12 Must-See Artists At The 2014 Nelsonville Music Festival

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The 10th annual Nelsonville Music Festival kicks off this Thursday at Hocking College. With more than 40 acts spread out over four days, figuring out who to see (and when) can be a little daunting.

While every artist at this year's fest is worth catching, here are a few recommendations for your NMF checklist.


Quilt is not just another revivalist band. These four musicians, whose sound draws heavily from a pastiche of '60s psychedelia, have found a way to creatively reinterpret that magic and melodicism for the modern era.

Their latest album, Held in Splendor, has won them a cohort of new fans and well-deserved accolades from critics by displaying their adept songwriting, clever production and tightly crafted harmonies. 

Coming off a successful tour with War on Drugs, Quilt returns to the U.S. with their first date being the Nelsonville Music Festival. You can see them at the Main Stage on Friday, May 30th (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday afternoon during the Gladden House Sessions, hosted by WOUB and Ohio University's School of Media Arts & Studies.

Valerie June

With a sound as unique and distinctive as her hairstyle, Valerie June is sure to stand out from the rest of this year’s lineup. Her melodies allow her to blend well with the folk scene, while her Tennessee soul and gospel influences set her apart from everyone else in her genre.

Despite her young age, her lyrics reflect an old soul and her songwriting seems to come from someone with a lifetime of experience. Her newest album, Pushin’ Against a Stone, lives up to that expectation and continues to receive critical acclaim.

Just as moving as her songwriting are her live performances, which are not to be missed. You can see Valerie June this Sunday, June 1 on the Main Stage (4:30 p.m.) and at the No-Fi Cabin (1:45 p.m.).

Shakey Graves

When solo artist Alejandro Rose-Garcia (aka Shakey Graves) steps onto a stage and begins to pluck out a rowdy folk song, you instantly know you're in for something special. Armed with his magical suitcase containing his makeshift drum kit, he's ready to prove why he has been steadily winning a devoted fan base.

Just as dynamic as his instrumentation is his singing. His voice easily transitions from smooth and melodic to powerful and gritty. His latest album, Story of My Life (2013), serves as an excellent example of Alejandro’s beautiful songwriting and acoustic genius.

He is sure to have audiences entranced this year with his energetic stage performance as well as his amazing outfits. You can see Shakey Graves on Friday, May 30 on the Main Stage (4:30 p.m.) and at the No-Fi Cabin (9:15 p.m.).


Saintseneca is not your normal folk group. With the energy of punk, the skill of older, accomplished musicians and an uncanny ability to write great songs, this Columbus, Ohio-based band is making huge headlines.

With their recently released sophomore album Dark Arc, frontman Zac Little finds himself with a new lineup and a huge sense of experimentation. The album is a dark, ambient collection of intuitively well-crafted songs.

And the live show? Unrivaled. Saintseneca is positioned to bring you some of the best live vocal harmonies you’ve ever heard and an infectious energy that will make you stomp your feet along with them.

It’s no wonder they were signed to Anti- records in 2013. It’s no wonder they’re about to embark on a huge summer tour. And it’s no wonder they’re on this list. You can see Saintseneca on Saturday, May 31 at the Main Stage (1:30 p.m.), the No-Fi Cabin (4:45 p.m.), and the Gladden House at 6:30 p.m. for a special interview and performance.

The Tillers

When you first hear The Tillers perform, you might think they came straight out of Appalachian Ohio instead of their hometown of Cincinnati. The impeccable harmonies of Michael Oberst and Sean Geil sync together with a rich smoothness. Meanwhile, the instrumentation keeps the songs upbeat and light. The southern influence in their music is undeniable and audiences love it.

The trio have done an excellent job of breaking out of their Cincinnati scene and have expanded to all parts of the Midwest. Their latest and fifth studio album, Hand on the Plow, demonstrates how well their sound has matured since their beginnings.

You can see The Tillers on Friday, May 30 on the Main Stage (1:30 p.m.) , the Porch Stage (3:45 p.m.),  the No-Fi Cabin (7:45 p.m.), as well as a special visit at the Gladden House at 5:45 p.m.

Kurt Vile and The Violators

Kurt Vile returns to this year’s Nelsonville Music Festival (he performed a couple years ago in support of his previous album Smoke Ring for My Halo) with an epic and sprawling masterpiece under his belt: last year’s glorious Wakin on a Pretty Daze

Backed by The Violators, Vile’s brand of hazy power–a mixture of aesthetics from the likes of Neil Young and Pavement–provides the perfect backdrop for his guitar prowess and introspective lyricism. 

Just off a headlining set at this year’s Coachella, Vile’s return to Nelsonville comes as he begins a new tour and prepares to record his next album. You can be sure he’ll be debuting some new material at this performance. You can see Kurt Vile and The Violators at the Main Stage on Friday, May 30 (9 p.m.).


