You can expect an explosion of music a week from today when the 15th annual Nelsonville Music Festival gets under way at Hocking College’s Robbins Crossing.
This year’s festival headliners are Tyler Childers (Thursday), The Breeders (Friday), Death Cab for Cutie (Saturday) and returning NMF act Mavis Staples on Sunday.
In order to get the inside scoop on this year’s festival (which runs June 6-9), The Athens NEWS requested interviews last week from its two main organizers. Festival Executive Director Tim Peacock and Marketing Director Brian Koscho, who hold the same titles at Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville, were more than happy to oblige.
We covered a wide range of topics, including Peacock and Koscho’s insider recommendations for which bands not to miss. (Those you can find in an article we plan to run on the first day of the festival, next Thursday.)
Anything that this article doesn’t cover can be found at the festival website.
The NEWS: How are preparations going for the festival?
Peacock: Prep is going great. Being our 15th year, we like to believe that we are only getting better at this. Having produced this event on the same site for most of those years, it allows us to look closely at all logistical systems and layout and then fine tune the process. Besides curating the line-up and booking the bands, one of my other primary roles is looking at all of our systems from the audience perspective and attempting to improve those systems. The hope is to improve the experience of the audience. As you know, we don’t have a ferris wheel, huge name artists or Bill Murray taking selfies in the audience, but we do always attempt to provide a festival that provides artistically good music, family-friendly options, and a laid-back atmosphere that is easy to navigate. We believe this is key to our continued existence.”
The NEWS: When will the specific stage schedules be released?
Peacock: Today! (That was Friday when the complete day schedule appeared on the NMF website – http://nelsonvillefest.org/schedule/)
The NEWS: Will security be handled the same this year as last year? And how did that work out last year?
Peacock: Yes, we have the same security policy as last year. The biggest change was switching to clear bags for entrance. After some mild resistance at first, it went very well. We work closely with local law enforcement and follow most of their instructions for security guidelines. Our number one goal for the festival is to provide the safest environment possible. We are grateful to our patrons and their understanding of these changes as we grow.”
The NEWS: What’s the beer selection look like this year?
Peacock: Jackie O's (from Athens) and their distributer, Cavalier, continue to be a very proactive partner who understands NMF's overall ethos. We are proud to serve Jackie O's and a few other Cavalier distributed beers. We are also very happy to have our friends from Athens' own Little Fish Brewing Co. and West End Ciderhouse. And finally, we will have a wine tent for non beer/cider drinkers.”
The NEWS: What’s the stage set-up going to be? Same as last year?
Koscho: Yup! Music will be going all four days on the Main Stage, Porch Stage, Boxcar Stage, No-Fi Cabin, and also at the Gladden House Sessions.
The NEWS: What sort of acts will be on the Boxcar stage?
Peacock: The Boxcar Stage is free and open to the public. To our knowledge, we are one of the only paid festivals, if not the only paid festival, that provides one of our stages entirely free to anyone. The hope is that local community people not familiar with NMF give us a try with no financial risk. We also recognize that attending a music festival is a luxury, and everyone can’t always afford such things. By having the free stage, we make our festival accessible to everyone and anyone. This year, we are calling the Boxcar Stage “A Festival within a Festival.” There are about 20 performances on the Boxcar Stage alone. This stage tends to lean toward the folky/acoustic end of our eclectic line-up.
Koscho: We believe in accessibility for all to the arts and music, and having a part of NMF that is open to anyone and everyone with no wristbands or fees of any kind is so important to us. Some really great music there all four days: Michael Hurley, Steve Poltz, Laura Gibson, the Brother Brothers, the Other Years, Hubby Jenkins, Amanda Anne Platt, the Honeycutters, the National Reserve, and a bunch more will join some great Ohio acts like The Katy from Cleveland, and Chris Biester from right here in Athens. And one of my favorite performances of the weekend takes place over there as our six (!) Stuart’s Opera House Afterschool Music Program (AMP) bands play there Saturday morning at 11. Plus there will be a Square Dance on Saturday night, and there is Jackie O’s beer over there along with food, artisan vendors, and more. And the NMF Skate Ramp will return too!
The NEWS: What size audience/crowd do you expect this year? How was last year compared to previous years?
Peacock: We are expecting a similar sized crowd as recent years. Last year was slightly smaller, but somewhat with intention. Bigger is not always better. Our goal is to present a quality community event that we can manage. We try to not get too wrapped up in making it bigger. I think the quality of artists, overall, improves every year. This aspect is most important to me. That said, NMF is also (hopefully) the biggest fundraiser of the year for our Stuart’s Opera House Arts Education programs. Because of this, we do need to sell enough tickets and attract sponsors so we can continue to provide educational opportunities for our community year round. Please bring a friend who has never attended; it really will help us continue on into the future.
Koscho: I think with the Boxcar Stage being added, we have had more folks coming in each year for the free stage, too, but there is space and room for everyone to spread out. As Tim mentioned, (we appreciate) that feeling of comfort and not feeling like there are too many people for what we are doing. I think he hit on it perfectly when saying our goal is to increase the quality of our event in every way we can each year, and we hope that brings out a great crowd and we can raise money for Stuart’s Opera House and all of the great work we do in our community.
The NEWS: Any final thoughts?
Peacock: I am proud that we are consistently reviewed, locally and nationally, as a well-curated, laid-back festival experience. I love that we have such a thriving kids area, watching kids grow up attending the festival and then returning as adults. And besides creating a music festival that allows one to escape the day-to-day stresses of regular life, I believe we are an event that exemplifies a positive slice of our collective southeast Ohio community.
Koscho: I always say that by supporting the Nelsonville Music Festival you are supporting something so much bigger than just a great four days in a field in southeast Ohio; you are supporting an incredible place in Stuart’s Opera House, a historic nonprofit theater that does amazing work in Nelsonville and in our greater region. The Stuart’s Arts Education Program works with over 6,500 K-12 students in Nelsonville, Athens County, and across southeast Ohio doing everything from music, visual art, theater, summer camps, field trips, audio production, poetry programs, and so much more. It’s important work, and it just so happens that by attending one of the best parties around for four days you can help support it.
And also, I would like to add a bit of a tip for anyone attending. Go soak it up. Check out a band you have never heard of. Be sure to see an artist on every stage. Go take a ride or walk up the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway. Go to the late-night sets in the campground. See Michael Hurley play. Eat, drink and support local artisan vendors. Check out the incredible kids activities, and all of the art all over the grounds. There is really so much to see and do at NMF, I always suggest to try to take as much in as you can.