Dayton bands featured in Ohio Is For Lovers festival at Riverbend Saturday

Hawthorne Heights takes local concept to national stages with help from Live Nation.



After hosting Dayton Is For Lovers for six years, the members of Hawthorne Heights have supersized their all-ages music festival concept with the help of Live Nation. The first-time event, Ohio Is For Lovers at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati on Saturday, Sept. 10, has 30 bands and three stages. Headliners are the Descendents, New Found Glory and Motion City Soundtrack, with performances by Hawthorne Heights, Bayside, Silverstein and other punk, emo and indie rock acts.

While the location has moved farther south, there will be plenty of regional talent performing alongside the national touring acts. The participating Dayton bands are the Raging Nathans, Nightbeast and Better Anyway. Other Ohio groups include the Dopamines, Leggy, Tweens and Vacation from Cincinnati and Cleveland-based Dead Bundy. This is the third of three new Is For Lovers branded festivals, which began with smaller versions in Wichita, Kan. on Aug. 27 and Denver, Col. on Aug. 28.

JT Woodruff (vocals, guitar) and Mark McMillon (guitar, vocals) were in Hawthorne Heights’ warehouse space in Troy when they jumped on speaker phone to discuss the new Live Nation venture.

McMillon: We’re at Hawthorne’s warehouse space where we keep all of our merch. JT and I are up here just getting ready for these festivals.

Woodruff: It’s the life of a Midwest, DIY, emo-punk band. We’re running around like crazy, trying to get our operation under control. This is our first time really being a promoter on something instead of just being a performer, so it carries a lot of different types of weight. Everybody is wearing four or five different hats. We’re just doing the best we can trying to manage our stress levels.

Brand expansion

Woodruff: We’ve been doing Dayton Is For Lovers for years to kind of highlight and showcase the scene we grew up in and that we’re so proud of. Our song is, obviously, called ‘Ohio Is For Lovers’ so we’ve always had a tremendous amount of reverence for our state, in general. So, we got the opportunity to take it a little bit bigger and do it down at Riverbend, which is basically a dream come true for us. That’s where we saw all those massive shows growing up and that’s where we did Warped Tour a bunch. Live Nation is our partner there and the second it entered the Live Nation system, other people from Live Nation in other cities started reaching out to us. They thought it was a great idea and they asked if we wanted to bring it into a couple of more places and see how we could grow. We’re looking forward to it.

McMillon: Having the Descendents in Cincinnati is great for us. With our initial idea, there are so many friends playing, which we love. Then, just because it grew, we started getting artists like the Descendents, which is a band we all grew up loving that we don’t really know. It turned into a great thing where now it’s this festival with all of our friends but there are also some bands on it that we’ve loved for a long time. We’re just thrilled because we never would’ve thought we’d have gotten them.



30 acts, three stages

Woodruff: There are two amphitheaters down at Riverbend. We have the Riverbend stage that backs up to the river and there’s PNC Pavilion, which is where we played a couple of times on the Warped Tour. We really love that stage. It’s a great vibe when you get people packed into it. Then, we’re doing a moveable, pop-up, outdoor stage on the blacktop for all the locals. We were able to get some bands from Dayton and Cincinnati on it. We’ve got a couple of bands from throughout Ohio as well. We’re excited about it.

McMillon: We definitely went into this thinking about some of our favorite things about all of the festivals we’ve played over the years and things that made us want to go back again. We also thought about the different festivals we’ve attended as fans that we really liked. We’re basically trying to put all of our experiences into it.

Woodruff: We’ve named the stages after some special people in our lives. One of the stages will be named after Casey Calvert, our guitar player who passed away (in 2007). One of the other stages is going to be called the John Beatz stage after the drummer for Bayside. He was a dear friend of ours (who died in 2005). We wanted to pay our respects and to show our love for these incredible legends we lost a little bit too early. We knew fans would appreciate it too because they’ve cared for these people as much as we have and we’re excited about it. We’re really looking forward to that.

McMillon: It’s been interesting with the other two festivals starting the tour so that’s been a lot of the prep. Like, we know how to leave for a tour but this is our first experience leaving for a tour that’s front-loaded with two festivals. We’re getting all of that prepared this week so we can take all of the extra stuff with us.



Beyond the music

Woodruff: This all started through local support and through partnerships with great local venues. Although it says, Ohio Is For Lovers, we’re still trying to keep as much Dayton involved as we possibly can. Warped Wing is attached to it. They’re brewing an It’s For Lovers beer. We’re partnered with Holtman’s Donuts and we’re doing coffee from Greenhaus Coffee, my shop in Sidney. We’re trying to figure out as much super-fun stuff as we can.

McMillon: There’s a lot of focus on trying to get as many different types of people, from all walks of life, represented at the festival. That way everybody can have a lot of fun, everybody feels welcome to come out and listen to some great music by some great artists. That’s our main goal, that’s our main focus. Obviously, all of the bands are awesome. Some of them are legends. They’re all friends or bands we’re fans of so we couldn’t be any happier.

Woodruff: We’d love to be able to do this in as many places as we can that can sustain it but we need good results. We need great support from all the fans and everybody involved but we’d love to do it as a yearly homage to all of our favorite places in the USA. For us, it would be a dream come true to be able to put together a lineup of some of our favorite bands yearly and get to do this in each area and have great local coffee and local breweries on board, and makers and creators in each area bringing their stuff into it. That would be awesome so hopefully it works out.

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at


What: Ohio Is For Lovers with the Descendents, New Found Glory, Motion City Soundtrack, Hawthorne Heights, Bayside, Silverstein and others

Where: Riverbend Music Center, 6295 Kellogg Ave., Cincinnati

When: Noon Saturday Sept. 10; doors open at 11 a.m.

Cost: $83.76 general admission, $203.75 VIP ticket

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