The hills are alive …

Nelsonville Music Festival celebrates 10 years

By Leo DeLuca

Photo: Dinosaur Jr. will perform at this year’s Nelsonville Music Festival; photo: Brantley Gutierrez

Nestled in the Appalachian foothills, a two-hour drive from Dayton, Nelsonville Music Festival (NMF) celebrates its 10th anniversary with Dinosaur Jr., The Avett Brothers, The Head and the Heart, Shovels & Rope, Motel Beds, Kurt Vile, Jason Isbell, Frank Turner and more.

“The lineup is made for people that love music and you’ll find all sorts of genres and types,” NMF Marketing Director Brian Koscho said.

Presented by Stuart’s Opera House – an historic theatre (est. 1879) anchoring Nelsonville’s Public Square – NMF will be under way Thursday, May 29 through Sunday, June 1 at Hocking College’s Robbins Crossing.

With each passing year, more and more music festivals are popping up nationwide; in light of this, NMF goes to great lengths to offer festival-goers a singular experience.

“We try to take an experience that can be impersonal and make it a unique experience that puts the music in the forefront,” Koscho said. “In addition, we offer things like the all-acoustic ‘no-fi’ cabin, which hosts music all weekend in an old log building on the grounds.”

The location itself, tucked in the middle of scarcely populated rolling foothills, is intriguing enough for some.

“I’ve passed through Nelsonville, but never stopped,” Motel Beds bassist Tod Weidner, who will perform at this year’s event, said. “I always imagined the play ‘Our Town’ to be set in a place a little like Nelsonville.”

Whatever one imagines Nelsonville to be, one thing is for certain: NMF focuses on being both kid-friendly and environmentally friendly.

“Our Zero Waste Initiatives [around 90 percent of the waste from NMF 2013 was diverted from the landfill with composting and recycling] and kids’ activities separate us from other festivals,” Koscho added. “The kids’ area has tons of new stuff this year, including some amazing giant puppets and more.”

Veteran attendees can also expect some new features. “We are doing some late-night music events in the campground on Friday and Saturday,” Koscho said. “On Friday, we will host an old-time square dance. Saturday night, the campground will host the Heatwave Dance Party featuring old soul, R&B, funk, garage, psych and more. We are also working with Ohio University School of Media Arts & Studies and WOUB Public Media to interview artists for a video series.”

In anticipation of the 2014 Nelsonville Music Festival, Dayton-born Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr. (and SeBADoh) and Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers answered some questions:


Who is your favorite musical act from Dayton, Ohio?

One of the best bands I have ever seen live was Brainiac. Sometime in the ’90s I saw them play in Boston and they blew me away. They sounded amazing and wore some great vintage clothes including matching fuzzy earmuffs. Of course, some very unfortunate events prevented them from conquering the world. But the one band I know of that spun off of Brainiac was Enon. They released a brilliant record called Believo that, like Brainiac, was ahead of its time – challenging and catchy as hell. I saw a member of Enon on the street in Philadelphia a few years ago and could kick myself for not offering to wash his feet. – Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr.)


Have you ever been to Nelsonville, Ohio? If not, what do you imagine the town to be like?

No, I’ve never been there but people in the Dayton area I’ve asked seem familiar with it. Looking at a map now it seems to be very close to Athens, which is where my mother went to college for a year or two before I attached myself to her 100-lb. frame. I imagine it’s green, rolling farmland. If it’s anything like Gambier, which is also in the eastern/central part of the state, though farther north, and where my sister went to school, it’s probably F-ing beautiful. Maybe it’s a liberal enclave like Yellow Springs, surrounded by winding bike trails dotted with cows and ice cream stands? I don’t know, I just hope. –  LB


You’re a friend and fan of Southeast Ohio native and folk musician Justin Gordon. How did that relationship come to be?

We performed with Justin the first time we played in Athens, Ohio and were told how great he was. Sure enough, his original songs were thoughtful and perfect and his acoustic blues convinced me he was and is the real deal. Since then, I have listened to and been inspired by everything he makes. He is a brilliant artist and a treasure to any place he inhabits. – Scott Avett (The Avett Brothers)


Who is your favorite musical act from Ohio?

Jessica Lea Mayfield is the best female vocalist I know. She doesn’t have to try to be what she is and what she is, is pure genius. I have tried to explain to her she is rock, folk and country royalty, depending on how she’s feeling or what she’s singing. She didn’t understand what I was talking about, which confirmed her genius. – SA


Nelsonville Music Festival is Thursday, May 29 – Sunday, June 1 at Hocking College’s Robbins Crossing, 3301 Hocking Parkway in Nelsonville. For tickets and more information, please visit


Reach DCP freelance writer Leo DeLuca at

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