As a lifelong music lover, I’ve always especially enjoyed the thrill of discovering a particular band or artist that nobody I know has ever heard of. My favorite bands remain those under-the-radar acts that don’t have mass success, but manage to trip my own musical triggers every bit as effectively as world-famous bands.
Three of my top musical discoveries turned up at previous Nelsonville Music Festivals – Shovels & Rope, Courtney Barnett and Alvvays. That’s exactly why this festival, which starts its 15th year today and runs through Sunday, hits my sweet spot so successfully. (All details available here.)
If you love to discover interesting, high-quality bands and performers, you can’t find a better hunting ground than the NMF. Alas, nobody has the ability to exist in more than one place at one time, so having a bit of guidance is essential. And who better to drop some breadcrumbs pointing toward must-see bands than Tim Peacock and Brian Koscho, executive director and marketing director, respectively, of the Nelsonville Music Festival?
Both kindly obliged my request for recommendations of “can’t-miss” acts at the festival. Each, however, stressed that this is just their own sampling, and shouldn’t be construed to suggest that the many unmentioned bands aren’t worthy of discovery as well. (To see write-ups on each band performing the NMF this year, go to http://nelsonvillefest.org/2019-artists/.)
Orkesta Mendoza: “This Latin-based band from Tucson, Arizona, are so fun live. Horns, accordion, electric and acoustic instruments playing many different styles. It’s always difficult for me to describe what ‘kind’ of music. Just trust me.” 9 p.m. Thursday on the Porch Stage and 7:30 p.m. Friday on the Main Stage.
Thee Oh Sees: “In certain circles, they are far from ‘under-the-radar.’ But if you are unfamiliar with this band and you like rock and roll, they are not to be missed. Originally from San Francisco, they’ve been around for about 20 years. John Dwyer is their founder/front person, and consistently puts on the best live show I’ve seen, always. 11 p.m. Friday on the Main Stage, after the Breeders’ set.
Flor De Toloache: “An all-female mariachi band. They won the Latin Grammy a couple of years back. They sing traditional mariachi and also original and relevant songs. Incredible musicians and incredible voices. 3:30 p.m. Saturday on the Main Stage, then again on the Main stage at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Bully: “Alicia Bognanno is the front person/founder/singer/songwriter. She is awesome. It feels a bit like early ’90s rock to me, while still being fresh and authentic. There is something really refreshing to me about good songs, straightforward delivery, not relying on antics or (too much) hipster aesthetic, just playing good rock and roll. 11 p.m. Thursday on the Porch Stage.
Peacock also gave a shout-out to “War & Treaty, Tyler Childers, Molly Burch, Julia Jacklin, and so many more.”
He encourages attending the Nelsonville Music Festival with a spirit of discovery. “I often have people say to me ‘you should have so and so play the festival this year,’ and I will say, ‘well, they actually played the Porch Stage or the Boxcar Stage two or three years ago,’” Peacock said. “Meaning, up and coming artists are performing on our smaller stages. Go check out stuff you are not yet familiar with.”
Weedghost: A perfect way to start your NMF, in the No-Fi Cabin with the spaced out, experimental drone of Weedghost. At their 12th NMF, it’s an annual tradition.” 5:15 p.m. Thursday in the No-Fi Cabin.
Skyway Man: “Fantastic take on psychedelic music that draws from a wide range of influences. Really interesting stuff.” 6 p.m. Thursday on the Porch Stage; 3 p.m. Friday on the Main Stage; and 7:45 p.m. in the No-Fi Cabin.
Bully: One of the best rock and roll bands around these days; definitely a throwback for me in the way that their records feel like music I have been hearing my whole life. 11 p.m. Thursday on the Porch Stage.
Nots: “Love this band – art garage punk from Memphis and absolutely perfect for a Friday night at the Porch Stage [don’t miss Breeders right after ‘em] or even better for Thursday late night in the campground. If I’m there watching the campground set and you see me, feel free to either congratulate me for still being awake or admonish me for making poor choices at the start of a very long weekend.” 1 a.m. Friday (the late-night end of Thursday’s programming) in the Campground Tent; and 8:30 p.m. Friday on the Porch Stage.
Orkesta Mendoza: “These guys are a powerhouse. I know all of these bands are ones I am telling you not to miss, BUT DO NOT MISS THEM.” 9 p.m. Thursday on the Porch Stage and 7:30 p.m. Friday on the Main Stage.
The Other Years: “Great group from Louisville, opened up for Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy recently at Stuart’s.” 5 p.m. Thursday on the Main Stage; 12:15 p.m. Friday in the No-Fi Cabin; and 3:30 p.m. Friday on the Boxcar Stage.
JJUUJJUU: “This California psych band played Melted in Columbus back in February and blew me away. Hitting my sweet spot for noisy, psychedelic, rock and roll. Highly suggested.” 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the Porch Stage.
Stuart’s AMP Bands: “All proceeds at NMF benefit the nonprofit Stuart’s Opera House and our Arts Education Program. Come see the result of just one of those many programs at Stuart’s with the next generation of rock and rollers.” 11 a.m. Saturday on the Boxcar Stage.
Flor De Toloache: “Tim always does such a great job crafting this lineup, so many different artists from so many places. This group sums up that diversity and artistry: NYC’s first and only all-woman Mariachi group.” 3:30 p.m. Saturday on the Main Stage, then again on the Main stage at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Michael Hurley: “For my money, Michael Hurley is one of the greatest songwriters and performers there is. It is an incredible thing to have him at NMF every year, and to have a chance to see him many times. Make sure to see him at least once. His Sunday morning Porch stage set will be a great way to start the last day of NMF.” 4:30 p.m. Thursday on the Porch Stage; 2:30 p.m. Saturday on the Boxcar Stage; 11:30 a.m. Sunday on the Porch Stage; and 3:15 p.m. Sunday in the No-Fi Cabin.
The Katy: “Amazing trio of musicians from Cleveland, Ohio, that mixes several different styles to make it their own. Noon Saturday on the Porch Stage and 1:30 p.m. Sunday on the Boxcar Stage.
Mattson 2: “Really excited to see these guys, who as my wife Sherri noticed are one of TWO sets of identical twins playing including the Brother Brothers. (Mattson 2 are) pop/jazz/experimental and a whole lot more from two brothers who have spent a lot of time playing music together, and they did a killer version of Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” recently too. 2:15 p.m. Saturday in the No-Fi Cabin; 6 p.m. Saturday on the Porch Stage; 4 p.m. Sunday on the Porch Stage.