Well, it’s that time again. Musikfest is nearly here and we’re getting our guide out early so you can plan out your listening, drinking, and festing. This year there’s a lot of changes, some new food, and some really great bands. Through the years we’ve had one of almost everything from the Musikfest stands and this year we listened to some music from literally every band attending Musikfest and picked out some favorites. There’s also a lot more craft beer going around this year, so we’ve got the spots to hit for good brew.
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. This year the festival is also divided up 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. All of these are bad options because it’s a far walk and the buses will most likely be packed. And they cost money. I would plan on sticking to one side of the festival per day, or if you really need to just switch sides once. This is the first year for this, so I can’t say for sure, but I foresee a huge clusterfuck of people waiting for buses going back and forth. There’s also a big problem in that the Bethlehem Police don’t want anyone to cross over the bridge and are forbidding you to do so with a mug of beer. It goes unanswered, but my question is, “What if you drink all of your beer before crossing?” We plan on testing this. For more parking info check here: http://www.musikfest.org/info/parking.php. Our suggestion? Park far away and take a shuttle in or take a bus into the city. Stay at one side of the festival and get your jollies on there for the whole day.
Arguably even a bigger part of Musikfest than the food or the music is the drinking. The best bet here is to get a Musikfest mug first. Buying beers by the glass is stupid and you’ll save money with the mugs. 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. Now, the drinking has changed significantly this year. Last year bars were told to stop serving beer in mugs for take-out by the state police (the effectively told them to fuck themselves and did it anyway), however this year there’s a law in effect that allows bars to legally do this. And now that Musikfest is expanded across the city there’s more drinking options than ever. Here’s a rundown:
North and South Side:
Beer Tents: These are the official Musikfest tents. They should also be your last resort. Here you can get wine (Barefoot winery, I believe), mixed drinks, malt liquor (like Jack Daniels pre-mixed drinks), and beer (Yuengling Lager, Yuengling Lager Lite, Miller Lite, Rolling Rock, Leinenkugel Summer Shandy.) If you’re on the North side and looking for a beer tent with a short line, the one in Liederplatz (behind the Sun Inn) historically has no line ever.
The Brew Works: The Brew Works is serving up at the brewery itself (North side, on Main Street) and at the PBS building right next to the Artsquest Center. This will take care of all of your craft needs while at Americaplatz or the Town Square.
Artsquest Center: Here’s a selection of some craft beer (local stuff like Victory, Stoudts, etc.) as well as the gross stuff.
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. Last we checked there was a serious amount of fantastic IPAs flowing here.
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.
Starfish Brasserie: They always have three taps of craft beer going to mug fills during Musikfest. Last year they were doing mugs of Weyerbacher Merry Monks which promptly resulted in a warm, fuzzy feeling. This year they have Prism Bitto Honey, Victory Sunrise (and a backup of Summer Love for when it kicks), and Cottrell Old Yankee Ale.
Hotel Bethlehem: They serve generic beer, and possibly Guinness for mug refills.
The Wooden Match: This new venue at the former Main Street Depot spot will be serving up craft beer for $5 mug refills throughout the fest.
Rosanna’s: They’re always doing mug refills 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.
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. They’ve also got Lord Chesterfield though, so if you’re into that it’s there.
Over the years we have extensively, and I mean EXTENSIVELY, tasted food from nearly, if not every, food vendor at Musikfest. Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands later we bring you the best of the best. The cream of the crop. What you should be using to soak up all that alcohol:
Alando’s Kitchen: Alando’s is a Kenyan cuisine kitchen ran out of Wired Cafe on Main Street. They’ll also have a food spot in Volksplatz serving up Chicken Masala Wrap, Beef Masala Wrap, Veggie Masala Wrap, Beef Samoss, Lentil Samoss, and Bhajie. If it’s serious ethnic you’re craving, this is the place.
Spicy Delight: Not sure if this is the same place that used to be located at Plaza Tropical, but they have jerk chicken. And jerk chicken goes well with a mug full of ale to wash it all down. Located in Volksplatz.
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.
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. They’re rocking 3 locations this year: Handwekplatz (by the bell guy), Plaza Tropical, and the Sands Steel Stage (the main paid concert venue).
Rita’s Water Ice: But only if they’re serving Swedish Fish ice. Located in Festplatz.
Oinkers: But only for the pulled pork sandwich. Located in Festplatz.
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
Theo’s Gyros: They’re rocking two spots this year and always serve up some very tasty gyros with a delicious tzatziki sauce. Located at 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 huge, delicious beef chunks that are cooked over huge, smoky pits that you can smell a whole platz away (maybe not really, but man does it make you salivate). 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 Handwekplatz by the Aw Shucks tent and the bell guy.
