This past weekend, we headed for the rolling hills of Southeastern Ohio for the 10th annual Nelsonville Music Festival. Family-friendly, ecologically-minded and produced by the non-profit Stuart's Opera House, the festival aims to have an impact on the region and the attendees who will take those missions home. Here are a handful of the top elements and moments we witnessed at the gathering.
1) Pokey LaFarge
The sound of Pokey LaFarge proves there is no such thing as "revival" music, rather, it lives forever. The Bloomington, Illinoise born musician combines elements of swing, country and folk for a unique blend of authentic Americana. Besides seeing Pokey and his 5-piece backing band (which includes bassist Joey Glynn, guitarist Adam Hoskins, Ryan Koenig on harmonica, washboard, and snare drum; TJ Muller on cornet and trombone; and Chloe Feoranzo on clarinet and saxophone) on the main stage, we witnessed an unplugged set on the front porch of the No-Fi cabin on the back of the festival grounds. It was a scene right out of the earliest of music festivals, where people tightly gathered to hear the songs of troubadours and traveling ramblers.
2) Musicians interacting with festival attendees.
Why hide out backstage or on your tour bus when there is so much to take in? Let's not forget the music festival goes beyond the music - there is a communal bond built by thousands of people gathering in a field to enjoy music, food, art and human interaction. We saw members of Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile and Violators, Lucius and Pokey LaFarge take in sets from Michael Hurley, WV White and others all while interacting with the festival attendees.
3) The adolescent/teen element
From the painting to the parades and puppets, there was plenty of activities for families and childern to become involved with the festival. We even took in a set from two after-school bands, Periodic Fits and Gravity Free. Their covers of rock staples were spot on and one young aspiring musician wearing a Jimi Hendrix shirt nailed his Eddie Van Halen's famous "Eruption" solo.
4) Frank Turner
Since the disolution of his band Million Dead, the former punk/hardcore rocker created a successful career with an acoustic guitar by combining some of that punk angst with folk. Before Turner took the stage with his backing band, The Sleeping Souls, we spoke to him about his influences, among them were 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Cat Stevens and Nirvana.
When speaking of Nirvana, Turner says, "Nirvana kind of knocked me onto a different course like most kids my age and sort of pushed me towards punk rock."
Turner admits he is a big fan of Cat Stevens, saying "I think he's a great songwriter. He's got this poise to his songwriting, which is impressive."
The festival's first night headliner made sure to include songs beyond his latest release, 2013's Tape Deck Heart, in his 14-song set and get the crowd involved with sing-a-long anthems and scripted jumping jacks during "Recovery."
5) The Avett Brothers
Since headlining the Nelsonville Music Festival in 2008, the Avett Brothers have released three full-length albums with the help of acclaimed producer Rick Rubin. Their infectious live shows and stirring harmonies and a host of late-night talk show appearances have propelled them to international recognition. The Avett Brothers' 10:30 p.m. headlining set on Saturday, saw a great mix of popular songs, fan favorites and covers, including the Appalachian standard "Cluck Old Hen" as the set opener and "Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)" during the encore.
Open now through January 31, 2015, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum presents its latest featured exhibit, Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience - an immersive and engaging look at the music festival as more than just an outdoor concert, but as a community experience.
Whether it‘s forging human bonds, building a sense of community, providing broad exposure for musical artists – both old and new – or as one of the most important economic engines of the music industry, the story of the music festival is inextricably linked with music’s powerful cultural impact around the globe.