With the Flaming Lips, Merle Haggard, St. Vincent, and Brandi Carlile scheduled to play, the 2015 Nelsonville Music Festival certainly has snagged some big name acts. Radio Falls, the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists, Aaron's Little Mixer, and Dreaming of Soap are on the other end of the celebrity spectrum.
You've never heard of them because up until a few days ago they didn't have names. They're listed on the performance schedule as simply Stuart's Afterschool Bands.
Stuart's Opera House - which stages the festival - offers an afterschool music program for Athens County students ages 13-18. The students come to the Opera House in Nelsonville to learn about music and instruments and to write songs.
"We've been working with two groups with each group meeting once a week," explained instructor Adam Remnant, himself a long-time Athens rock musician and singer-songwriter (Southeast Engine).
"There are 8-10 students each day so we broke them up into two bands for each day, creating four bands," he added.
Radio Falls and the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists will play Friday at 11 a.m. on the Porch Stage. Aaron's Little Mixer and Dreaming of Soap play Saturday at 11 a.m., also on the Porch Stage.
Radio Falls is composed of Valerie Mash, Allyson Evans, Emily Bodnar, Josh Bogoniewski and Nellie Sullivan. "This group moves between nuanced folk to epic rock," said Remnant.
The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists is Seth Bogoniewski, Halli Lindamood and Tucker Sullivan. "Consisting of drums, bass and percussion, this trio isn't afraid to explore the outer limits of music through their soundscapes and riffs," Remnants said.
Keaton Kreps, Kiah Easton, Alana Baldwin and Courtney Martin make up Aaron's Little Mixer. With two guitars, bass, drums and "awesome lead vocals," they play indie rock, according to Remnant. "Think Modest Mouse meets Built to Spill."
With influences ranging from '80s metal to contemporary indie rock, Dreaming of Soap has five members - Conner Miller, Maddy Dexter, Madison Cline, Becca Robinson and Lucien Lent. "The band features killer lead-guitar work and multiple singers," said Remnant.
All the bands formed last fall at the start of the school year when this most recent program got started. Some of the students were in the program last school year, so this will be their second personal NMF outing.
"However, this is the first performance for each of the bands," said Remnant, who hopes the students have fun and learn through the process. "Nothing teaches you more musically than putting your music out in front of an audience."
"Anxious and excited and super nervous" is how Bodnar said she feels about her upcoming performance. She lives in Nelsonville and will be a senior in high school next year.
"I play bass, drums, didgeridoo, and sing in the band," she said. "I also play trumpet, mellophone, guitar, cello and piano on the side. I've been playing music ever since I was born."
Bodnar, who moved here from out of state, said she saw a newspaper ad for the afterschool program "and thought it would be a good thing for me to join because I was new here and didn't know anybody. I'm from Georgia and moved up here for the music and art going on."
The music program has taught her "to not be afraid to express yourself in front of others. Have fun. I've also learned a lot of music history through our writing prompts," she said.
Tucker Sullivan is the drummer for the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists. The Nelsonville teenager started on the instrument about three years ago.
Sullivan said he heard about the Stuart's program from his grandmother. He said he has learned to get "really cool music through unconventional methods. We've been experimenting with feedback and different types of pedals and using the drums in different ways than you normally would."
"I'm looking forward to the show," he added.
The Stuart's Opera House Afterschool Music Program started in 2013. The next year, two bands played the Nelsonville Music Festival.
"The crowd for the students is always really supportive, so I think they'll have fun no matter what," said Remnant. "Their recent practices have been really encouraging. They've shown a ton of progress throughout the year, so I think they'll just get up on stage and have fun rocking out together."
The 11th annual Nelsonville Music Festival starts on this Thursday, May 28, and runs through Sunday, May 31. It's held at Robbins Crossing at Hocking College.