Northside Festival: Top 5 Best Former Headliners


While the Northside Festival continually draws in huge acts over the years, founder Steve Stedman followed his friends’ advice to not go too big. “I was advised to be patient and let it grow with the community,” he says.

You won’t see major players in the music game at the festival like Beyonce or Mumford and Sons, but we’ve compiled a list of some extraordinary, if not better, acts who have previously headlined at Northside since its nascence in 2009.

  1. Why? (2013)

Cincinnati natives and brothers Josiah and Yoni Wolf have been leading this weird, experimental rap/hip-hop band since 2004. Their extensive use of imagery and self-deprecating narratives make them one most exciting bands to see live. 2013 was a big year for them; in addition to playing Northside, they released an EP called Golden Tickets, a collection of personalized theme songs for Why? fans.

  1. Wavves (2010)

Frontman Nathan Williams has had run-ins with problems like alcoholism and bad press since the band began to gain fame. One of the worst incidents being the time he completely flipped out on stage after taking a specialty “cocktail” made of ecstasy, valium, and xanax before going on stage at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival. Since that 2009 incident, people were worried if Wavves was going to make or break themselves. acidjack from NYC Taper reviewed the band’s performance at the festival and said that “the new band does wonders for Wavves…It may be party music, fine, but it’s good party music now.” They have since collaborated with Cloud Nothings for an album called No Life for Me and their newest album was released last year.

  1. John Vanderslice (2009)

Being an active musician since 1999, John Vanderslice has collaborated with some pretty celebrated musicians like Spoon, The Mountain Goats, and Death Cab for Cutie. He has often been praised for his poetic and masterful storytelling, which had been mostly political until 2009 with the release of the album Romanian Names. Mike Dougherty of The L Magazine wrote of his performance, “he always comes across way better live than he does on record, turning every song, even the slowest, synthiest ones, into solid, straightforward rockers. Tonight was no exception”.

  1. The Dead Milkmen (2014)

“Punk Rock Girl” has been an anthem for, well, punk rock girls (and boys) since 1988 and fans were lucky to see them headline at the festival in 2014. Their last studio album, Pretty Music for Pretty People, was released in October of that year after a bit of a hiatus. In an interview with Left Bank Mag at the festival, Alex Norelli asked the band how they keep things fresh. They replied, ” you gotta realize, there’s certain songs you absolutely have to play. And that’s both a blessing and a curse cause you have an audience that wants to hear these and you don’t want to disappoint them, and a curse cause it could get dreadful to play those songs. But you mix it up, you can play other songs in the set. And if the audience really appreciates it, their energy helps you through”

  1. Beirut (2014)

Sources: Politico, Pitchfork, NYC Taper, Youtube, The L Magazine, Left Bank Mag,