Nelsonville Music Festival (NMF) 2018
Damn. Talk about one hell of a four-day weekend.
I was so excited and honored to have the opportunity to photograph Nelsonville Music Festival for Columbus Wired. It was muddy, it was hot, and it absolutely ruled. It was such an amazing time that I’m still decompressing and trying to get back into that real-world state of mind. I’m not entirely sure how to tackle all the things I have to say; so, I’ve decided that a list is just the thing. It’s a list of thoughts, tips, moments, and more. Below is my hot take of Nelsonville Music Festival 2018:
Nelsonville, Ohio, is a little over an hour away from the state capitol of Columbus. As I sit in my apartment now in Columbus, Nelsonville, OH is either a 1 hour and 22 minute drive or a 23 hour and 24 minute walk into the gorgeous hills of Southeast Ohio. Either option isn’t terrible by any means. Point being, it’s close enough to not be obnoxiously far for the citizens of Columbus, but it’s also far enough away in location that you really feel as though you are escaping to somewhere.
Nelsonville Music Festival (NMF) is a fundraiser. All the proceeds from the weekend go to Stuart’s Opera House, a non-profit, historic theater and performing arts center located in Nelsonville. So, the festival was conceived to help a good cause, which I believe, then flows into the people and community that it attracts.
The community and people that attend NMF are all incredible in their own right. Every single person I encountered through the festival attendees, vendors, media, musicians, volunteers, and staff—were all so damn nice. My friend and I have a joke that goes, “Is that boy hitting on me, or was he just midwestern and nice?” Well, she would’ve thought the entire festival was hitting on her because everyone was so sensational, nice, and probably midwestern (Fact: people come from all over to enjoy this awesome event, but I had to make that joke.).
Like the line-up, the layout of the festival is perfectly curated. From the layout of the campground to the layout inside the gates. Everything is near each other, yet far enough away to separate itself, and yet remains so simple and quaint.
I camped with a few of my fellow photographers and writers, and I think we all agree that our camping neighbors were the coolest. After coming back from long days of shooting, we’d be greeted with ice-cold Powerades, whiskey and diet cokes (cherries in the bottom for a special treat), and the last evening—a steak dinner. If you’re reading this camping neighbors, you have a special place in our hearts. Thank you.
Turns out, even having to retake geometry in summer school didn’t learn me much. Sorry mom, but it looks like yet another waste of money on me again. I thought I could sleep diagonally in the back of my Kia Soul, but I was mistaken. I made it work, and it wasn’t too terrible. Understanding angles and math and sizes of things is hard for me to do all at once. I made an angle, side, side of myself thinking I wouldn’t be sleeping in a ball. Whoops.
Here is a tip for the universe: Nobody told me that you have to rub in spray-on suncreen. I blame my Mema. What the hell, Mema?! Keeping all the good information for yourself, eh? So, I’m here to tell all you readers and the world, that you must rub in the spray-on sunscreen. Unless you want these absolutely sexy, awe-inspiring, weird ass tan lines like I am currently rockin’, rub it in people.
Rub. It. In.
Honestly y’all, I could go 10-15 days without a shower, so four was absolutely nothing. They do have nice showers though, so it is an option for anyone who isn’t a believer in the baby-wipe bath. Since the festival takes place on the campus of Hocking College, you shower in the locker rooms of their rec center! So, you’re looking at good-sized hot water tanks, and showers that are clean as a whistle.
Trying to look pretty this weekend: I got the best manicure of my life by Kamoni, who is surprising only 6 years of age. Kamoni and her little brother had two wooden crates stacked on top of one another giving manicures to all the camping festival goers as they were coming in and out of the campground. Kamoni chose a light grey because “the tones matched my outfit” and only got a little bit all over my fingers. They will also be painting finger nails at the Strawberry Festival and the Papaw Festival this summer, so look for them. They do excellent work. Five stars. ★★★★★
Speaking of kids, let’s talk about how family friendly NMF is. All kiddos under the age of 12 are free, and they put together a huge area for them to run around, play, do crafts, and just be kids. I LOVED all the families that were there, and watching the kids running around just having a blast. How cool are the parents that bring their children to NMF? Seriously though. It’s super safe and super clean. One guy I met on the campground said, “it’s our family vacation” and that’s just brilliant. It’s impossible for everyone to not have a bangin’ time. They designed it that way. NMF is for the kids! (*shouts from apartment window to the street to emphasize point*).
Athena… Where do I start. Athena is my new best friend forever. Her parents have volunteered at NMF for the last few years, watching the media cabin with all our stuff in it. Since NMF is so family friendly, they brought their daughter Athena with them. Athena is six years old, she’s going to invention camp, art camp, and adventure camp this summer. We hung out, ran around, she even helped me photograph Twain. We walked around and found all the right angles. She did an excellent job. I would thank her, but we only say spanks. So, spanks Athena. I’ll see you next year!