This year we might have went a little bit overboard with the music thing. We listened to one song from every band that is playing at Musikfest (that we could find online, which is most) and picked the ones that we thought were the best or most interesting to check out, including some old favorites. Without further ado:
Bill Kirchen and Too Much Fun – Really fun, original rockabilly. Get rock feel to it and not too “surf-rock”. Incorporates good elements of blues.
Friday, August 5th from 9 to 11pm at Americaplatz
Cello Fury – Drums and people playing the fuck out of their cellos. It’s awesome.
Thursday, August 11th from 6:30 to 7pm at Air Products Town Square
Thursday, August 11th from 8:30 to 9pm at Air Products Town Square
Chelsea Automatic – damn catchy rock that could easily hit the Top 100 one day.
Saturday, August 6th from 11pm to 1am at Air Products Town Square
Dan Mills – light jazzy rock with catchy pop blended in. Think jazzier Jason Mraz.
Thursday, August 11th from 4 to 5:30pm at Air Products Town Square
The Dang-it Bobbys – Funniest name at Musikfest, and some serious banjo picking.
Sunday, August 14th from 2 to 3pm at Main Street
Sunday, August 14th from 3:30 to 4:30pm at Main Street
Diego’s Umbrella – Spanish Indie rock that hits a lot of genres.
Friday, August 5th from 9 to 11pm at Volksplatz
Sunday, August 7th from 7 to 8:30pm at Volksplatz
Dina Hall – Local singer that plays around the area, has a great voice, and great energy.
Saturday, August 6th from 7 to 8:30pm at Liederplatz
Friday, August 12th from 8 to 8:30pm at Lyrikplatz
Donovan Roberts – Old-style jazz and swing that makes you want to stop by the Bookstore for some cocktails. Bonus? They’re getting married during Musikfest.
Wednesday, August 10th from 7 to 8:30pm at Liederplatz
Freak Owls – hipster/tech experimental. Easy to take in. Perfect for a Sunday.
Sunday, August 7th from 3:30 to 4:30pm at Main Street
Sunday, August 7th from 8 to 8:30pm at Lyrikplatz
Great White Caps – seriously good surf rock from these Funhouse regulars. I’d skip this if you can catch one of their shows at the Funhouse, it’ll be way more fun.
Saturday, August 6th from 6 to 7pm at Plaza Tropical
Here Come the Mummies – Goddamn hilarious band who come out dressed as mummies. They have a song called “Pants” which features the lyrics” I’m gonna blow a wad on you, Oh, oh, oh, I’m coming in my pants, my shirt.” Yeah.
Sunday, August 7th from 8:30 to 11pm at Festplatz
Jordan White – Singer/songwriter from the area that does not get the credit he deserves.
Saturday, August 6th from 2 to 3:30pm at Air Products Town Square
Saturday, August 6th from 8 to 8:40pm at Martin Guitar LyrikplatzLove in Stockholm – super-passionate upbeat soul rock. Lead singer has a hell of a voice and a great backup band. Fantastic stuff.
Saturday, August 6th from 5:30 to 6:30pm at Americaplatz
Kagero – billed as Japanese gypsy rock, these guys incorporate a huge variety of world styles into their music. Going from Spanish influence to sounding like some old Decemberists, this should be an interesting act.
Sunday, August 14th from 12 to 1:30pm at Main Street
Sunday, August 14th from 5 to 6:30 at Volksplatz
Kalob Griffin Band – great rootsy country. And they sing a song called “Whiskey My Love”. How could you go wrong?
Wednesday, August 10th from 5:30 to 7pm at Plaza Tropical
Los Straightjackets – More surfabilly rock from guys in suits with Luchadore masks. Catch these guys instead of/in addition to The Red Elvises.
Sunday, August 7th from 9 to 11pm at Americaplatz
Monday, August 8th from 9 to 11pm at Volksplatz
The Low Anthem – possibly the best folk/indie band playing Musikfest.
Monday, August 8th from 9 to 11pm at Americaplatz
Mamarazzi – R&B/hip hop backed by rhythm guitars, trumpets, and saxes.
Tuesday, August 9th from 7:30 to 8:30pm at Main Street
Tuesday, August 9th from 9 to 10pm at Main Street
MarchFourth Marching Band – insane ragtag band of awesome musicians getting down in a marching-band fashion.
Friday, August 12th from 7 to 8:30pm at Volksplatz
Saturday, August 13th from 7:30 to 8:30pm at Volksplatz
Sunday, August 13th from 5:30 to 6:30pm at Americaplatz
Marnee – ~14 year old singer/songwriter whose voice is so good and haunting you’ll be entranced by it.
Monday, August 8th from 6:30 to 7pm at Air Products Town Square
Monday, August 8th from 8:30 to 9pm at Air Products Town Square
Mree / Marie – young singer/songwriter with a beautiful voice. Makes you wish she was playing on a bigger stage.
