What began as a fundraiser for the Nelsonville, OH arts organization Stuart’s Opera House almost 16 years ago has become one of the most beloved music festivals in the country. Nelsonville Music Festival Founder Tim Peacock reminisces,

“All we really had was a sincere and strong desire to create an event that could possibly be a bigger and better fundraiser for a small, struggling, non-profit arts organization, Stuart’s Opera House, which has now somehow become my life’s work, and for better or for worse, my identity.”

It’s interesting that he thinks of the NMF and Stuarts as his identity, because like a person, they have a personality and feel like a friend that festival goers gravitate to.

Michael Hurley in the No Fi Cabin // Photo: Brian Bruemmer, Rubatophoto.com

The community focused beginnings set the foundation for what sets NMF apart from other festivals. The community feel permeates every corner of the festival. This will be my ninth year covering Nelsonville and it’s like family each time. From a good morning breakfast sandwich and chat with the food vendors who remember me each year, to the media volunteers like Matt who always keeps us laughing, and Joe, Sarah and Athena who have become festival family to all of us in the media, to other photographers and writers in the media that start planning out NMF experience months out and even camp with each other (often staying up until the sun comes up talking and imbibing), this festival is like no other.

Food vendor preps with his helper // Photo: Brian Bruemmer, Rubatophoto.com

About why NMF is significant, Peacock continues,

“It’s about a community of people who support something that is good and not divisive. It also allows you to escape the day to day grind for a few hours or a few days WHILE you are contributing to something that is actually important, I believe it’s really important.”

While seeking to raise funds the community, they built a community. I’m forever grateful to Tim, Brian Koscho and the rest of the team at NMF for the friends I’ve met and the memories I’ve made. I can’t wait to come to “NMF Summer Camp” each year and look forward to many more.

A gentle reminder to not be an ass // Photo: Brian Bruemmer, Rubatophoto.com

THE LINEUP

Though the NMF community is its most endearing and unique characteristic, they sure do know how to curate a lineup. The lineups for the fest are not just about putting as many big names on a stage as possible, but about carefully selected bands that ebb and flow into a weekend filled with discovery and excitement. Past lineups have included The Flaming Lips, Merle Haggard, Ween, George Clinton, Tank and The Bangas, as well as lesser known but equally worthy artists like Joe Pug, The Screaming Females, Quilt, and Bummers.

This year follows suit nicely, with headliners Mavis Staples, Tyler Childers (both NMF alums), Death Cab For Cutie, and The Breeders. The fact that NMF doesn’t rely on the splashy big names of some of the other festivals speaks to that methodical approach to the lineup. Over the 15 years, festival goers have come to trust on the team at NMF to provide a stellar festival experience, with an especially strong mid and undercard lineup fill not just with also-rans, but future favorites. Even if they pulled an Eaux Claires and didn’t release a lineup, I’d still be there. I just trust them that much because they’ve never let me down.

MUST-SEES

For my “must-sees” of the lineup, I’m just going to assume that it’s understood that all 4 headliners are must-sees.

TODD SNIDER

The fact that he’s probably best known for doing the song “Beer Run” many times on Bob and Tom is such a disservice the the wit and talent of Todd Snider. Usually joined on stage by his trusty dog, Cowboy Jim, He’s the spins stories in which it’s hard to tell what’s real, what’s comedy, and what’s fantasy. Whatever the veracity of the underlying story, he’s ever the consummate storyteller.

RECOMMENDED IF YOU LIKE: James McMurtry, Ray Wylie Hubbard, clever lyrics, sharp humor
SET TIME: THURSDAY, JUNE 6 at 8:00 pm // MAIN STAGE

THE WOOD BROTHERS

The Wood Brothers are one of the most consistently amazing live bands around. I’ve seen them a half dozen times and the never cease to amaze. Their 2018 album One Drop Of Truth is “the freest album we’re done” according to Oliver Wood, and it shows on stage.

RECOMMENDED IF YOU LIKE: Yonder Mountain String Band, Avett Bros.
SET TIME: SUNDAY, JUNE 9 at 5:00 pm // MAIN STAGE

MATTSON 2

I had never heard of this band before the NMF lineup came out, but the song Acknowledgement stopped me in my tracks. The band duo vacillates between rock, jazz, and psychedelia throughout. It sounds like what would happen if King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard played Weather Report. I can’t wait to see this live!

RECOMMENDED IF YOU LIKE: The Sea and Cake, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Weather Report
SET TIMES:

  • SATURDAY, JUNE 8 at 2:15 pm // NO-FI CABIN
  • SATURDAY, JUNE 8 at 6:00 pm // PORCH STAGE
  • SUNDAY, JUNE 9 at 4:00 pm // PORCH STAGE

JULIA JACKLIN

I’ve always been a sucker for music that is sad-pretty. There’s a melancholy in Julia Jacklin’s voice, but it’s so hauntingly beautiful and pairs perfectly with the sparse, dreamy guitar.

RECOMMENDED IF YOU LIKE: Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten, dreamy textural guitars
SET TIMES:

  • SATURDAY, JUNE 8 at 5:00 pm // MAIN STAGE
  • SUNDAY, JUNE 9 at 5:30 pm // PORCH STAGE

DEATH VALLEY GIRLS

Messy, chaotic garage glam. ‘Nuff said.

RECOMMENDED IF YOU LIKE: Shannon and the Clams, Screaming Females
SET TIME: SATURDAY, JUNE 8 at 9:00 pm // PORCH STAGE

TICKETS