Indie rock heroes raise money for a good cause at WonderBus festival

Ryan Yoo & Yvonne Pan, Director of Design & A&E Editor, respectively

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Last Saturday marked the first annual WonderBus festival held at The Lawn at CAS, a 30-minute walk from The Ohio State University.

WonderBus was organized by The Elevation Group, the same group that organizes the annual LaureLive festival at Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio. LaureLive celebrated its fourth year earlier this year with indie rock favorites Hozier, AJR, Coin, Moon Taxi, and MisterWives.

Although WonderBus featured notable groups, including X Ambassadors, WALK THE MOON, and Young the Giant, the festival was also packed with many lesser-known artists, including Andrew McMahon, Trombone Shorty and Ashe.

Headliner WALK THE MOON, a band originating from Cincinnati, revitalized the crowd after a long Saturday packed with a dozen artists and bands, with Columbus-native and lead singer Nicholas Petricca repeatedly saying O-H. Without missing a beat, the crowd roared back I-O.

WALK THE MOON played many crowd favorites, including their award-winning song “Shut Up and Dance” and their newest single, “Timebomb.”

The highlight of the festival, however, was the performance by X Ambassadors, an alternative rock band best known for its 2015 songs “Renegades,” “Jungle” and “Unsteady.” 

The group started out their set with a literal boom with their song “Boom.”  X Ambassadors pumped up the crowd over and over during their on-hour set with songs from their new album “Orion,” including “Quicksand,” “Wasteland” and “Hey Child,” as well as hits from their previous albums, including “Renegades” and “Unsteady.”  

The group will return to Ohio in November to play at the Cleveland House of Blues as part of their The Orion Tour.

Not only did WonderBus bring people of all ages together to celebrate indie rock, but part of the profits from the festival went to the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Profits will fund research to better understand depression and suicide and to fund suicide prevention programs.

“I think we have the opportunity with the music festival to stimulate conversation, reduce the stigma that often goes around mental illness, to raise awareness in our community,” said Denny Young, president of the Elevation Group, in an interview with WBNS.

WonderBus proved to be a space of positivity. A blackboard titled “ALL I NEED IS…” encouraged attendees to fill in things that were important to them. A tree on another corner of the lawn provided a space for concertgoers to write positive messages to hang on its branches.

The festival featured many stalls selling an assortment of goods, from anklets to printed shirts to ergonomically slim wallets. Merchandise celebrating the festival’s first year was also a popular purchase, with dozens of people parading around in the iconic logo.

Perhaps most remarkable was the festival’s seemingly effortless way of providing entertainment to all ages. For younger adults, bands like WALK THE MOON and X Ambassadors are a staple in Spotify playlists. For an older generation however, headliner Ben Harper’s prolific career and versatile voice lured them to the festival.

Whatever the cause, WonderBus ensured that its debut would set the bar high for the future.