Lucius has had an incredible couple years. After releasing their debut album Wildewoman (2013, Mom + Pop), the band has gained a huge following due to their unrivaled live show. They were one of the breakout acts of SXSW this year and are just finishing up a support slot for Tegan and Sara.

Frontwomen Jess Wolfe and Holly Lasessig have perfected the tight pop harmonies that are often reminiscent of '50s and '60s girl groups. Behind them, Dan Molad (drums), Peter Lalish (guitar), and Andrew Burri (guitar) help bring the thunder with a mix of indie Phil Spector-inspired pop and flourishes of Americana.

With great songs like "Go Home" and "Turn Around," you can bet Lucius will be one of the most talked-about acts of this year's Nelsonville Music Festival. You can see them Saturday, May 31 on the Main Stage (6 p.m.) and the No-Fi Cabin (9:15 p.m.).

Motel Beds

Motel Beds pride themselves in being a "no-frills" rock band. The Dayton, Ohio, quintet pride themselves in their quick recording methods and their energy driven live show.

Coming off the soft-release of their new record These are the Days Gone By, Motel Beds attack with guitar-based hooks like thrown daggers. The band, which started as a songwriting partnership between PJ Paslosky and Tommy Cooper, will have you dancing at the first beat.

Nurtured in Dayton’s rock tradition (they recorded a duet with The Breeders' Kelley Deal), Motel Beds combine the energy of bands like Nirvana with the pop sensibility of Big Star, as heard on songs like "Smoke Your Homework" and "Rattle, Rattle."

If you're craving brilliant and tasteful rock and roll, then Motel Beds will hit the spot. You can see them Saturday, May 31 on the Porch Stage at 5:15 p.m. Also be sure to catch them earlier in the day for an interview and performance at The Gladden House.

The Head and The Heart

Although The Head and The Heart haven’t been around all that long, they've already made a huge name for themselves. With the release of their second album, Let’s Be Still (2013), the band continued to show their uncanny ability to write great folk songs.

Their live shows have also been creating a buzz, including acclaimed sets at this year's Coachella and the New Orleans Jazz Festival.

Be sure to listen for the infectious "Shake," as well as career highlights like "Rivers and Roads" and "Down in The Valley," seeped in the folk music tradition and saturated with beautiful vocal harmonies that manage to sound different yet heartwarmingly familiar.

You can see The Head and The Heart on Saturday, May 31 at 9 p.m. on the Main Stage.

The Men

Brooklyn’s The Men are having nothing short of a breakout year, with their newest album, Tomorrow’s Hits, being embraced by fans and critics alike. With a combination of Mark Perro’s angst-ridden vocals and the fiery performance of a band on a mission, The Men are delivering furious rock and roll: part Springsteen, part Rolling Stones and part early Elvis Costello. 

With new tracks in their arsenal such as "Different Days," "Get What You Give" and "Another Night," this is a band that's in its prime and swinging for the fences.

This is one performance you don’t want to pass up. You can see The Men at The Porch Stage on Friday, May 30 (11:30 p.m.) and look for singer-guitarist Mark Perro to stop by The Gladden House earlier in the day.

Lily & Madeline

Hailing from Indianapolis, this duo generated an explosive amount of success while posting YouTube videos of themselves during high school. Their studio debut, Weight of The Globe, showcased their unique, interwoven voices and cathartic songs. 

The response was immediate, resulting in a massive online response and an eventual signing with the influential indie label Asthmatic Kitty, home of Sufjan Stevens. Their 2013 release Lily & Madeline found them developing their harmonic craft and their tender approach to folk/pop songwriting. 

You can see Lily & Madeline on Friday, May 30 at the Main Stage (3 p.m.), the No-Fi Cabin (6:15 p.m.), and at the Gladden House on Friday afternoon for a special interview and performance.

Jason Isbell

When it comes to live acts, Jason Isbell is a special breed. Since releasing his latest solo album, Southeastern (2013), Isbell has been making headlines for his songwriting craft and his band’s live show.

Isbell was recently nominated for three Americana Music Association Awards (Artist of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year), and he was #8 on Rolling Stone's "20 Best Things we Saw at The New Orleans Jazz Festival 2014."

Jason’s live band, The 400-Unit, is made up of the best musicians Muscle Shoals has to offer, and are guaranteed to thrill on songs like "Cover Me Up" and "Elephant."

With breathtakingly sincere songs and a powerhouse band, Jason Isbell is a must-see at this year’s NMF. See Jason Isbell close out the festival's first night on the Main Stage at 10:30 p.m.

For details on the Nelsonville Music Festival, including tickets, schedule and camping information, visit www.nelsonvillefest.org. WOUB will be providing full coverage of the festival on woub.org/arts, on Twitter and via Facebook.