Allison Russell of husband wife musical duo Birds of Chicago performs on the Main Stage on Friday, June 1, 2018. (WOUB Public Media/Marie Swartz)

When It Rains It (Thankfully) Doesn’t Pour at NMF ’18

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The rain in Nelsonville falls mainly on the… Nelsonville Music Festival.

Or so we’ve come to find out. The main stage grounds has been terraformed into a lush swampland and the beloved porta potties have become buoys in a developing river that would put the ol’ Hock-Hocking to shame. Not that this really means much. It’ll take more than a little sky water to deter us from fest-ing here at the day two in the heart of the newly minted Nelsonville marsh. If you want to get ME to leave NMF 2018 you’ll have to try a little harder! (Please, do not try a little harder.)

Friday morning and afternoon belonged to the festival workhorses. The first three acts I’ll touch on all have performances again on later days, so if you see anything that interests you still have time to mark your schedules. I love that NMF does this, as every year there seems to be hype building for certain acts in that beautiful median between performance one and performance two. This was the case for Counterfeit Madison last year, as their energetic and boisterous tunes the first time around only made their second performance that much bigger and brighter. Happily I can report there are some constants in life beyond the dreaded death and taxes, and Counterfeit Madison once again prove they can put on a hell of a show, and I’m sure they will the next two times they perform this weekend as well.

Portland’s eternally optimistic Larry Yes on the Boxcar Stage on Friday, June 1, 2018. (WOUB Public Media/Marie Swartz)

One of the other incredible, and perhaps overlooked, offerings of NMF is the boxcar stage. I continue to be floored by the fest’s commitment to having extremely talented acts playing a free stage for all to enjoy. My first trek to the right side of the tracks found me lost in the delicate songs of guitarist Larry Yes, whose optimism is both vast and yet grounded in a comforting way. Unfortunately I was only able to catch a couple songs, but luckily I (and you!) get another chance to catch him on the porch stage Sunday.

Jeremy Barnes of eclectic New Mexico-based act A Hawk and a Hacksaw performing on Friday, June 1 on the Main Stage. (WOUB Public Media/Marie Swartz)

A Hawk + A Hacksaw may, from a purely musical perspective, may be the most impressive act thus far. The duo rolled through different sounds and moods, with the backbone of violin being accented by a mix of accordion and — glockenspiel? I think? I feel so underqualified now that I can’t even identify the instrument used. The band’s music is inspired by their travels and it shows: the term “world music” seems outdated but when it comes down to it really is hard to pin down an exact origin of their sound (the two are based in New Mexico but sound like they’re from — anywhere but New Mexico).

I guess when you’re this versatile that can be tough.

JT Nero of married musical duo Birds of Chicago. (WOUB Public Media/Marie Swartz)

My early afternoon wrapped with Chicago-based and aptly named main-stagers Birds of Chicago. Honestly this, for me, was one of those times that standing outside with the birds overhead and the trees in the distance and the music playing all together was just so… nice. I may pride myself on adjectives but sometimes you just have to call it as you hear it. Their breezy playing and stand-out vocals set the tone for what should be a fun and equally breezy afternoon. Come rain, snow, sleet or hail plenty of people will be out here doing the things they do every year- and for me that means bringing you up to date coverage of NMF 2018, more of which you can expect tonight!

Scattered thoughts:

-Are back! Here’s one from yesterday that totally slipped my mind: a duo of young comedian prodigies selling jokes at the low, low price of two for a dollar. After much hassle they let me write down their material for documentation, but I’ve had a change of heart- you can’t go around getting a reputation as a joke stealer.

-For those wondering: the grounds really aren’t that wet. I’ve only gotten comically stuck in a mud sink one time, and for me that’s a low number. The most underrated public embarrassment I almost suffered? The classic toilet paper stuck on the shoe. Can you imagine anything more humiliating? Scrape your feet folks!

-Best band shirts returns! Erm, it returns tonight, at least. Your mission NMF 2018 attendees: try and top the The Shaggs’  Philosophy of the World shirt Joe Votaw helped me spot earlier today. I have faith in you. All of you.