard soul funk resurrected The Average White Band in style if not substance though I would've died for a James Brown medley. I didn't catch their entire set, which was quite good, did I miss a Soul Brother #1 tribute?

Foley on Saturday night. Let's just say having played bass with Miles Davis, drums with George Clinton and palled around with a guy named Prince, who else would you want to hear a Prince tribute from? I must admit, hearing 'Controversy' and 'Let's Work' done by a brother who knows the songs as only Foley does is a bit of a treat. Think he'll ever tame his ego? Modesty isn't a virtue with him so I don't think that's on the agenda. Still, it ain't the ego it's the song that matters. At ComFest the songs won for once.

As I was taking a break, basking in the Sunday sun outside the ComFest 'museum', I heard a 'jam-bandy' sorta sound emanating from gazebo-land. So I followed the sonic trail: Strange Grain, a highly impassioned Dead-ish crew were giving it everything they had. With most bands such an effort comes off as slobbering, given that most bands don't have the finesse to manage their own energy (if they have any, anyway). It's called style. Strangely, Strange Grain had a wholehearted passion to match their unslobbering folk-rock-hippie-roll and it culminated in a tremendous version of the Stones' “Loving Cup.” I was really moved. Helluva little band. Rock on, dudes.

I sure enjoyed the fest this year. Don't know why. I was in the mood so I did groove. I still think the shitheads at the top who run the thing ought to bow out and let new blood flow through its aging veins, though. I mean, why isn't there a YouTube ComFest channel? Why aren't there compilation CDs of the best performances of the fest? Why unapologetically censor a band? It is obvious the people at the top care way, way too much about the money.

Still, a helluva show. Fight the power, love the power.

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