Home from Nelsonville Music Festival, and Why I Will Go Every Year
I've been home from this year's Nelsonville Music Festival since late Sunday night, but I'm still processing all the awesomeness from the weekend. This is my third year attending (second as a photographer), and here are my top ten reasons for why I'll go back every year, forever:
1) NMF Family - I've been to many festivals and concerts throughout the years, and love live music like little else. However, there's just something about the atmosphere that hits you at NMF the second you arrive. The crowd, the volunteers, the artists (and even the great group of fest photographers) are just different. It's always welcoming at Nelsonville, and everyone I talk with seems genuinely interested in the music and one another.
Speaking of family-many of the artists I fall in love with at Nelsonville Music Festival can be found walking around the festival grounds, checking out the other music, and just being overall human. It's such a cool, surreal bonus to the fest, to be able to talk with your favorite artists in person, and include them in the fest family atmosphere.
2) Variety of Music - Many fests have musical themes. Some might expect a festival in the "hippie town" area of Nelsonville/Athens to focus on specific music only. But stopping at those genre assumptions can be a disservice. Few other events have managed to share such a wide variety of music in one place as Nelsonville Music Festival does, and somehow they do so in such a seemless way. I love heavy, gritty music. I love darker music. I love dance parties. I love funny music. I love unique compositions, performances and experimental demonstrations. I always get all of these things at Nelsonville.
3) Photo Ops - As a photographer, I'm always looking for interesting people, places and things to take pictures of. Not only does this festival have a sweet parade every year, there are vibrant fest costumes, bright colors, art demos, art displays and installations, and beautifully interesting people all around you. All of the time. So many great ops to appreciate and photograph.
4) Family-Friendliness - I don't think I've ever been to a festival where there were so many happy kiddos running around. There's a special children's art area, a family area in the camping site, and plenty of opportunities (such as the cool parade) to entertain the whole family, even outside of the constant waves of live music all around you.
5) Musical Experientialism - Speaking of "all around you", there are many levels of experience at Nelsonville Music Festival. The crew who have brought NMF to us have provided a variety of different music listening environments, so everyone can enjoy music in their own way. Bigger acts perform on the large, well-produced main stage, where thousands of the fest's attendees can see the show at once.
There're also FIVE other areas where music happens throughout the weekend: The Porch Stage is a smaller version of the main stage-still with a dedicated light and sound crew, but on a smaller scale. The FREE TO THE PUBLIC Boxcar Stage, right outside of festival grounds, featured 20 different acts (including a fun square dance) for everyone to enjoy this year. Every night at midnight, the campground tent comes to life with a different party that keeps the energy going late into the night. For lower-key musical experiences, The WOUB Gladden House (porch) offers sampler sets from many of the featured artists, for more intimate performances. And one of my favorite locations on-site is the No-Fi Cabin. Capable of only holding maybe 40 people, the small cabin allows artists to perform extremely personal sets for those willing to camp out early and grab a spot inside.
People often ask me what my favorite type of music is. I don't really have a type. I consider myself an "Experientialist", where I live for experiences. If an artist brings me along for the ride that's inside their head, I'm an instant, lifelong fan. Nelsonville always excels in giving me at least a solid handful of experiences every year that truly change my life.
6) The Camping Community - This was my first year enjoying the full Nelsonville experience by camping all weekend. I have to say it was wonderful. I stayed on the quieter, "family side", which seemed to observe quieter evening hours (I love sleep, it keeps me happy), and everyone around our site was friendly, helpful (one of them jumped my car when I charged my phone a bit too long overnight), and respectful of other people's space and property. I'm a convert, looking forward to camping again, next year.
7) Supporting Local - NMF is a huge inspiration in many ways. But one of the biggest sources of inspiration for me is their massive love of local. Right around 40 of the Nelsonville Music Festival performances were by Ohio and West Virginia artists, this year. Annnd Nelsonville brings in some of the best local art (like Marietta's own Just a Jar and Leigh Cox) and food vendors, around.
8) The Food - Have I mentioned the food? I ate at a new place for each meal, and still didn't get to try all the food I wanted to try. Made-to-order breakfast bagels, stir-fry, BBQ, pizza, Mediterranean cuisine, tacos and burritos, burgers and hot dogs, liquid nitrogen instafrozen ice cream, some of the best vegan and vegetarian food on the planet, and so, so much more was up for eating throughout the weekend.
9) Good Causes and Stuart's Opera House - One (more) thing I love about Nelsonville is that the funds cover NMF costs and also fund the great programs happening at Stuart's Opera House. Stuart's people made Nelsonville Music Festival a thing, and they also just do really amazing things for the music community year-round.
Stuart's offers free admission for all children 12 and under to Nelsonville Music Festival, as well as theater performances and artist workshops for area schools, as well as free Stuart's concerts for local children. PLUS they have a really impressive After School Music Program (AMP) for local middle and high school students (which teaches local kids musicianship and team-building skills), and even give the students who are a part of AMP the opportunity to perform an opening set at Nelsonville every year. So it's a great feeling knowing your money goes to help support programs that encourage a love of music in local kiddos and the community.
10) New Favorites - I promise you, when you go to Nelsonville next year, you will leave with a love for music you're never heard before. There will be something, someone, from somewhere that you've never heard of before. And they will become your new favorite person, music, memory and/or experience. Nelsonville Music Festival and the crew who've created it have done, and will continue to do an amazing job at curating an experience for music and local business and art lovers of all ages.
I'm already counting the days until NMF2018