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Nelsonville Music Festival Review
By Justin McIntosh

I go to music festivals for several reasons, but the greatest of which — and, really, the best part about music in general — is the revelation. That moment when a band not previously on your radar becomes your favorite band of all-time, like forever.

That is why the Nelsonville Music Festival, from which I just returned late Sunday, is now my favorite music festival of all-time, like forever.

The beauty of the festival is its unique size, which perfectly allows you to set about making a horde of discoveries over a three-day weekend.

The festival is large enough to attract acts like Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson and yet small enough that a bulk of the lineup is comprised of Ohio-based acts, mostly from Athens and Columbus. Then there are a dozen or so mid-size indies from across the country, all of brilliant quality.

Getting to the three stages is just a short jaunt as well, meaning you’re rarely worn out from a sun-soaked day of brews and tunes. Meaning you have the energy to listen to just about every band in attendance. Which I did.

So, without further adu, here’s my list of revelations from the Nelsonville Music Festival:

Size matters.

The first time I saw former Avett Brothers label mate Samantha Crain was when she opened for the rising trio in Huntington a few years ago. I was less than impressed and something about her whole vibe turned me off.

In Nelsonville, she blew me away.

Her first appearance at the festival was on the main stage Friday. I warmed up to her a little here, but it wasn’t until she performed at the No-Fi stage that my heart and soul expanded to a size large enough to swallow the world.

A large part of this is due to the No-Fi stage being one of the coolest places I’ve ever watched a performance.

Set inside a log-cabin-like, small, one-room school house with wooden church pews as seats, the No-Fi stage often overflowed with listeners, some of whom crammed onto empty floor spots and porches and leaned into open-air windows just to catch these intimate shows.

Samantha Crain performed hers, largely unaccompanied, sitting cross-legged on an oval carpet placed in the middle of the stage. Unadorned with mics or amplifiers, Crain knocked out the audience with her smooth playing and natural singing. Here’s the antithesis of Taylor Swift, I thought to myself, in all the good ways.

There’s also no better marketing than meeting your fans.

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  • Posted on June 1