MusicNOW Preview: Interview with Bryce Dessner

MusicNow festival is taking place this Wednesday, March 28th at Christ Church Cathedral in OTR, and Thursday, March 29th through Friday, March 30th at Memorial Hall. This is the seventh year for the progressive music festival. Musical guests this year consist of Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire, Pulitzer Prize winner David Lang, Nico Muhly, as well as performances by Grammy winners Eighth Blackbird with special guest Philip Glass, James McVinnie, Pedro Soler, Gaspar Claus, and a workshop presentation of Nico Muhly, Sufjan Stevens and Bryce Dessner’s new collaboration.

Past MusicNow festivals have featured Sharon Van Etten, The National, Justin Vernon, Joanna Newsome and Andrew Bird.

Recently I caught up with Bryce Dessner, the guitarist for the rock band The National (from Cincinnati) and the founder of the MusicNow festival to ask a few questions.

What initially prompted you to found the MusicNow festival here in Cincinnati?

I grew up in Cincinnati; it’s an opportunity to spend time in my hometown. I love this town and what is has to offer. This festival can help bring interesting acts to town in a more casual, less formal environment. It’s the type of festival that does not and could not exist somewhere else. For example, in New York City it would sell out very quickly and have certain expectations. Here artists can play freely with less expectation.

Who is your dream artist in which to develop a song cycle with? (living/dead)

While I am honored to have taken the stage with all of talent I have in the past, Tom Waits
would be a dream.

Now that OTR is thriving, have you considered expanding the festival?


The Festival is more or less about Memorial Hall. Justin Vernon, who has performed the past 2 years, loves to play at Memorial Hall as does Sufjan Stevens, who has played every year.  The sound and ambiance is without a doubt beyond comparision. Events have been combined with Christ Church Cathedral for the Wednesday concert.

MusicNow festival is one of the many reasons I am proud to live here. Cincinnati is a city in which artists support one another, this festival being a prime example. Come witness music history this weekend. Visit musicnowfestival.org for more information.

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