Dayton Music Fest: Homegrown talent takes spotlight this weekend



There are plenty of area festivals today spotlighting homegrown talent in the Miami Valley. One of the big daddies of the modern era, Dayton Music Fest, is back with performances in three venues in downtown Dayton on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20 and 21. Level Up Productions presents the 19th installment of the annual event in partnership with WYSO-FM (91.3) and support from Dayton Real Estate Crush at Blind Bob’s and Trolley Stop on Fifth Street and Yellow Cab Tavern on Fourth Street.

“So many amazing bands have played in past years so it’s important Dayton Music Fest continues,” said Nathan Peters, who has been curating the festival since 2017. “Getting the lineup together is always a juggle almost until the end. Things cancel and it can go in any which direction, but we always figure it out.”

Friday’s acts include Heather Redman & the Reputation, K. Carter, Novena, Seth Gilliam & the Fake News, Marijuana Johnson, and Nick Kizirnis & Kyleen Downes. Saturday’s lineup includes Lung, Subterranean, the 1984 Draft, Abertooth Lincoln, Dark Backward and others.

“We keep trying to do different things,” Peters said. “The 2019 festival was the biggest year I’d done and that obviously changed with the pandemic. We added The Brightside that year. Adding them back is definitely an idea in the future but to do that you need something that is really going to pull people. It’s harder and harder to come by those headliners that are relevant to Dayton.”

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Miranda Pennington

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Miranda Pennington

Remaining flexible

Change has been part of the equation since Dayton Music Fest started in 2005. Venues have come and gone. There have also been multiple organizers since original founders Dan Clayton and Shawn Johnston were at the helm. Even so the focus has always been on local music.

“Last year was an amazing time,” Peters said. “Having Haunting Souls do a reunion was the last time something really fell in my lap. I always try to find something that doesn’t really happen in Dayton very much, but it’s a tricky thing. This year I couldn’t really find (something akin to) the Haunting Souls reunion or having the Mulchmen in 2019. I tried my heart out, but nothing really worked so I just focused on building an amazing, diverse lineup of everything Dayton.”

A team approach

While Peters is the head of the snake, he credits the many contributions of Brian Johnson and his staff at Level Up Productions.

“It’s nice because I have Brian and his team,” Peters said. “They help me with promotion, so I almost don’t have to touch it. His team is great. They have five different sponsors involved, which is amazing.”

New sponsors include Trojan City Music and Door Service Solutions.



Increased options

Last year, in the first year back after the COVID shutdown, Dayton Music Fest was only at Blind Bob’s and Yellow Cab Tavern. Those venues are back this year along with Trolley Stop, which was a regular venue during the festival’s first decade of existence.

“I’m excited we have three venues this year,” Peters said. “I took some of the early stuff that was happening at Yellow Cab and expanded it to the Trolley Stop. It gives us more space and more of a footprint and more people are able to come. It also gives you a chance, if you don’t want something loud, you can take a little break and go to Trolley Stop and hear something a little quieter.”

The trend with the indie music festivals around town is more musical diversity with the inclusion of more rap, pop, R&B and other styles. Dayton Music Fest is no exception.

“I always like to have a lot of variety and I feel like we’ve done it again,” Peters said. “There’s a little bit of everything for everybody. If you’ve never seen a live show, Dayton Music Fest is a good place to start. You’ll get exposed to new things, which is the coolest thing about Dayton Music Fest. So, get involved and mark your calendar.”

He also added some words of advice.

“Come the whole weekend if you can,” Peters said. “Get there early and see the very first acts. Don’t post up at one venue — it’s meant to be a barhopping festival. Try to see a little bit of everything. Check out anything you’re not sure of beforehand so you don’t miss something that might blow your mind.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or


What: Level Up Productions presents the 19th Dayton Music Fest with Lung, K. Carter, Abertooth Lincoln, Heather Redman & the Reputation, Subterranean, Novena, Nick Kizirnis & Kyleen Downes and others

Where: Downtown Dayton venues: Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth St., Trolley Stop, 530 E. Fifth St.; and Yellow Cab Tavern, 700 E. Fourth St.

When: 6:20 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20 and 21

Cost: Weekend passes are $20 in advance, $25 the day of the event. Admission is $15 per night.

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