It’s that time again. The time to fest yourself. Here’s your 2012 guide with what to see, drink, do, etc. while enjoying the area’s largest event. Below we picked out some of the best bands (yes, we listened to nearly all of them) from the line-up. Enjoy.
If you have an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch you should go ahead and download the app. It’s fucking great and everything we’ve been hoping and dreaming of for the past two years. If not grab a map somewhere or something and dream about how awesome it would be to have the Musikfest app.
This is the worst part of Musikfest. If you’re insane you’ll try to park close to the festival. There’s two off-site lots that allow you to park and take a shuttle (for money, of course) to the festival. Trying to park on the street is next to impossible. You can also park over at the Sands lot or parking deck and head over to the Artsquest area.
Musikfest is divided into two sides, North and South. You’ll either need to walk your drunk ass a good distance between the two or take a shuttle bus. Last year the shuttle bus wasn’t nearly as crowded as expected so it should be a safe bet for getting back and forth between the two.
This is the biggest part of Musikfest. Even more-so than the music. First step: Buy a mug. Sure, you can buy individual beers, but they’re smaller and if you plan on doing any real drinking at Musikfest you’ll want a mug. Do yourself a favor and get a blinking mug right away before you’re drunk, sad, and wanting a blinking mug instead of the boring one in your hand. It’s an extra few bucks but what the hell.
The Musikfest tents have sucky beer. Many places also offer cheaper refills than the Musikfest tents. So, where to go? The absolute, hands-down best place to get your mug refilled with some tasty craft beer is The Wooden Match. They’re doing $5 refills of great beer. You can’t get a better deal than that. The Brew Works is also a very solid option if you’re up on Main Street. It’s crowded as hell at night but during non-peak hours isn’t too bad to drop in and snag a refill.
If set on hitting up a Musikfest tent the best one to go to is Liederplatz. It always has the shortest lines, is located by Main Street, and allows you to get in and out quickly.
If you’re on the south side head inside the Artsquest venue for the good beer. Downstairs they have some bottled stuff and some mediocre things on draft, but upstairs in the Musikfest Café they have stuff like Victory Hopdevil and others. Last year The Brew Works had a tent set up on the PBS patio as well but it remains unknown if they’ll do the same this year.
Other places to refill/drink:
Looper’s: Loopers is inbetween North Side and South Side so if you’re walking or getting off at a bus stop further away, this is a good stop. Not too far from the Artsquest venues and they’ll be pouring some stuff that’s a little better than the beer tent offerings.
JP Macgrady’s: A smelly, smoky shithole, but they’ve got a lot of great craft on tap.
The Bookstore Speakeasy: Get away from the madness for a cocktail. Can’t guarantee it’s going to be completely relaxed (most likely will be a crowd and music) but it’ll be a hell of a lot better than getting your beer knocked into every 3 seconds by a drunk teenager.
Molly’s: Probably going to be crowded as hell. Good selection of beer, though.
Hotel Bethlehem: They serve generic beer, and possibly Guinness for mug refills.
Rosanna’s: They’re always doing mug refills of the Miller/Coors variety at this Italian joint located a block away from the main action at Broad and New Streets.
Penn Pizza: Just down from Rosanna’s on New Street is Penn Pizza who also does refills of Coors/Miller.
Joe’s Tavern: One of the dirtiest dives in all of Bethlehem, if you’re looking for cheap beer and weird/bad company, this is the place to stop in. If not, get your cheap beer and get the hell out of there. Gets mobbed during fest.
Ripper’s: A similarly disgusting bar with lots of pretty motorcycles parked outside to look at, Rippers does cheap mug refills of swill-ish beer.
There’s so much shit to eat at Musikfest it’s almost a daunting task to decide what to have. Over the years we’ve spent an ungodly amount of money and time trying the best and the worst. Here’s where and what you should shove down your gullet to soak up all that beer:
Aw Shucks: Easily the greatest corn-on-the-cob you’ll ever have. They bathe it in butter, roll it in parmesan, and top it with some mild spice that makes it irresistible. They’re also at every valley festival for miles and we’re all the happier for it. This stuff is also easy to walk around with and eat at the same time. Grab it on the way to an act and be ready to sit and digest when you get there. Located at the Sands Steel Stage, Handwerkplatz, and Plaza Tropical.
