Avett Brothers at 2014 Nelsonville Music Festival (Jasmine Beaubien/WOUB)
The Avett Brothers were the Saturday headliners at this year’s Nelsonville Music Festival. (Jasmine Beaubien/WOUB)

Nelsonville Music Fest Breaks Records in 10th Year

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“Are y’all feelin’ good?” Shovels & Rope member Cary Ann Hearst asked the Nelsonville Music Festival attendees on Sunday evening. After several cheers from the audience she responded with, “Well, us too.”

The 10th annual NMF took place Thursday through Sunday at the historic village of Robbins Crossing on the Hocking College campus. With more than 7,000 attendees and more than 55 bands performing throughout the four days, the festival not only broke its previous attendance records but also seemed to live up to crowd expectations.

“This is the third year in a row I’ve been here and it just gets better every year,” Joe Stitt of Circleville, said. “I don’t know how they’re going to top it but I thought the same thing last year.”

“I’ve had a lot of fun,” Andrew Cappadonia of Athens said about his first time at the festival. “Friendly people, really good mix of music.”

Sisters Helen and Alice Van Doren of New Marshfield have been coming to the festival for several years and were both looking forward to the Avett Brothers’ performance on Saturday.

“I had a good time,” Helen Van Doren said. “I first saw (the Avett Brothers) at Casa on a very early date with my boyfriend. That was almost nine years ago. So I try to catch them when I can.”

“I enjoyed it (the festival),” Alice Van Doren said. “Since I was commuting I think I didn’t quite get the full festival experience I would’ve liked to, but I had to work some of the time. But it was fun. The weather’s good. It’s a lot less muddy.”

Maribeth Alvarez of Parkersburg, W.Va., attended the festival Friday and Saturday nights with her fiance Mike Sillaman and his daughter Pierce Sillaman to catch headliners Dinosaur Jr. and the Avett Brothers.

“This was my first time seeing Dinosaur Jr. and I thought they put on a great show. The sound was really good. The Nelsonville Music Festial did a great job this year,” she said.

What drew Alvarez to the festival was the chance to see the Avett Brothers perform.

“As an avid Avett Brothers fan, and having seen them live more than 20 times, I consider their performance Saturday night at the Nelsonville Music Festival to be one of the best. Really great energy and crowd interaction, amazing set list that included class fan favorites as well as a couple fun covers — an all around good time and wonderful family atmosphere.”

Sarah Hayes was another in attendance who seemed to be enjoying her time at the Nelsonville Music Festival. The artists and groups she was hoping to see included Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas, Valerie June, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, and The Tillers.

Hayes said of the music festival, “What I like is the community. Come down here and you know you can leave your chairs where you set them up, and not worry about people messing with them. Everybody’s got a smile. It’s just a really nice environment to be in.”

Laura Belcher said she has been coming to the festival for the last seven years. Belcher is a resident of Parkersburg and travels about an hour to the festival’s venue. She continued to say, “It’s a great festival. The people are friendly and it’s always a good atmosphere.”

The soul music on Thursday was a hit, according to Belcher. Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls was a favorite of hers. She said she’s really enjoying Thursdays at the annual event. The festival was expanded to four days a couple years ago.

“You come early and there’s not a lot of people here on Thursday and there’s just really great music,“ Belcher said. “I’ll be here every year for as long as I can make it happen.“

Shovels & Rope, Sunday’s headliner show, included performances of “The Last Thread” and “Cavalier” as well as songs from their new album, “Swimmin’ Time.” The album is set to be released Aug. 26.

“Well my favorite song I heard by Shovels & Rope was ‘Birmingham,’” Stitt said. “I don’t know if I could pick one from the Avett Brothers. It was all so great.”

Lora Neal of Athens came to the festival with daughter Olivia.

“We’re very excited to see Shovels & Rope,” Lora Neal said. “I enjoyed listening to their new songs from their new album.”

The NMF also provided a space for local vendors to sell their goods and share their art forms with others. One group popular with children was Honey for the Heart, a group from Athens who specializes in creating larger than life puppets.

Towards the end of the Sunday evening, the puppeteers donned their giant puppet gear and headed out into the field to play along with some of the children attending the festival.

“We loved Honey for the Heart,” Lora Neal said. “She (Olivia) loved running around with them. (It was a) big highlight.”

Other areas were set up around the campgrounds to cater to children at the festival. Some of these family moments came in the most unexpected of ways.

Evan Davis has been working at the NMF for more than five years, selling his candles, incense, pottery and tiles. He also works at the WCRS radio station in Columbus which produced a show featuring some of the NMF musicians this year.

“I was demonstrating and throwing some pots here and I had a number of occasions when I had a fairly large audience just watching me throw pots and I would answer questions and some of the kids were particularly fascinated,” Davis said. “A couple of parents came back later and told me that watching me throw pots was their kid’s highlight for the whole weekend.”

The Nelsonville Music Festival is a production of Stuart’s Opera House and began in 2005 as a fundraiser for the nonprofit on the Nelsonville Public Square.

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Emma McCallister and Schuyler Fastenau are Ohio University students interning at The Athens Messenger. Messenger staff journalist Sara Brumfield contributed to this article.