Nelsonville Music Festival preview: Pro-tips

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Though the Nelsonville Music Festival has grown considerably since I first started going in 2008, I can still offer a hearty “amen” to Andrew Bird’s description of the fest as the perfect size (“Any bigger and you’d lose something,” he said after headlining in 2012). Which is only partly why it’s so adored by those who’ve been there before. Me, in other words. I won’t bore you with obvious tips for surviving a music festival (Hydrate! Sunblock!), but I will share my favorite Nelsonville-specific advice.

Let you’re A.D.D. out to play

The distance between the three stages (and between the festival and the campgrounds) is so insanely manageable it’s ridiculous. This means it suddenly becomes realistic to NOT MISS A SINGLE SET BY ANYONE. In other words, Booyah! It’s probably not realistic to accomplish this, but I try every year anyway. Sometimes I only catch a single song by a given performer, but other times I’m rewarded with a performance I might have otherwise skipped at a bigger festival. Keep an open-mind, and try to take in as much music as possible. The festival is so well-curated, you shouldn’t stumble upon a bad performance all weekend.

Get unplugged

My favorite festival experience of any kind, anywhere, the No-Fi Stage always produces magical, memorable moments. Probably because in size and charm, it’s about as anti-music festival as you can get. The “stage” is a one-room log cabin with no electricity and benches for seats. Bands play intimate, all-acoustic sets mere feet away. No amps, no mics, nothing. As you might expect, this stage is always in high-demand, so if there’s a particular No-Fi set you’d like to see (and there should be), camp out early. (Might I suggest Saintseneca’s Saturday No-Fi performance?) It’s almost always worth missing a band or two elsewhere.

Don’t be afraid to leave

Anything’s better than lingering around the campgrounds, and since you’ll have worthwhile options only minutes away, you might as well take advantage. Though a veritable Taste of Athens will be available at the festival (O’Betty’s, Jackie O’s, Donkey Coffee, et al), hit up the college town for lunch at Casa Nueva (tofu fries!) or Village Bakery (BBQ Tempeh!). Bring your bike for a ride along the bike path (it’ll take you to Athens). Or rent canoes in nearby Hocking Hills for a change of pace. The Hocking Hills region is one of the state’s most gorgeous. Soak it in while you’re there.