Wednesday, August 10th from 6 to 6:30pm at Lyrikplatz
Panic Years – Pretty decent rock. Not too loud, not too poppy. Reminiscent of Goo Goo Dolls.
Sunday, August 7th from 11pm to 12 am at Air Products Town Square
Sunday, August 7th from 5:30 to 6:30 at Americaplatz
Peter Karp and Sue Foley – Very laid back and passionate blues.
Friday, August 5th from 9 to 11pm at Liederplatz
PhillyBloco – a stage filled with drummers, dancers, guitarists, and more. Great music to bob your head to.
Sunday, August 14th from 7 to 8:30pm
Red Baraat – like an international Trombone Shorty.
Tuesday, August 9th from 7 to 8:30pm at Volksplatz
The Red Elvises – back every year, the surf-Russia movement has still yet to hit mainstream, but these guys always draw one of the biggest and funnest crowds for a free show. Be ready for sexual innuendo, conga lines, and awesomeness.
Saturday, August 6th from 9 to 11pm at Volksplatz
Sunday, August 7th from 9 to 11pm at Volksplatz
Sandlot Heroes – Possibly the Lehigh Valley’s most popular band at the moment. Great pop rock that always draws a crowd. Played a great set at Mayfair this year.
Friday, August 5th from 7:30 to 9pm at Plaza Tropical
Scott McKenna – former Lehigh Valley singer/songwriter returns for a stint at Musikfest. Catch this guy…great voice and pop writing.
Saturday, August 13th from 4 to 5:30pm at Air Products Town Square
Scythian – no reason to see any other Celtic band at Musikfest.
Monday, August 8th from 7 to 8:30pm at Volksplatz
Tuesday, August 9th from 9 to 11pm at Volksplatz
The Stereofidelics – A yearly favorite, very much like Dispatch.
Saturday, August 6th from 6:30-7pm at Air Products Town Square
Saturday, August 6th from 8:30-9:30pm at Air Products Town Square
Tavern Tan – Jam rock, harmonica included. Known to rock out around the valley.
Wednesday, August 10th from 7:30 to 8:30pm at Main Street
Wednesday, August 10th from 9 to 10pm at Main Street
Toxic Sunshine – the only punk bill at Musikfest. Some songs reminiscent of old Thursday stuff. We’re personally hoping a circle pit breaks out…it’ll bring back the days of crazy ska shows on Main Street.
Monday, August 8th from 8 to 8:30pm at Lyrikplatz
Toy Soldiers – what looks to be a bunch of hipsters playing extremely soulful blues. Possibly the best blues act of the festival.
Monday, August 8th from 7:30 to 9pm at Plaza Tropical
Universal Funk Order, New York Funk Exchange, and Philadelphia Funk Authority – basically you should go to Festplatz, drink beer, and listen to funk for all of Saturday.
Saturday, August 13th from 4 to 11pm at Festplatz
Wallace Brothers – Country that isn’t too country – just the way we like it.
Sunday, August 7th from 5 to 6pm at Main Street
Sunday, August 7th from 6:30 to 7:30pm at Main Street
Wendy – young guy and girl make great pop rock. They also do some really damn good covers.|
Saturday, August 6th from 5:30 to 6:30pm at Main Street
Saturday, August 6th from 7 to 8pm at Main Street
Is Musikfest over or you’re bored and still want to get your drink on? Here’s some advice: stay far, far away from anything immediately surrounding Musikfest. Do not go to: Ripper’s, Joe’s, Brew Works, Looper’s, or MacGrady’s. These will all be jam packed full of already hammered people and it will not be pleasant. Also, do not go to Starter’s Riverport because there will be a great congregation of drunk 20-somethings there and fights break out. That’s on a regular clubbing night…it will be exponentially worse during Musikfest. Here’s where to hit up:
The Mint: As you can tell from our review, we didn’t really like the place. But it’s far enough away that it probably won’t be insane and there’s good beer there.
Sands Casino: It’s big enough that there’s enough bars to drink at and won’t be too crowded. Typically it’s not too bad bad after Musikfest but this year there’s a lot going on on SouthSide, so that may be a gamble.
Molly’s Irish Pub: Far enough away from Musikfest that it shouldn’t be a problem. Bonus: Lehigh isn’t in session so not many college students.
Tally Ho: Smoky, slightly annoying, but might be OK after/during Musikfest. Bonus? Party deck.
Maps, other band times, other food, etc can all be found over at the official Musikfest site.
Great run down of info, I was in at Loopers last night and the beer selection was piss poor. The drinks take forever to make, they cost as much as the bookstore but aren’t as good and the place is way too small inside. Avoid it and take a gamble with McGraddies or Fun House outside areas.
Looking forward to checking out Wooden Match!
Great Guide! I love your comment about blinking mugs! So True 🙂
Agree with all of your food choices except Oinkers…had the pulled pork there and while the meat was great, it was pretty much flavorless. I do not recommend it.