Among the many great Ohio breweries, my personal favorite Ohio brewery was there selling two of my favorite brewskis to drink down with my brewchachos. That’s right folks, Jackie O’s Brewery was there will all the Mystic Mama’s and Ricky’s my little heart desired. After a purchase of a NMF reusable cup, only thing I have left to say is Dilly, dilly my friends!
If for whatever reason you’re not interested in alcohol, there is absolutely no reason to not be hydrated. There are water stations all over the place. Beginners tip: don’t accidentally stand on the hose like I did the first time I used one and then realize what you’re doing and explode it all over yourself. Another “whoops” on my end. The eight-year-old with his skateboard who’s cooler than I could ever hope to be filling up his water bottle next to me got a kick out of it.
Oh yeah, there’s a skate ramp. You could paint the skate ramp, skate on the ramp, or watch the coolest people/kids ever skateboard. The Athens based band, The D-Rays, actually performed on the skate ramp while skateboarders skated around them. When you put it all together, it makes Tony Hawk’s career look incredibly boring.
Alright, music. It is a music festival after all. Let’s talk stages. The main stage, porch stage, boxcar stage, no-fi cabin, and Gladden house. The first three are pretty self-explanatory, although the boxcar stage is free for the community, which is super groovy. The No-Fi Cabin features the bigger acts playing smaller sets, electricity free. Obviously, it’s lit. The Gladden House is a video-recorded interview and intimate session with some of the featured acts that are then put online slowly throughout the year for everyone to watch.
A Gladden House session that was a true treasure to witness was Paul Thorn. He might be the cutest thing that has ever lived. Listening to him tell stories and play a few acoustic songs for a small intimate crowd, you just really felt like he was talking and performing to you and only you. What a personality to see shine…my guy.
With no contest, my favorite show of the entire weekend was Deer Tick. One of my favorite albums of all time is their debut album “War Elephant” that was released in 2007. They played a few songs off that album, one of them being “These Old Shoes”. It fucking ruled to yell “it was a no-go for this hobo!” into a crowd of people that also knew the words and were just as excited as me vs. the latter which is me half drunk in my living room by myself yelling while the song blasts out of my record player most definitely bothering my neighbors. Finally seeing Deer Tick live? Worth the wait for that moment.
Among the bands I discovered at NMF, the one I’m personally offended I hadn’t heard of until now and simply won’t shut up about is the sibling duo, White Mystery. My god talk about commanding the stage. They are talented, loud, fearless, and flinging their wild red hair all over the place. Influenced by the garage rock gods, these two are true rockstars. Everyone, everyone please give them a listen and go see them in concert with your own two eyeballs. I’ll say it again - White Mystery. You’re welcome.
Photographing the legendary George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic was something almost indescribable. My fellow photographer friend Brian put it perfectly by calling it an “ADHD Nightmare”. Using the term wild can’t even begin to explain how really wild the show was. There was always someone, somewhere on stage doing something photo worthy. As a single person, I don’t think I could comfortably say that I documented George Clinton. Confident in the media team that I was so lucky to be a part of, I believe we as a group documented George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. One hell of a show. Not to mention the giant squid made of balloons that made its way through the crowd. So cool.
Speaking of George Clinton, I had a moment leaving the photo pit. I’m walking through the gates heading back out into the crowd after photographing the first three songs. Adrenaline rushing, just absolutely clamoring with excitement, feeling so full. I get out into the crowd walking past all the people in the grass with their friends and family, see the hundreds of people dancing and laughing, everyone just having one of the best times…and I just started crying. I know, I know, it’s lame. But I did. I just photographed one of the most fun shows I’d ever shot, just absolutely blessed for the opportunity, and to be at such an amazing festival. I just had a moment in recognizing that the two things I love the most - music and photography - I had found a way to mesh them together. I was doing everything I love the most in that moment and I had worked so hard to get there. It was just lovely.
Here are words that I need to say most that I didn’t previously mention and deserve shoutouts or I did mention but I’m saying again to make my point: Steve Mack & the media squad (Y’all…rule.), my Hunter Boots (Praise), Tank & The Bangas, Mission Temple Fireworks Revival ft. Paul Thorn & Blind Boys of Alabama, Earthless, The Weather Station, Dead Horses, and Deer Tick.
Nelsonville Music Festival is a weekend of simple, classic summertime fun. This is just one of many in my life. The cleanest, safest, most electrifying and even life affirming events I’ve had the joy of photographing. I’m forever grateful for the experience. Always.