Nelsonville Music Festival (NMF) ‘17 has come and gone and all who partook leave with a somewhat empty feeling as they return to their daily lives. They realize it will be another year until they see their Nelsonville friends and family again. The weekend passed by far too quickly! From the friendly vendors to the talented performers to the welcoming nature of the press cabin (if by welcoming, one means immediately feeling free to make jokes), Nelsonville creates lasting memories. People continually expressed their almost exclusively positive feelings about Nelsonville, especially the familial environment. At NMF, family takes on a broader meaning, and what better way to choose a family besides an affinity to music, the outdoors and beer.
After experiencing my first NMF, it will certainly not be my last. My favorite part, in addition to the music, was talking with festival-goers. For most, the music was a combination of new discoveries and old favorites. Waxingdog Studio’s Susie Frank said,“They Might Be Giants brought her back to high school.” She makes the most beautiful hand-bound journals she began this craft after years of work in the paper industry. Other vendors similarly enjoyed the music; a common theme among people who are ‘working’ at the festival: it brings FUN year after year with the camaraderie and the quality of the music. A long time area favorite vendor, Tina’s Tiaras, exists in a prime location with a straight view of the main stage. Artist Tina Kelsey, Queen and Head Boss, has returned to Nelsonville for eight years selling tiaras starting at $10 and from there, they “get more fabulous.” She loves this area because even in the cities “there are caves and waterfalls in her backyard.” The location of the NMF – just an hour from Columbus and a short trip from Athens, in the beautiful hills and environment around Hocking College – displays this AmeriCorps’ Rural Action certainly shares this sentiment as Shannon Stewart a volunteer at their booth; says “people who come here, when they step out they may say ‘oh what a beautiful place’ and look at [the volunteer] positions” that give back to the environment and this community. The other AmeriCorps volunteer, Anja Odegaard, with ComCorps discusses the work they do in the town of Nelsonville; Anja stated that there is “not a more perfect venue to talk about [their] message” than NMF.
Choosing to be at the festival and advocating for an issue seem to be in line with the values of the festival. The festival website mentions its impressive attempts to “have a positive impact on [their]community and environment; [They] are a Zero Waste event, diverting 92% of the waste created at the festival from the landfill in 2016 with recycling and composting.” Further, the parade that happened multiple times throughout the festival reveals a strong connection to community service and a promotion of the arts among all age groups. Patty Mitchell, a contact with the Honey for the Heart organization that benefits from the parade, discusses the emphasis on public art and directed me to their community Facebook page. Honey for the Heart uses “repurposed materials (things perceived as junk) ..Plastic, cardboard, sticks, fabric….[that] are morphed into fantastical larger-than-life puppets that dance in parades, festivals…or unexpectedly appear at community events.” When asking Patty why they participate in Nelsonville, she responded, “the feeling, the vibe, the spirit of it.” The parade, a childrens area and the familiar faces make it easy for families and vendor’s children enjoy Nelsonville. The children seemed to enjoy the music as much as the adults, as many were seen dancing in the sunshine; one young girl, Athena, a daughter of a volunteer and already a Nelsonville regular, firmly informed me that Ween was her favorite band (she also was a huge fan of the cotton candy shaved ice). From Ween and They Might Be Giants to a new crowd favorite, Hellnaw, there was no shortage of enjoyable performances. A personal favorite performance of mine was Honeyhoney, a great duo from Los Angeles. The band crosses genres, which keeps a constant sway in your hips the lead singer, Suzanne Santo has a great voice, which she not only shared with us at Nelsonville, but also brings back to her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.
My other favorite band, and one a lot of fans were looking forward to, was Jenny Lewis, formerly, the lead singer of a well-known indie band called Rilo Kiley. From the marijuana leaves in technicolor on her white jumpsuit to the unforgettable lyrics to the badass back-up singing, Watson Twins show was one for the books. Many other musicians made a lasting impression on me: The Easy Leaves for their seasoned, classic country (or as I like to call it, good country) performance, Emmylou Harris for her graceful and beautiful sound, and Twin Peaks for their fun concert – their fun energy was contagious. Another band that I immensely enjoyed was Wesley Bright and the Honeytones; when they are singing “Everybody rock your body, move your body,” how could you not stand up and clap? They are another band from Ohio, once again demonstrating what a great music scene Ohio has.
One musician, a staple at Nelsonville Music Festival, is Adam Remnant. As a musician and teacher, he works with many aspiring and talented young musicians, some of whom performed in the mornings through the Afterschool Music Program. During his own set, he said “Nelsonville music festival is my favorite long weekend of the year,” He then proceeded with a song about Ohio and when leaving, one can’t help but keep “the Midwest on my mind.” Adam is just one of the many musicians present at Nelsonville with a strong connection to both this festival and to the area.
The musicians, the vendors and the friends of the festival all displayed a strong connection to this festival. “Billboard has called Nelsonville Music Festival ‘one of the best kept secrets of the U.S. music festival circuit,’ and in – their 13th year, NMF continues to gain fans who want a music festival with a more personal experience.” I am glad the secret was not kept from me. Nelsonville Music Festival quickly became one of my favorite experiences since moving to Ohio last year, and I’m looking forward to return to a family I choose next summer.
Vendors I recommend:
Space Cadet Soaps – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Henna Faerie – email@example.com
Waxingdog Studio – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tina’s Tiara’s – email@example.com
A full list of retail vendors can be found here.
Donkey Coffee – Excellent cup of black coffee
Salaam – Falafel Pita – Very good
French Fries and Mozzarella Sticks – average festival food
Bagel Street Deli – Barbecue Tofu on an everything bagel – Very good
Jackie O’s Ricky – great festival drinking light beer
Jackie O’s Mystic Mama – always a good choice
CiderHouse’s Cherry Cider – good
Little Big Fish’s Sour Saison – favorite