Nelsonville Music Festival 2018 is almost here...

By: John Price

An artistic representation of Nelsonville Music Festival during the 2017 celebration. (Photo by: Sam Kayuha)

An artistic representation of Nelsonville Music Festival during the 2017 celebration. (Photo by: Sam Kayuha)

Beginning Thursday, May 31 through Sunday, June 3.

I’m the kind of person who loves discovering new bands at a festival. The experience of hearing something that catches your ear, meandering over to see a group that you’ve never heard of and then seeing what could very well be one of your new favorite bands performing live can be intoxicating. On the other hand, I’m also the kind of person that gets overwhelmed at the enormous lists of artists that I’ve never heard of that always populate festival lineup posters.

The anxiety felt by a music festival attendee from the paradox of choice -  having to choose who to see from a large list of artists/bands - is very real.  As is the shame associated with feeding a seemingly never-ending corps of corporate music festivals as they grow larger and more impersonal. Travel is always expensive, so traversing great distances to attend a festival that is not too big, not too small, not too corporate, not too poor and too far away is an impossibility, right? Wrong.  

The 2018 Nelsonville Music Festival is set to provide a brilliant balance of familiar local acts, novel new bands and entertaining headliners all supported by Ohio and West Virginia-based sponsors. All of this is done while maintaining a socially conscious and environmentally sustainable modern music festival that is less than 90 minutes away from the Buckeye State’s capital.   

In its 14th year, The Nelsonville Music Festival has built a local Ohio/Appalachian identity with local bands and support from local sponsors. This year’s headliners include The Black Angels (Thursday), The Decemberists (Friday), George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic (Saturday) and Ani DiFranco (Sunday). That’s correct. 60’s-inspired psychedelic rock, indie folk-rock, the genre-defining space-gods of Funk and one of the most talented progressive feminists in music over the last 30 years are all set to descend into the Hocking Valley from May 31 through June 3. It’s a pretty impressive lineup that easily stacks up against past NMF artists that have included Dinosaur Jr., St. Vincent, Wilco and The Flaming Lips.

“Fine,” you may retort, “I’ve been to plenty of festivals before with solid headliners, but what really separates a good festival from a great one is its undercard.” Worry not, you scrupulous skeptic, for Nelsonville’s tiers of supporting artists are hungry, talented, unique and many are actually local to Ohio. Aside from The Main Stage, three additional stages will be providing an assortment of music throughout the weekend, including country/folk-inspired faire (The Boxcar Stage), alternative/local music (The Porch Stage) and more low-key/acoustic performances (The No-Fi Cabin).

Part of Nelsonville’s identity/brand is that it actually cares to promote Ohio’s local music scenes (Do you honestly think Perry Farrell ever agonizes over whether Lollapalooza is promoting enough Illinois-based bands?). Columbus bands like EYE, a psychedelic Floyd-meets-Sabbath collective, and RADATTACK, a Hives-meets-Stooges whirlwind of pop-rock, along with Blueprint, our city’s own rapper/producer prodigy whose new album just dropped this past Tuesday, are all set to take the stage in Hocking Valley.

And that’s just on Thursday! Friday will feature the D-Rays, who are a raucous Athens-based surf-punk outfit, will also play on Thursday, and EYE will be playing its second set at 1 a.m.

Lung, an incredible Cincinnati duo whose electric viola and brilliantly dark vocalist, Kate Wakefield, will be performing on Saturday, along with The Worn Flints —Columbus’s own Kings of Leon-esque cadre of rockers—and Athens’ own multi-instrumentalist Aaron Michael Butler. Sunday will keep things rolling with the Athens-based music of jazz/blues performer Kay Carter, The Rattletrap Stringband, and the spirited acoustic stylings of J.D. Hutchinson and The Realbilly Jive who will be playing a Boxcar Stage set in the afternoon. Those are just a few of the many local acts that will be on display that will be worth checking out.

“So they like local music, big deal,” you might persist. “Where’s the money coming from? I’m not interested in seeing soda logos that are bigger than a main-stage headliner’s set-up.” Not to worry, you incredulous consumer. The festivities’ sponsors are local as well. Ohio and West Virginia-based public radio organizations, OhioHealth as well as Jackie-O’s brewery are just some of the local partners ponying up dough to pay for this Appalachian aural extravaganza. Leave the multinational corporate dollars to other festivals across the country. Nelsonville prefers to help bolster its home state’s economy.

“Alright, fine, but Nelsonville is too far away” you dissent. “I don’t think I can drive there and back, and I can’t afford lodging.” Soothe your skepticism. Campgrounds will be available if you are interested in enjoying the beautiful star-filled country night. A four-day camping pass is only $40. Plus, the “Late Night Tent” which borders the campgrounds and the festival grounds, will be featuring acts/DJs well past curfew.

I know you’ve actually given up resisting at this point. You’re probably gathering your camping supplies, sunscreen and sunglasses now. Just remember that NMF is going to be implementing new safety protocols this year, which will include an insistence on allowing only clear/transparent backpacks. However, small clutches and fanny packs will be allowed through. Enjoy the local music. Enjoy the headliners. Enjoy Nelsonville Music Festival: a Goldilocks treasure trove of music that’s not too big, not too small, and one of Ohio’s best-kept secrets.  

Tickets for Nelsonville Music Festival are still on sale. Get yours today by visiting the NMF website. Click here to visit the site.