Sunflower Bean performs on the Main Stage at the at the Nelsonville Music Festival on Thursday, May 31, 2018. (WOUB Public Media/Marie Swartz)

An Actually Fun Thing That I Will Do Again: Day One at NMF ’18

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Have you ever read David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again?

Neither have I, but I can say it’s definitely NOT about Nelsonville Music Festival, because I’m back covering the annual event for the second year in a row. As a seasoned NMF (that’s what those of us in the know call the festival) veteran I’m here to provide the expert advice that any novice festival goer could possibly need. If you are attending the event and want me to mentor you in watching people play music, find me at the press tent! I’m always happy to help.

My second Nelsonville experience started with the familiar: as I walked through the gates I was greeted by the sight of someone on an old timey bike.

It’s like nothing’s changed!

How fitting then that Nelsonville Music Festival 2018’s first act was none other than Mr. NMF himself, Michael Hurley.

Michael Hurley performs on the Porch Stage at the Nelsonville Music Festival. (WOUB Public Media/Marie Swartz)

Introduced as having been with the fest since “2008? Maybe?”, Hurley’s crooning guitar has become the blood in the veins of these rolling hills. Hurley’s music and presence at the festival seems to become more mythic as the years go by, and I found myself really drifting into his performance. If I continue to make NMF a yearly stop (why wouldn’t such a talented festival goer such as myself), I feel I’ll probably only find Hurley’s performances more and more captivating. Also of note: he designed the super sick 2018 program cover, which I hear is also available as a t-shirt. Please don’t buy them all, as my allocated t-shirt fund won’t come in till Sunday.

New to the festival grounds this year is the general store, selling both goods and wares. Frontier-era wooden carved children’s toys line the walls of the cabin, broken up only by toiletries (fortunately not frontier era). My browse through the aisles was soundtracked by Mary Lattimore’s looping harp tones. Lattimore’s layered soundscapes evolve before your ears, changing from recognizable and sweet to soaring and even sometimes harsh.

Mary Lattimore performs on the Main Stage at the Nelsonville Music Festival. (WOUB Public Media/Marie Swartz)

There were some higher register sounds I had never heard from a harp, an instrument often, maybe unfairly, pegged as “beautiful” and not much more. Lattimore’s stories in between songs give so much context to the depth of emotions her compositions can carry, often documenting moments of great emotional weight.

There are so many acts I enjoyed I’m worried I won’t be able to mention them all. That’s one of problems of being such an experienced fest goer- there’s too much to enjoy! Sometimes it seems like Thursday is the forgotten day of NMF but I’ve been impressed with the first day acts both this year and last.

Sunflower Bean gave me so much energy when I was fading, and their zesty mix of rock ‘n’ roll edge and dreamy, watery guitars seemed to summon the shade. The Brooklyn trio were a treat to watch.Â

Similarly energizing was Columbus rapper Blueprint, complete with live turn-table DJing. I don’t recall there being any hip-hop artists last year, so this is a very welcome addition. The stole the spotlight entirely, getting the porch stage bumping with old-school, head nod worthy beats and pin-point lyricism. His style is throwback through and through with a very expressive and emphatic vocal delivery that, in the modern world of hip-hop, serves as a refreshing relic of the past.

Blueprint performs on the Porch Stage at the Nelsonville Music Festival. (WOUB Public Media/Marie Swartz)

What certainly wasn’t of the past was the unexpected synth-dance breakdown, complete with Blueprint absolutely rocking the keytar. It’s not often there’s a plot twist in a NMF set, so obvious props must be given.

As the night entered full swing and I found myself again trapped in a porta potty my wandering mind searched for meaning. My hopes were answered when I heard the voice of a higher power booming through ceiling of my cavernous green tube. Upon a second take, I realized it was the haunted psychedelic howl of day one closer The Black Angels that I was hearing.

You ever get exactly what you needed before you even knew you needed it?

That was very much the feeling as a heaping helping of foggy riffs and bone shaking drums were delivered unto me.

This is the part of the night where NMF becomes an experience. The band’s projected visuals were jaw dropping in both their simplicity and vividness, and the wall of musicians they formed blasted their music like a banshee into the Nelsonville night.Â

And that’s JUST day one folks! In the madness of arriving I didn’t get the chance to take my usual people watching notes, so we’ll have a full rundown of the fest’s best band shirts starting tomorrow. I’ll be up and around all weekend to give you up to date expert coverage of all the Nelsonville Music Festival 2018 festivities.

From an expert.