Nelsonville Music Fest Wraps Up

By: John Price

To the extent that any music festival can wrangle so many disparate genres and be inclusive and successful, the Nelsonville Music Festival had certainly exceeded expectations by Sunday.  The day began, as was customary, with a 9 a.m. yoga class. Those who were still nursing their Parliament Funkadelic hangover from the previous evening shook and stretched out the cobwebs before bands such as The Kay Carter Project, The River Whyless and J.D. Hutchison began playing.  

 The River Whyless plays melodic acoustic folk to the NMF. All photos by John Price. 

The River Whyless plays melodic acoustic folk to the NMF. All photos by John Price. 

However, as the grownups enjoyed the midday music, the younger attendees of the festival were preparing for the annual children’s festival by getting into costume. Jenna Thompson, in her eighth year volunteering with the festival, was in charge of the “Little Kids Area” and was on bedazzled colorful stilts keeping an eye on the soon-to-be parade participants. Ian George was also helping, in his second year volunteering. He came down from Cleveland to be part of NMF 2018, and was in charge of the yard area of the festival--which included duties such as hula-hooping and setting off bottle rockets to entertain the kids.  

“It’s been a lot of fun!” he said, as bongo drummers began playing and took their places in the line of kids getting ready for a parade.

 The NMF 2018 Children’s Parade commences in all of its eccentric glory.

The NMF 2018 Children’s Parade commences in all of its eccentric glory.

 Enthusiastic drummers add a beat for the parade to march to.

Enthusiastic drummers add a beat for the parade to march to.

“We don’t really know who they are,” said Thompson, referencing the drummers.  “They just sort of show up and then, we [have] a beat!”

It’s possible that 2018 might have been the most successful year yet for NMF. Part of that success has been its ability to cater to the purple-state culture of Ohio. In the afternoon the Blind Boys of Alabama took the Main Stage with The Mission Temple Fireworks Revival and Paul Thorn. They played an impassioned set that was in part dedicated to their recently deceased founding member, Clarence Fountain, who had died earlier that day. The audience’s hands went up into the air and their soaring gospel took hold.  

Meanwhile, a very different band was closing down the Porch Stage. Tune-Yards, an experimental socially progressive Bay Area collective, played to a raucous crowd who sang along and cheered desperately for its set not to end.  

“Really?” asked blushing, blue-haired founding member Merrill Garbus, as the crowd demanded one more song. Tune-Yards’ Kid A-esque loops and layered synths brought the Porch Stage to a close until 2019.  

Finally it was time for the Main Stage’s final headliner to perform: alt-folk superstar Ani DiFranco. Several devotees of her illustrious and storied career that has spanned three decades sang along with her acoustic songs, and screamed with joy as DiFranco acted almost surprised at how enthusiastically the crowd was receiving her.  

“Nelsonville...who knew?” she pondered, smiling out at the crowd.