You have your favorite band’s albums downloaded to your music library; you have their merchandise and follow them on all social media platforms. What else could you want? What about a weekend where you could immerse yourself in your favorite artist’s music, art and be with other fans?
It sounds like a dream for many, but The National managed to make that a reality for many of their fans when they announced the Homecoming festival in 2018. Homecoming is set to occur again in May 2020, two years after its debut.
Who Is The National?
The National is an indie rock band formed in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1999. The members include vocalist Matt Berninger, Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner on guitar, piano and keyboards, Scott Devendorf on bass and Bryan Devendorf on drums.
They have an impressive track record that consists of numerous studio albums, multiple live show recordings and a documentary film called “Mistaken for Strangers,” which was directed by Berninger’s brother. They also have a few Grammy nominations as well as a Grammy award for best alternative music album, just to name a few accomplishments.
It may seem like the band had done it all at one point but, in April 2018, The National took it a step further with their personally curated festival, Homecoming, that took place in their hometown of Cincinnati.
What Is Homecoming?
The Homecoming festival was located in Smale Riverfront Park, situated along the Ohio River. Fans enjoyed a picturesque backdrop of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge that connects Ohio to Kentucky. Throughout the festival grounds, patrons had plenty to do while walking around. There were booths with local artists and merchandise, some of the city’s cuisine to try, a few beer tents and, of course, two stages on the east and west side of the park where they could experience the music they came for.
The original Homecoming festival featured The National on two nights and advertised two unique sets along with nine other listed acts. All day, each fan got to enjoy the lineup while experiencing the festival for the first time ever.
On the first night, The National performed a fairly typical setlist for that tour, along with some surprise songs and featured artists. Fans crowded in front of the stage, huddled together in 40-degree weather, singing along with The National until the set ended and crowds flooded onto the streets of Cincinnati.
They ended the second night by playing their album “Boxer” in its entirety, and they included other songs to fill the rest of their slot.
As quickly as the weekend began, it ended, leaving fans with a memorable experience. Social media accounts thanked those in attendance for coming, and many were left wondering if that was it. When the year ended, The National told fans that they were taking a break for 2019 but “looked forward to doing it again in the future.”
In November 2019, new images were posted online, along with the familiar hashtag #NTLHC — a few days after those appeared, a 2020 festival was announced.
Two years after the first Homecoming, The National will once again be back at Smale Riverfront Park, from May 8 to May 9, with a renewed festival. Fans are “welcomed home” to experience a “celebration of music, art and cultural connections unlike any other.”
This year, The National will be performing their album “High Violet” in full on the first night, which will also be right around the album’s 10-year anniversary. The lineup also consists of 12 bands alongside The National.
What Led to the Small Fest’s Success?
There are a multitude of other events, like Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, that offer a similar experience on a much bigger scale, and they include a handful of different genres in their lineup. What gives a niche festival like Homecoming such great success?
The National’s members are now scattered across the United States, but they’ll return to Cincinnati to put on their festival. Initially, Cincinnati may not seem like an ideal location for a festival, especially compared to areas like New York City, Los Angeles and other major cities. However, one of the most charming aspects about this festival is that it’s allowing fans to experience seeing a band in their hometown, on a smaller level compared to other music festivals.
The National managed to secure a spot in this park for an entire weekend, and it will fill the streets, businesses and hotels surrounding the park with their fans during this time frame. The fan base is loyal enough to spend hundreds of dollars to travel, stay in the city and gain entry to the event and have a unique experience that weekend.
A situation like this creates a level of trust between the artists and the fans. The fans trust that their favorite band will create something that they will enjoy and will be worth their time.
Artists have to trust that the risk behind coming home and curating their own festival will be worth it as well — by trusting that crowds will come and have a positive experience.
The beauty about going to a festival that caters to a specific genre and aesthetic is that you have a very high chance of finding something you like there, aside from the main ticket that got you there in the first place, whether it be the people, art or experience in general.
Because Homecoming is essentially built around The National, fans will be surrounded by similar people and experiences. Showgoers will have the opportunity to listen to and possibly discover similar bands, meet others who share the same music tastes, find art they like and a lot more.
Overall, fans of The National who are lucky enough to attend Homecoming will be experiencing the show on a more intimate level with like-minded individuals, that they may not get the opportunity otherwise. Shows on the regular tour may get a few toss-ups when it comes to songs, but they aren’t getting the fully unique set lists that Homecoming is going to have. The first round of this festival proved what a loyal band and fan base can accomplish. Just like it was in 2018, Homecoming is bound to be a memorable experience in 2020 when The National returns to Cincinnati.