CINCINNATI -- Ubahn Fest, an underground music fête featuring EDM (electronic dance music), hip-hop, house, DJ and dance acts from Cincinnati, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and Canada, kicks off its second edition Friday at the Cincinnati Metro Transit Center.
The festival, first held in 2013, skipped last year because organizers couldn’t find the right date. Now it's back Friday and Saturday, again taking place at the bus transit tunnel underneath Second Street. The venue typically isn’t open to the public, but starting at 7 p.m. each night, 6,000 to 8,000 music fans will descend into the tunnel to see more than 40 acts, with a heavy emphasis on local artists.
Leave your claustrophobia at home and break out your glow sticks and party face. Here are nine acts that you should check out at Ubahn Fest over the weekend.
Best Male Performer With A Positive Message: Using the clever name "Black Power ranger" on Twitter, Chicagoan Malcolm London promotes education and youth advocacy while reciting poetry. He’s not exactly a rapper, but he did rap on fellow Chicagoan (and Ubahn Fest performer) Noname Gypsy’s song “Sunday Morning.” He also collaborated with Vic Mensa on the song “OnGaud” and has worked with Chance the Rapper on high-school student open-mic events. Ubahn will be London’s first music festival performance, and during his half-hour set he’ll blow you away with the power of his words rather than beats. 8:30 p.m. Saturday, The Metro stage
Best Mash-Up Dance Party: Remember that DJ named Girl Talk who mashed up a range of hip-hop, alt-rock and dance songs into something new? Wearing digitally mastered panda masks, Chicago duo The White Panda has taken over in Frankensteining a pair of songs into a mash-up. For example: White Panda spliced M83’s “Midnight City” with Kanye West’s “Good Life” into a song called “Midnight Life,” and also blended Steve Winwood’s '80s staple “Higher Love” with Naughty By Nature’s “Jamboree” for the effective “Jamboree Love.” They just dropped a mashup using Lil Dicky and Fetty Wap’s “Save Dat Money” and Great Good Fine OK’s “You’re the One for Me” in a song called “Save Dat One for Me.” Besides mash-ups, they occasionally do a remix, such as the one they did for our hometown boys Walk the Moon’s "Shut Up and Dance,” which will certainly ignite a mad dance party in the tunnel. 10 p.m. Friday, The Metro stage
Best Live Import: Saturday night's Metro stage lineup is solid all night long, culminating with Toronto’s three-piece headliner Keys N Krates, who actually play drums and keyboards live instead of using a laptop. The guys have played major festivals Lollapalooza and Ultra Music Festival and have four EPs to cull from. They describe their music as, “We make weird rap beats for the weird kids,” which entails employing samples on cresting electro trap songs “Dum Dee Dum” and “Save Me,” a song featuring Katy B. As Keys N Krates scratches records and shines strobes into the crowd, prepare to watch 15,000 fans jump up and down in unison. 12:30 a.m. Saturday, The Metro stage
Best College-Aged Rapper: While attending DePauw University, Mitch Brown began performing around campus and attracting the attention of his friends and collegiate peers. Under the moniker Kid Quill, he released his first studio album, "Ear to Ear," last summer. His music runs the gamut from songs filled with beats (including rapping over the Jackson 5’s “ABC”) to the love song “Take A Hand.” Quill is no stranger to Cincy: He opened for rapper Wale at Bogart’s in January and has performed during Self Diploma’s summer Fountain Square concert series. When he’s not studying at DePauw or mingling with Selena Gomez, he’s performing his heart out. 10:30 p.m. Friday, The Block
Best Rapper On A National Level: Straight outta Harlem, Darold Ferguson, aka A$AP Ferg, is part of the A$AP Mob crew, which also includes Ferg’s friendly semi-competitor A$AP Rocky. (Ferg collaborated on Rocky’s “Get High” and “Kissin’ Pink,” and Rocky has appeared on a few of Ferg’s songs). The trap music star released his record “Trap Lord” in 2013 and the “Ferg Forever” mixtape last year to some fanfare, but he has openly talked about how he wants more black people to attend his shows. He’s also an up-and-coming clothing designer. 11:30 p.m. Saturday, The Metro stage
Best Local Rapper: Buggs Tha Rocka generates socially-conscious free-flowing rhymes, as heard on last year’s “Scattered Thoughts of an American Poet” album, and he’s also one-half of the group Space Invadaz, along with Donte the Gr8. This year, Buggs has been touring with hip-hop luminary Talib Kweli, who signed Space Invadaz to his label, Javotti Media. Buggs told LEO Weekly that Cincinnati’s rap scene is “a musical gumbo here. Being from the Midwest, we pull influence from everywhere.” So it’s not surprising that Buggs has won the coveted Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Best Hip-Hop Artist three years in a row. 11 p.m. Saturday, The Metro stage
Most Versatile DJ and emcee: Sometimes DJ and emcee Firecat 451 only plays drum and bass remixes, but other times he plays original compositions that he likes to rap over. He has been prolific in performing at a lot of events around town and recording a panoply of songs, from chill dubstep tracks to electro house to a drum-and-bass remix of Sade’s “Love Is Stronger Than Pride,” demonstrating the amount of versatility he can bring to the stage. 11 p.m. Friday, Ride Zone
Best Female Performer With A Positive Message: Fatimah Warner could be the Chicago equivalent to Azealia Banks, but she’s much better. Using the sobriquet Noname Gypsy, Warner talk-raps about poverty and other issues on songs such as “Sunday Morning”: “Knock, knock, and guess who’s not there? The police. And guess who don’t care? The people.” Like fellow Chicagoan Malcolm London, Warner has teamed up with new school Chicago rapper Chance the Rapper. Her music meshes rap and soul music, and she once said, “I wanna be the Bob Marley of this rap music.” We can’t wait to hear what her debut, "Telefone," will sound like. 10:30 p.m. Saturday, The Metro stage
Best Post-Bro House Act: Hailing from Chicago ‘burb Palatine, twin brothers Milk N Cooks “make tons of different music,” which means they aren’t afraid to turn Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” into a sped-up EDM version, remix Indiana indie band the Ready Set’s “Freakin’ Me Out,” and assemble a "Spring Break 2014 Pool Party Soundtrack" mixtape featuring Lorde and Fatboy Slim tracks. Although the brothers refer to themselves as “post-bro house,” they still bring the strobes, glaring LED lights and pool party atmosphere — except this time it'll be in a tunnel. 9 p.m. Friday, The Metro stage
When: Friday-Saturday, 7 p.m.-2 a.m. each night
Where: Transit Center West, underground at 220 Central Ave., Downtown (between Pete Rose Way and Third Street)
Tickets: Advance: one-day pass $30; weekend pass $40; weekend VIP pass $100. Day-of tickets: $40 for one day, $50 for the weekend.