Foodstuff: Because you can get anything here. Potato pancakes, chicken paprikash, brats, wieners, bierocks, goulash, halupski, haluski, grounder fingers, butterfly fries, etc. Located at Festplatz.
Holy Infancy – Portuguese donuts. Eat them. Located at Plaza Tropical.
JD and Carlo Gourmet Italian Ices: Because it’ll be hot outside. And because they got rid of Rita’s and their unbelievably addicting Swedish Fish water ice. Located at Americaplatz and the Sands Steel Stage.
Karl Ehmer: One of the only places around selling actual German fare at a supposedly German festival. They’ve got all the wurst you could ever want and it’s all so very good. Located in Festplatz.
Helmut’s Strudel: After you down some Knackwurst have dessert with some German strudel. Some of the best pastry you’ll find at Musikfest. Located in Festplatz
Pig Pit – Haven’t been here before, but they’re serving things called “pig slop” and “pig pit pedals”. Sounds like it’s worth a look, even if it doesn’t turn out to be appetizing. Located at Plaza Tropical.
Shookies: This may or may not be new this year. If you’re hitting a headlining show at the Sands Steel Stage this might be worth a stop to find out just what the hell a ‘porketta sandwich’ is.
Take-A-Taco: Quite possibly the area’s favorite festival food. They show up all over the place…Mayfair, MFest, Allentown Fair, etc. And their tacos are damn good. The taco bowls are great too. Just get anything and you’ll be happy. Located on Main Street and in Volksplatz.
Theo’s Gyros: They’re rocking three spots this year and always serve up some very tasty gyros with a delicious tzatziki sauce. Located at Sands Steel Stage, Banana Island and Main Street.
And last, but certainly not least, the best food of Musikfest: The Hogar Crea of Freemansburg shish kebabs. These are marinated in a mixture of 24k gold, unicorn blood, meth, and sunshine. They feature big, delicious beef chunks that are cooked over huge, smoky pits that you can smell a whole platz away. Intermittently interrupting the giant stick of meat are onions and peppers cooked over those same pits. Just a tiny bit of char on the edges mixes oh so well with the sweet, tender veggies. If you eat nothing else at Musikfest, eat these shish-kebabs. Located at Handwerkplatz by the Aw Shucks tent and the bell guy.
Our Music Picks
The Abrams Brothers
A country/bluegrass pairing who have been gaining a lot of attention following their fiddle-laden cover of Coldplay’s Viva la Vida.
Playing: Friday, August 10th from 9pm to 10:30pm at Main Street and Sautrday, August 11th from 12pm to 2pm at Main Street
The Alex Meixner Band
We first saw them at Oktoberfest last year. Hugely energetic and as close to rock as polka can get. Seriously, just take a look at this Guns n’ Roses cover.
Playing: Thursday, August 9th from 3pm to 4:30pm at Volksplatz and Sunday, August 12th from 7:30pm to 11:00pm at Festplatz
Guitar player/singer playing some smooth songs. Reminds us of Jason Mraz, and coincidentally enough he has his own song named “I’m Yours”.
Playing: Thursday, August 9th from 8pm to 8:40pm at Lyrikplatz at the Frank Bank Alehouse Cinemas
The Almighty Terribles
Local rock band that plays progressive and jam stuff. A laid back listen.
Playing: Sunday, August 12th from 4pm to 6pm at the Air Products Town Square
Their latest single “Smartest Man in the World” rocks pretty hard. They’ve been getting decent exposure in their hometown of Philly, appearing on XPN and selling out World Café Live.
Playing: Friday, August 3rd from 8:30pm to 10:30pm at Main Street
A Springsteen cover band? Why not.
Playing: Wednesday, August 8th from 6pm to 7:30pm at Americaplatz
Soaring post-rock with some riffs that remind us of Explosions in the Sky.
Playing: Tuesday, August 7th from 9pm to 9:40pm at Lyrikplatz at the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas
Local high schoolers who did a great rendition of Maroon 5’s Sunday Morning on WFMZ back in May.
