Over the Rhine Celebrates 25th Anniversary at Washington Park

Over the Rhine, the band, played a free show last night in Over-the-Rhine, the Cincinnati neighborhood, in honor of their 25th anniversary as a band. Despite the oppressive heat, Over the Rhine kept things low-key and cool while promoting songs from their latest album Meet Me at the Edge of the World. The show was held in Washington Park across from Cincinnati’s historic Music Hall.

Over the Rhine performs at Washington Park across from Music Hall in Over-the-Rhine
Washington Park and Music Hall serve as the backdrop to Over the Rhine

Besides getting to enjoy great, new music for free, I was impressed with what Cincinnati has done to make Washington Park a beautiful venue for outdoor shows. While there’s no official “seating” outside a few tables and chairs, you can bring lawn chairs or blankets or just take advantage of make-shift seating such as decorative walls or steps winding throughout the park. Excellent concessions were also available at this particular event, including food from Washington Platform and Taste of Belgium, a local Over-the-Rhine restaurant. The park concessions featured a nice variety of craft beers as well – though this attendee was sad to find Moerlein’s OTR Ale was not available. You give us Over the Rhine in Over-the-Rhine, but we can’t partake in some OTR? Would’ve been the perfect trifecta if you ask me.

Quibbles aside, the entire experience was excellent and people really seemed to enjoy themselves. Kids – and even some adults – stayed cool by wading through the beautiful Washington Park fountains. Linford Detweiler (half of the Over the Rhine songwriter duo) even offered up dry shirts for the fountain frolickers at what he called “the 1989 price of $15.”

Over the Rhine was slated to play from 6 PM to 8 PM, but they went on late and left early, so they only ended up playing for an hour or so. But they made that hour count. Over the Rhine’s subtle nuances, intricate harmonies and excellent musicianship shined bright and kept the audience rapt – while leaving us all wanting more. Many of the songs came from their new album and I was particularly struck by a couple of them.

“All Over Ohio” was presented as a love song – in more of a “one love” tradition than the more syrup-y love ballad kind of song. It made me appreciate how the band has stayed true to their Ohio roots. Plus it’s pretty darn catchy.

“Favorite Time of Light” is just a gorgeous tune that expresses, musically, the emotions we often feel when we experience the beauty of nature. In this case, a sunset spreading across fields of wheat as it gives warmth to everything it touches.

Because I’m not native to Cincinnati, I may be less likely to take a scene like this for granted. But given the history of Washington Park and Over-the-Rhine in general, perhaps it’s time for locals to revisit this renovated gem. Sure, Over the Rhine won’t play the venue every Sunday, but regardless of the band, Cincinnati has provided a great performance venue – scenic, sonic and safe – inside Washington Park.

View of downtown Cincinnati from Washington Park
Great view of downtown from Washington Park

If you’re interested in checking out Washington Park for yourself, let me recommend the Cincinnati Celtic Festival being held the weekend of September 5-7.

Let’s just hope they have Guinness.

—Ryan Varney

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