Cincinnati Music Fest, the biggest urban music festival in the nation, is set to kick off in July bringing an all-star lineup of returning favorites and new artists performing at two different venues for three days in downtown Cincinnati.

Fans outside of Paul Brown Stadium before Cincinnati Music Festival (photo: Louis Rideout)Fans outside of Cincinnati Music Festival (photo: Louis Rideout)

The Cincinnati Music Festival is back and better than ever

Presented by P&G, the 2023 Cincinnati Music Festival returns this year on July 20-22 with a spectacular Thursday night kickoff concert at the Andrew J. Brady Center celebrating a monumental 50 years of Hip Hop music. The nostalgic lineup will definitely thrill old-school hip-hop heads, featuring Doug E Fresh, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, and Rakim.

The headliner act for Friday night is the legendary Al Green, who hasn’t played the Festival since the mid-1970s, then closing out the weekend on Saturday evening is  Snoop Dog, who is making his debut performance at this historical music event.  The Friday and Saturday night concerts are held at the Paycor Stadium.  Also, before the festival kicks off on Saturday, don’t miss a special ceremony to unveil the brand-new Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame at The Banks.

With its roots beginning in 1962, the Cincinnati Music Festival brings in more than 80,000 visitors every year.  

Cincinnati Music Festival (photo: Madison Schmidt)Cincinnati Music Festival (photo: Madison Schmidt)

The 2023 Cincinnati Music Festival schedule 

  • Thursday: July 20 at Andrew J. Brady Center: A Tribute to the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop Artists with performances from Doug E., Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, and Rakim

  • Friday: July 21 at the Paycor Stadium: Featuring Al Green, Jill Scott, Jodeci, Midnight Star, and Gerald Albright

  • Saturday, July 22 at Paycor Stadium: Featuring Snoop Dogg, Babyface, P-Funk Connection, Avery Sunshine, and Norman Brown

Tickets for the Cincinnati Music Festival are available online at cincinnatimusicfestival.com

Getting around downtown Cincinnati and parking for the Cincinnati Music Festival

Cincinnati Bell Connector Streetcar

Parking in downtown Cincinnati is not tricky. There are parking garages within walking distance of most places, including the Andrew J. Brady Music Center. The spacious parking garage is adjacent to the property. Parking for the Paycor Stadium events follows the same parking rules used for game days of the Cincinnati Bengals. Concert go-ers can even park across the Ohio River in Kentucky and easily walk across the pedestrian Roebling Bridge. 

Hotels in downtown Cincy and Northern Kentucky are also offering parking for this event. Ridesharing with Uber or Lyft is always available–although rates could increase during the peak hours of this event. Oggo is a free option - just make sure you download the app ahead of time. 

Hop on the Connector Streetcar (totally free!) to quickly get around downtown Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine. The stop for Cincinnati Music Festival is #1, The Banks. 

Learn about Cincinnati’s rich musical history 

From launching the career of the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown to resurrecting the career of county music icon Hank Williams–and just about every musical genre in between–Cincy has a notably rich music history.  

While James Brown recorded many of his classic hits in Cincinnati on the King Record label, Cincy cannot claim him as an original son.  However, his legendary and long-time backup band, The J.B.’s, are from the area.  The JBs, one of the industry's best funk and soul instrumental backing bands, had a strong Cincy connection. 

Some other musical icons claiming Cincy as their home include: Bootsy Collins, a key player–if not the top player–in the funk music scene that headed up Parliament Funkadelic for several years; The Isley Brothers, whose 1959 iconic song “Shout” and later “It’s Your Thing,” grew up in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood before settling in Blue Ash; 1920s legend Mamie Smith “The Queen of the Blues” who was the first black artist, male or female, to record a blues song with vocals, also claimed Cincy as her hometown. 

Celebrate Cincy’s music heritage at Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame

Founded in 2021 by Hamilton County, the Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame debuted the following year recognizing the musical scene created by those black artists with ties to Hamilton County and Southeastern Ohio. 

Black Music Walk of Fame

Musical icons inducted into the third class of the Hall of Fame all have some connection to the iconic music scene in Cincinnati including the R&B old-school quintet from the 1980s, The Deele, known for its smash hit “Body Talk,” world-renowned gospel composer Louise Shropshire, Cincinnati native Phillipe Wynne, best known as the lead vocalist for The Spinners, who performed such classic R&B hits as “The Rubberband Man” and “One of a Kind Love Affair” in the 1970s.  And the legendary “Godfather of Soul” himself, James Brown, will also receive a star along the walkway.  

While Cincy cannot claim him as a native son, Brown has deep ties to the city. Cincinnati-based King Records, the label under which Brown released some of his famous hits, as well as his backup instrumentalists The J.B,’s hailed from Cincy. 

Celebrate the grand opening at noon on Saturday, July 22 at the Andrew J. Brady Music Center in The Banks district in downtown Cincinnati. For more information about the event, visit: the Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Other things to do during Cincinnati Music Festival Weekend

6th Annual Rock the Boat All White Boat Ride Party (7/22): Party with 400 plus people, all dressed in glamorous white attire,  on two levels as the cruise sails on the majestic Ohio River. There is a cash bar and music is provided by the Rock the Boat Allstars. Tickets are $50 and they sell out quickly. Catch the cruise in Ludlow, Kentucky. Boarding begins at 848 Elm Street at 1:00 p.m. and the cruise departs at 1:30 p.m. sharp. There is free parking in the adjacent parking lot. 

Festival513 (7/21-7/22): Located outside of the stadium all festival weekend, Festival513 is a free two-day event that highlights and celebrates the eclectic culture within the African American community. Enjoy food, drinks and art vendors. 

Vibe Marketplace (7/20-7/22): Explore local and minority-owned shops, vendors, and artisans in downtown Cincinnati's Fountain Square.

Black Tech Week (7/18-7/22): Connect with tech entrepreneurs, learn from investors, and find resources and opportunities. The keynote speaker is the one and only Issa Rae, an American actress, writer, and producer.

Cincy Soul: The Black Taste (7/21-7/23): Two-day food festival celebrating black-owned restaurants, caterers, and food trucks.  

Queen City 5K (7/22): Race through downtown Cincinnati while raising money for local kids in the Cincy Region.

Robert O'Neal: Open To All | April 28, 2023 | Contemporary Arts Center: Explore the fifty-year career of the unofficial "Over-the-Rhine mayor", Robert O'Neal. The exhibit features drawings, prints, and photographs representing the joys, struggles, and rich histories of Cincinnati’s Black neighborhoods. 

Check out our full events calendar to see everything happening during the weekend of the Cincinnati Music Festival.

 

Bourbon and Spirits Tour (photo: American Legacy Tours)Bourbon and Spirits Tour (photo: American Legacy Tours)
 

Take a tour of Cincinnati: Learn about Cincy’s prohibition and brewing history with Underground Cincinnati. Taste Cincinnati’s rich food culture with a delicious food and beverage tour. Art lovers will enjoy creating their walking mural tour for a glimpse of colorful paintings around the region. Discover real Kentucky bourbon on the B-Line in Northern Kentucky.  

Don’t miss this fabulous weekend of great music, great entertainment, and so much more. See you there!