KIRTLAND, Ohio — WonderStruck music festival finished off its first year with a solid lineup and plenty of sunshine on Sunday.
Well, it was its “first” year known as “WonderStruck” — the music festival formerly known as LaureLive changed its name and its venue after its fourth and final Laurel school show in 2019. Following a year’s delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, WonderStruck emerged on Saturday, July 24 on the spacious grounds of Lakeland Community College, 7700 Clocktower Drive in Kirtland.
The festival’s first day, Saturday, featured headliners Third Eye Blind and Walk The Moon, along with plenty of Northeast Ohio-based talent in the shows leading up to the evening.
Sunday’s overall lineup found a bit more draw than the festival’s first day — supporting acts included the shimmery indie-pop stylings of Texas band Dayglow, dreamy vocalist Jade Bird and festival favorite Trombone Shorty.
Dayglow singer Sloan Struble wore a vintage suit while performing lightly funky indie-pop songs like “Nicknames,” “Fuzzybrain” and “Woah Man.” A massive crowd gathered around the Lakeland Stage for the band’s midday show, when the sun was at its brightest. Later, Trombone Shorty brought the energy to dinnertime at the Music Elevates stage, spouting off effortless trombone solos and dancing around his backing band during his energetic set.
One artist stood out like a sore thumb from the rest of the day’s put-together sets. KennyHoopla (aka, Kenneth La’ron) filled in after Noah Cyrus dropped out of the fest lineup just days before WonderStruck took place. The pop-punk Cleveland native had the audience moving, but sounded rough without a backing band, singing over recorded versions of his heavy tunes.
Other acts sounded more polished. Youngstown vintage pop band The Vindys and Columbus funk-rock group The Floorwalkers brought a ton of action to the festival’s smaller Stage 3, where trees provided plenty of shade for the relaxed, chill shows.
Shady areas were popular hangout spots during the hot summer day, and long lines awaited customers at lemonade stands and water refill stations. Then, when the sun started to go down, hit-making pop-rock acts AJR and Portugal. The Man showed their force onstage.
On a list of highlights from WonderStruck 2021, AJR would be at the top. The band of brothers (Adam, Jack and Ryan Met) drew a sea of people for its interactive show. The Mets joked and chatted with the audience between explosive performances of hit songs like “Bang,” “Weak,” “Burn the House Down” and “100 Bad Days.” Beyond their musical ability, the brothers – along with trumpet player Arnetta Johnson and drummer Chris Berry, knew how to keep the huge crowd entertained and dancing.
That crowd thinned out ahead of Portugal. The Man’s headlining performance, which featured a mix of songs from the band’s catalog, including “Feel It Still,” “Modern Jesus,” “Chicago” and “So American” — along with a rocking cover of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.” The band members rarely took the chance to interact with the audience, instead focusing on heavy guitar solos and transitions in between tracks.
Portugal. The Man sounded great musically, but in some ways, the group seemed out of practice. Singer John Gourley stood toward the back of the stage, with a music stand in front of him, occasionally paging through sheet music during the show. During Portugal. The Man’s show, bassist Zach Carothers noted that it was the band’s first show following the pandemic.
It was a common theme at WonderStruck, on both Saturday and Sunday – most performers noted that WonderStruck marked their first return to live performances after COVID-19 shutdowns. That sentiment was shared by plenty of attendees, too.
Beyond the idea of returning to live music in 2021, the performances, ambiance and positive vibes at WonderStruck ensured that it was a weekend to remember.
Get a jumpstart on the weekend and sign up for cleveland.com’s weekly “In the CLE” email newsletter, your essential guide to the top things to do in Greater Cleveland. It will arrive in your inbox on Friday mornings – an exclusive to-do list, focusing on the best of the weekend fun. Restaurants, music, movies, performing arts, family fun and more. Just click here to subscribe. All cleveland.com newsletters are free.