Wrapping up on Sunday, the four-day Nelsonville Music Festival featured sunshine, mellow vibes and for the most part, fabulous live music. As of early Sunday afternoon, only a small bit of rain had touched down, on Saturday afternoon. Otherwise, the hot, mainly sunny weather was perfect.
Thursday's line-up on the Main Stage, featuring Cory Branan, Mavis Staples and Lucero, set the tone for a relaxing and music filled weekend. Strangers on a patch of grass gathered to watch Branan, a singer-songwriter from Memphis. Though a solo artist, his music filled the air. His banter between songs was almost as refreshing as his set.
"We all want to say we came out of the womb listening to Fugazi… but really it was John Mellencamp and that's OK," he quipped
Deep in the festival site, Hocking College's Robbins Crossing, Lucero lead singer/guitarist Ben Nichols played a special acoustic set for WOUB's Gladden House Sessions. Next to the No-Fi cabin, 40 or so festival-goers gathered to listen to the unique musical experience provided by the rural setting and the artists in it. The singer laughed and talked with the crowd, even accepting some beer from one of his fans. The intimate set included personal banter and won a warm reception from the audience.
Lucero's electric set on the main stage was a flurry of blues rock and roll that left the crowd dancing and bopping along, even though most folks didn't know the words.
On Friday Mavis Staples brought soul to the rural landscape and took the crowd to the best church service they'd never been to. Her soulful rendition of "Wade in the Water" could not be ignored.
Another highlight was a solid set delivered by Built to Spill, a straight up rock and roll band whose sound enhanced the breezy landscape. The guitar licks and steady vocals distinguished them among other acts in the lineup.
Then, after a lengthy set-up, psychedelic space-rock icons The Flaming Lips took the stage at 10 p.m., setting the crowd ablaze with their wildly visual and mesmerizing stage show. Employing a flashy LED screen, confetti cannons, rope lights and even a dancing rainbow, they played a memorable set (as usual). Frontman Wayne Coyne even fought a giant pink robot balloon during the band's classic song, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots."
Saturday night, Georgia's the Black Lips delivered a set reminiscent of the messy and beautiful madness of the Libertines or the Arctic Monkeys, yet with the grit of Black Flag. This was the sort of blissful garage rock that the festival hadn't seen up till then, at least not on the Main Stage. Punky and melodic like a chainsaw, they kicked off the nighttime festivities as the sun dropped below the hills. With guitar solos and guttural screams, the Black Lips pulled in a lot of the teens and twenty-somethings in attendance, and the mood shifted.
After another lengthy set-up, the lights went down again, revealing a minimalistic stage for indie-electro darling St. Vincent. A gigantic plus sign backdrop had been installed as well as several standing strobe and LED lights.
St. Vincent closed out Saturday with her special blend of melodic dance-infused rock and roll. Her edgy guitar playing and robotic movements had a distinct electro-rock flare that left the crowd stunned and awestruck. Her synchronized choreography with her female rhythm guitarist highlighted the theatrical set. Flashing strobe lighting and larger-than-life synth licks made her show cinematics very different from the Flaming Lips' psychedelic set the night before.
Earlier Saturday evening, Hurray for the Riffraff delivered an energetic show on the Main Stage. The New Orleans folk-country band was expected back Sunday afternoon on the Porch Stage.
With Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the books, Nelsonville Music Festival has drawn more than 6,000 attendees, with 96 percent of the waste diverted and recycled. Still coming on Sunday (after The Athens NEWS' print deadline) were headliners Brandi Carlile and Merle Haggard, as well as packed lineups on all three stages.