Playing: Saturday, August 11th from 12pm to 1pm at Volksplatz
The Blues Brotherhood
Blues. Soul. You know.
Playing: Sunday, August 5th from 9:30pm to 11:pm at Americaplatz
Loud, high energy rock. If you’re into the Black Keys you’ll be into this.
Playing: Wednesday, August 8th at 7:30pm to 9:30pm and 11pm to 12am at the Air Products Town Square
Singer/songwriter from the Lehigh Valley who we’ve been following for quite sometime. Does a great Death Cab for Cutie cover.
Playing: Friday, August 3rd from 6pm to 6:40pm at Lyrikplatz at the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas
Jam/groove/funk. Perfect venue for it, too.
Playing: Friday, August 3rd from 4:30pm to 6pm at the Air Products Town Square
Caravan of Thieves
If the name didn’t convey it well enough, the band performs what can only be described as gypsy music. They’ve opened for The Decemberists and Iron and Wine so that should give you a good idea of their style.
Playing: Saturday, August 4th from 4pm to 5pm at Main Street, 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm and 9:30pm to 11pm at the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas
Cast in Bronze
The bell guy. If you don’t know who he is you don’t know Musikfest. Seek him out (Handwerkplatz) and wait for a performance (they’re frequent).
Chris Watson Band
If you’re going to watch one bluesy rocker, make it this one. Watson shreds on the solos.
Playing: Saturday, August 11th from 6pm to 7:30pm Americaplatz
Craig Thatcher Band
A Lehigh Valley staple. Does great classic rock-style music.
Playing: Sunday, August 12th from 8:30pm to 11pm at Americaplatz
The Dang-It Bobbys
Besides having a hilarious name, this band features awesome vocals and quick banjo picking to produce some foot-stomping-good tunes.
Playing: Wednesday, August 8th from 7:30pm to 8:30pm and 9pm to 10pm at Main Street
The Defending Champions
Horns, ska, and awesomeness. Makes the pain of not having the Royal Noise Brigade around anymore a little less harsh.
Playing: Thursday, August 9th from 3:30pm to 5:30pm at Plaza Tropical
We heard about them before we even looked at the Musikfest list and their Americana-esque album Carry the Fire has been blowing up. The band was on Leno and has been selling out shows. Seeing them at Musikfest is a must.
Playing: Friday, August 10th from 7:30pm to 9:00pm at Plaza Tropical
Dina Hall and the Backbeat
A local favorite, Dina’s singer/songwriter vibe is an upbeat listen perfectly suited to watching at Liederplatz.
Playing: Sunday, August 5th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at Liederplatz
The title is all the description this needs.
Playing: Thursday, August 9th from 7:30pm to 9:30pm at the Musikfest Café
Another fantastic blues guitar player with ripping solos.
Playing: Saturday, August 11th from 9pm to 11pm at Liederplatz and Sunday, August 12th from 6pm to 7:30pm at Americaplatz
The Fabulous Greaseband
Probably the only oldies band you should see. If you’re from that era, come see them. If you’re not, get ripping drunk and dance around to some classics.
Playing: Thursday, August 9th from 8pm to 11pm at Festplatz
Awesome name. The main video on their website is for a song called “Drunken Sailor” which features the band drinking lots of beer and chugging Jameson out of the bottle on stage. Hard rocking Irish music. Yes, yes, yes.
Playing: Saturday, August 11th from 9:30pm to 11pm at Volksplatz
Their synth-infused, smooth indie music was fantastic at last year’s fest.
Playing: Saturday, August 4th from 5pm to 5:40pm at Lyrikplatz at the Frank Banko Alehouse and Thursday, August 9th from 5pm to 6pm and 6:30pm to 7:30pm at Main Street
After unfortunately canceling last year, we’re extremely excited to see this band. Bluegrass and rap in one song sounds like a horrible idea until you take a listen. This is a must see.
Playing: Saturday, August 11th from 8:30pm to 10:30pm and Sunday, August 12th from 3:30pm to 5pm at Main Street
Gas House Gorillas
Great swing. Upright bass and all.
Playing: Wednesday, August 8th from 7:30pm to 8:30pm and 9:30pm to 11pm at the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas
Their song Everyday is a War sounds like a Jack White b-side. That’s reason enough.
