A dozen reasons

Nelsonville Music Festival returns for 12th year

By Tim Anderl

Stuart’s Opera House presents the Nelsonville Music Festival, June 2-5, 2016 on the campus of Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio. Returning for its 12th year, the festival features world-renowned headliners Courtney Barnett (Thursday), Gary Clark Jr. (Friday), Gillian Welch (Saturday), Randy Newman (Sunday) and more than 60 acts over all four days.

This year the festival’s organizers are working to add new elements in to NMF and continue to develop existing ones. In this spirit the festival is launching an online fundraising campaign to support a brand new stage at this year’s NMF—but not just any stage, this one is from an old boxcar on loan from the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway. And in addition to hosting 22 more sets of music over four days, the boxcar will also be a public mural created at NMF by artist Barry O’Keefe.

In addition to a new stage, NMF continues to set the standard for music festivals that really understand their fan base, the music lover and aficionado, with the inclusion of sets by Mac DeMarco, The Tallest Man on Earth, Nathaniel Rateliff + The Night Sweats, Charles Bradley & The Extraordinaires and dozens of others.

Dayton City Paper recently spoke with NMF marketing director Brian Koscho about the festival’s roots, history and future.

Under what circumstances was Nelsonville Music Festival conceived?

Brian Koscho: NMF is a production of the nonprofit, historic theater Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville, Ohio. It started back in 2005 as a one-day event right outside of Stuart’s Opera House on Nelsonville’s public square. Tim Peacock is the executive director of Stuart’s Opera House and this was his idea and vision. NMF was, and is still, meant to be a fundraiser for Stuart’s Opera House.

For the first three years it was a one-day festival with six to eight acts and artisan vendors, food, kids activities and all that. And then in 2008, we decided to expand it to a three-day festival and move locations from a spot on the banks of the Hocking River behind Rocky Boots to the historic village of Robbins Crossing on the campus of Hocking College in Nelsonville.

I think the involvement of Stuart’s helps make NMF unique; any money raised at NMF goes right back into Stuart’s and into the festival.

How does this festival set itself apart from other festivals?

BK: There is a serious focus on the music and the lineup at NMF, there are great bands of all genres playing all day and night; it really is a festival full of music for people who love music.

That diversity then also draws out a more wide-ranging crowd than you would maybe find at your regular festival. We have all ages, a huge kids area with great activities encourages families, and kids 12 and under are free too, to come and enjoy themselves.

The atmosphere at NMF puts a focus on the music, but we also work hard at making sure all the aspects are contributing to that full experience too. So you will find lots of artwork and aesthetic pieces around the grounds, including our newest stage, an old boxcar that we are also having a live mural made on throughout the weekend, and artisan vendors from around Ohio and the region, awesome food from around Ohio, Midway Games, etc.

What are your favorite moments in NMF history?

BK: Each year there are always great moments of being able to see it all come together. On a personal note I have been lucky enough to see some of my favorite bands: Built to Spill, Dinosaur Jr., Yo La Tengo; and I have gotten to see some legendary musicians too: Willie Nelson, George Jones, John Prine, Loretta Lynn, Mavis Staples and Merle Haggard; so those are always special too because you are watching it in a field in Nelsonville, Ohio, which is pretty surreal even after so many years.

Are there artists who have told you that NMF stands head and shoulders over others or is their favorite?

BK: We’ve heard from lots of artists over the years about how much they love NMF; very kind words from people like The Flaming Lips, The Avett Brothers, Andrew Bird, Shovels & Rope and Brandi Carlile, which is always great to hear. I think making musicians feel comfortable and well taken care of and putting them in a relaxing and creative environment is a great thing for performance too.

How important is the inclusion of musical acts from the region in the festival?

BK: I think that it has always been an important part of what the festival has done. Every year there has been incredible music from right here in Ohio, and right here in Athens county too, but also Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati and everywhere else. NMF has had some incredible Ohio acts over the past 12 years; Guided By Voices, Wussy, Buffalo Killers, Moviola, The Motel Beds, Southeast Engine and countless others. I think it is an important part of NMF to showcase music from the state to all of the people at the festival.

Have you started thinking about NMF ’17 yet?

BK: I am sure Tim has some ideas already. I think we have a little bit, it’s unavoidable. It’s a constantly growing and changing thing and you want to make sure it continues to get better and grow in the right ways so I am always attempting to think about not only the year coming up, but NMF as a continual event and something that is a sustainable thing.

Stuart’s Opera House presents the 12th annual Nelsonville Music Festival, June 2-5, 2016 at Robbins Crossing on the campus of Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio. Tickets, more information, and the full lineup so far are available at nelsonvillefest.org or by calling 740.753.1924.

Tim Anderl is the web editor and a contributing writer at Ghettoblaster Magazine and maintains his own music blog at youindie.com. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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