Ween, the Saturday night headliner for the 2017 Nelsonville Music Festival. (WOUB/Joseph Snider)

Getting in the Pit with Hiatt: Day 3 of NMF ’17

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Oh man. I’m all pumped up with adrenaline that it seems like a blur. In fact, everything’s blurry, my ears are ringing, and I don’t really remember much at all. Maybe looking through my notes will jog my memory and remind me how I ended up finally pitting at Nelsonville Music Festival 2017.

The last thing I remember was the Mirah set I wrote about earlier, so let’s start right after that. Gracing the porch stage late in the afternoon was NMF2017’s furthest guest, New Zealand’s Aldous Harding.

Aldous Harding at the 2017 Nelsonville Music Festival. (WOUB/Marie Swartz)
Aldous Harding at the 2017 Nelsonville Music Festival. (WOUB/Marie Swartz)


The singer’s dynamic voice held strong over elegantly plucked guitar strings and keys that flowed from cinematic to bouncy and back again. The now-shady crowd was treated to Harding’s peculiar (in a good way!) lyrics, including stand-out, “What if birds aren’t singing/ they’re screaming”.

I have here that after the Aldous Harding set I took a 10-minute ground nap, and that makes a lot of sense. By day three of NMF one begins to feel the effects of the non-stop musical experience. The big issue here is that day three is also the busiest day, so finding a good place to rest among the fresher Saturday crowd is a bit of a challenge.

My advice? Swallow your pride and try a good ole’ ground nap! I collapsed in the middle of a crowd and got a surprisingly rejuvenating rest to carry me through the night.

Jenny Lewis. (WOUB/Marie Swartz)
Jenny Lewis. (WOUB/Marie Swartz)

Tonight’s act in the 8 p.m. main stage slot was singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis. Lewis did such a good job of taking everything to such a grand scale for the festival atmosphere. She came ready to go and fully loaded with all the fixings, backup singers included. There’s a celebratory aspect to her performance on a stage as big as this, with her cleverly crafted choruses often receiving fanfare from the adoring fans in the front row.

Lewis’ breadth of material is well represented as she shuffled through her rolodex of genres without missing a beat. The sun set on her aromatic performance, properly setting the stage for day three’s headliners.

There’s some of my memory!

Ween (WOUB/Joseph Snider)
Ween (WOUB/Joseph Snider)

One couldn’t forget day three’s final main stage performance if they tried. Perhaps the best way to describe Ween’s live show is that it’s exactly what one would expect from their music. The oddball duo of Dean and Gene Ween bring the same unique energy to putting on a show that they have for their entire musical careers. The song line-up is appropriately eclectic and there’s a definitive theatricality to seeing their work brought to life before your eyes.

Ween (WOUB/Joseph Snider)
Ween (WOUB/Joseph Snider)

The band doesn’t miss a beat, particularly Gene whose impressive range of character-like voices all translate wonderfully within the bizarre beauty happening on stage. Normally I would try and point to some stand-out songs but that’s nigh impossible when everyone goes crazy for everything. I feel like I’ve made this point before with other acts but here it’s stronger than ever: Nelsonville LOVES Ween.

My only complaint with the show?

No one asked me to be in one of the Boognish! Of course a Ween show wouldn’t be complete without the Demon God, who appeared in the form of several giant, multi-colored balloon animals. This is the kind of theatricality I’m talking about. They danced up and down through the crowd before being savagely torn apart by excited fest-goers, much to the delight of the band on stage.

Now the pieces are fitting together. After Ween’s encore ended I headed to the back for my first 11 p.m. porch stage experience. I had heard whispers in the wind of a rowdy crowd at Friday night’s L.A. Witch show, but due to deadlines and other adult stuff I couldn’t make it. Luckily after endless begging and pleading to Emily I was able to get an extension to catch my white whale of NMF 2017: a chance to mosh like I’ve never moshed before.

Twin Peaks (WOUB/Joseph Snider)
Twin Peaks (WOUB/Joseph Snider)

It was the moment for truth as the stage was set for Chicago indie rockers Twin Peaks (Diane, remind me to sneak a clever Twin Peaks reference in here later. A damn good one at that). The crowd drifted towards the back of the fest and started packing in… and packing in… and packing in some more. Everything was going according to plan, but the first domino still needed to drop.

And then they started playing.

Honestly, all bits aside, I can’t really say much in great detail about the band’s music. I’d describe it as power-pop, with catchy sing-songy choruses made evident by the droves of millennials singing along. I remember liking it. But as soon as they started playing the pit opened up and about ten seconds after getting in the pit I had already lost my note-taking pen. This may not seem like a big deal, but these notes are often my saving grace after a long day.

In a moment of pure primal selfishness I have let Twin Peaks down (I can for sure say their performance had me beaming endlessly. It was just purely visceral at that point. Can’t analyze that.) To make matters worse, what happened in the chaotic washing machine of human flesh will have to remain a mystery.

After a song and a half in the pit asthmas merciless hand grabbed me by the lungs and I made my way out of the maze of tangled limbs and bopping bodies.  I had only been in the pit a mere five minutes, but that was enough for me. I’m a pitter now, baby, and the world is my oyster.

Scattered thoughts:

-Big shout outs to the stilts walker during the parade earlier. It hadn’t hit me before, but for some reason all I could think about was how much it would hurt to fall from up there. That takes guts.

-Best band shirts?
3. A Boris – “False Demon” shirt. I guess Boris made a shirt parodying a Merzbow album cover? Harsh noise is weird, man. Good weird, but still weird.
2. A shirt for The Pogues – If I should fall from grace with God. Man, can we try and get The Pogues next year? Who do I get on for that? Probably them for not being together at the moment.
Quickly, a quote from my day one piece, “A Husker Du – Zen Arcade shirt. If this had been New Day Rising, it would’ve been number one.” Well I’m a writer of my word:
1 A Husker Du – New Day Rising shirt. Either I’m psychic, they read my piece, or the universe is filled with meaningless coincidences. I’ll bet on all three!

-Day three may have all the extravaganza, but don’t sleep on day four. I certainly won’t, as I’ll be awake and ready for coverage of NMF 2017’s final act all day Sunday.