Playing: Saturday, August 4th from 8:30pm to 10;30pm at Main Street
Great White Caps
Surfabilly from the Lehigh Valley. Their shows are always a great time.
Playing: Thursday, August 9th from 1:30pm to 3:00pm at Plaza Tropical and Sunday, August 12th from 7:30pm to 9:30pm at the Air Products Town Square
Touted as “the youngest blues band in America,” their harmonica and vocal skills make you feel like you’re watching a show down in Louisiana.
Playing: Monday, August 6th from 9:30pm to 11:00pm at Americaplatz
Igor and the Red Elvises
Kickass roknroll from Siberia. The Elvises are a Musikfest staple. With their Eastern Bloc accents and their naughty lyrics you’ll be sure to crack a smile while dancing everywhere. They always draw huge crowds.
Playing: Saturday, August 4th from 9pm to 11pm and Sunday, August 5th from 7pm to 8:30pm at Volksplatz
Because they still put on a hell of a show.
Playing: Thursday, August 9th from 8pm to 11pm at the Sands Steel Stage
His acoustic folk music is calming, soothing, and beautiful. Just what you need on the last day of the festival.
Playing: Sunday, August 12th from 12pm to 1:30pm and 2pm to 3pm at Main Street
His song Dance With Me is infectious with its quick guitar lines and scatting.
Playing: Thursday, August 9th from 9pm to 9:40pm at Lyrikplatz at the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas
Talented, groovy reggae from Jamaican-born son of a great artist.
Playing: Monday, August 6th from 7pm yo 8:30pm and Tuesday, August 7th from 6pm to 7pm at Volksplatz
Kalob Griffin Band
Folky country that doesn’t sound like it should be from Philadelphia.
Playing: Saturday, August 11th from 7:30pm to 9:30pm at Air Products Town Square
Keys N Krates
Electronic music at Musikfest? Finally.
Playing: Friday, August 3rd from 9pm to 11pm at Plaza Tropical
Light backing music, strong vocals, and powerful coupled with an intimate venue will make this a great show.
Playing: Tuesday, August 7th from 8pm to 8:40pm at Lyrikplatz at the Frank Banko Alehouse
Poppy electronica, something you don’t see much of at Musikfest.
Playing Friday, August 10th from 4:30pm to 6pm at the Air Products Town Square
MGMT with Atlas Sound
Finally, some music for the younger crowd.
Playing: Sunday, August 5th from 7:30pm to 11pm at the Sands Steel Stage
March Fourth Marching Band
Second best band we saw at Musikfest last year. Pretty girls in pseudo band uniforms, people on stilts, and great music. See them at Volksplatz instead of Americaplatz, it’s a better time.
Playing: Tuesday, August 7th from 9:30pm to 11pm at Volksplatz, Wednesday August 8th from 9:30pm to 11pm at Americaplatz, and Thursday, August 9th from 5pm to 6:30pm at Volksplatz
Rowdy hoedown music. Sure to be a great time.
Playing: Wednesday, August 8th from 7pm to 8:30pm at Liederplatz
Philadelphia Funk Authority
Funk music. And last year Ukee Washington showed up to jam with the band.
Playing: Sunday, August 5th from 8pm to 11pm at Festplatz
Scott Pine and the Conifers
We caught these local indie rockers at Artsquest’s Nowadays festival and enjoyed their set.
Playing: Monday, August 6th from 4:30pm to 6pm at the Air Products Town Square
Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds
Funk-filled soul music with one hell of a backing band. The lead singer has a lot of spunk.
Playing: Saturday, August 11th from 7:30pm to 9pm at Plaza Tropical
Lively, fun, and airy. It’ll make your head bob along with it.
Playing: Friday, August 10th from 9:30pm to 11pm at Plaza Tropical
Reggae-inspired versions of Beatles songs? HELL YES.
Playing: Thursday, August 9th from 8:30pm to 11pm at Plaza Tropical
Young the Giant with Portugal. The Man
Up-and-coming radio stars paired with a criminally underrated opener? Sold.
Playing: Friday, August 3rd from 7pm to11pm at the Sands Steel Stage