It’s surreal to think that last year’s tenth anniversary celebration of the Nelsonville Music Festival could have been the festival’s swan song. In April, two buildings caught fire next to Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville’s historic public square. Luckily, Stuart’s was spared, but not without taking damage, and placing the festival’s viability in doubt. Thanks to the perseverance of Stuart’s staff and sponsors, and the support of the Athens County business and music community, the festival survived. Their efforts helped make this year’s festival one of the finest to date.
Before Howard took their positions on stage, the host confessed to the growing crowd that they were about to be spiritualized, and he wasn’t lying. Their complex sound featured an amazing orchestration of live musicianship, effects looping, and triggered electronics. Singer Howard Feibusch’s cycling crystalline guitar and sweeping atmospheric vocals seeped through the evening audience. Combined with drummer Chris Holdridge’s jazz-inspired polyrhythmic beats and bassist Myles Heff’s melodic overdriven lines, their folktronica sermon turned many listeners into true believers.
Earlier on the porch stage, we walked into the pleasant vibe of Speaking Suns. Hailing from Yellow Springs Ohio, their mid-tempo indie jam rock tinged with 70s danceable soul managed to get the festival crowd moving and shaking in the setting sunlight.
We were lucky enough to catch a very personal encounter with Ezra Furman as soon as we arrived on the festival grounds. As part of the Gladden House Sessions, he was perched on the porch of a Robbin’s Crossing cabin, decked in beach sunglasses and a tight red striped shirt and strapped with an acoustic guitar. He talked about the creative approach behind his new album and the surprising recognition of his music after years of obscurity. The generous folk influence on his songwriting burst through during his intimate solo performance.
Dead Hand of Man
Starting off on the porch stage was Dead Hand of Man. This trio of Athens Music Scene journeymen laid down fast and upbeat power chords with a punch. Their straight-ahead, classic punk-influenced songs got the early crowd’s attention and started the night with good energy.
Stay tuned for coverage from the rest of the weekend.