All great things must come to an end. Yesterday was the final day of Nelsonville’s ninth annual music festival, and the weather was very kind to us for once. The sun shone comfortably on the patrons and if it ever did duck behind the clouds, it wasn’t for very long. Sunday’s performances lasted until about 7:30 PM. This was kind of the winding-down day, more or less. Unquestionably, for my taste, this day had the least to offer musically. However, the lineup was formulated to appeal to a slightly older/country-and-folk-inclined audience.
David Wax and his group David Wax Museum came onto the main stage early to put on a very energetic show. The four-piece sported an eclectic mix of instruments. David Wax himself often played a jarana, which from what I understand is a stringed instrument of Mexican descent, embodying both elements of a nylon-string guitar and a ukelele. Suz Slezak also impressed many with her keyboard, exquisite violin playing, and quijada- also known as a tightly bound jawbone of a donkey. It is played with a wooden peg, just like a güiro. If you couldn’t tell, David Wax Museum’s influences lie firmly rooted south of the border. They even performed an en pointe cover of a Mexican standard. Band leader Wax was incredibly appreciative of the honor of sharing the space on the stage which John Prine would later be inhabiting, making sure to dust off the area with his hand so that it was clean enough for the folk icon.
Next up was Tift Merritt and her band. Whereas David Wax Museum danced around with the mariachi genre to include forays into folk and singalong so as to accommodate any listener, Merritt was a pretty straight shot of country. Once again, not my jib, but I did enjoy witnessing Eric Heywood, (shown at the top), at work. I saw a hell of a lot of pedal steel guitars at use this weekend, and Heywood was an easy second to Nels Cline with Wilco the previous night.
I had my fair share of Ms. Merritt, so I headed over to the porch stage to see what was happenin’, and I caught a full set from Cotton Jones, young indie-folk rockers from Maryland, formed from the core of husband and wife Michael Nau and Whitney McGraw. The two took the stage by themselves at first and performed one or two songs until letting the full band, two electric guitarists, a drummer, and a bassist; joined along. Their shtick could be described as a more demure Fleet Foxes, rarely moving above 112 beats per minute. While I don’t believe anyone else in attendance would agree, I found this group to be my favorite act of the day.
Yes, this is about the best picture I could muster of Prine. He was not allowing a photo pit for his performance and I was a 5′ 6″ man in a crowd of taller people, so I had to stand on my toes and this was one of the results. Whoever is the owner of that head full of brown hair in the left corner, you won’t get away with this again… After three long days of spending my time listening to music in Nelsonville, I almost began to recognize the thousands that attended, which made it all the more strange when Prine started playing because the thick crowd of fans that came to see him at 6:00 PM were all relatively unknown to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the attendees that day only bought a pass for Sunday. Either way, Prine attracted a devoted crowd. I stood there, surrounded by people who were experiencing some serious emotions. Quite a few full grown men bore no shame in crying just a tad out of seeing what is one of their musical heroes. I’m not too well versed in the man’s career, but I am completely aware of his presence in the annals of singer/songwriters, especially after seeing him live. He is a brilliant lyricist, and he knows it too. One of his spoken introductions to a song went, “This next song, I have no idea why I ever wrote it… but it turned out to be a good one.” The oldie-but-goodie played his heart out, taking frequent instrumental breaks to shoot an adorable, toothy smile while his lead guitarist wowed us with some jangled licks.
And that’s it! For the last time, so many thanks to Mona and Brid at Tell All Your Friends PR. I really appreciate being sent down to NMF 2013 to cover all these wonderful acts and take some sweet photos. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. And hey, if you’re nearby, I wholly encourage you to set plans for NMF 2014. Signing off, this has been Ryan Gabos. Also, I have a lot more photos to see, so expect an article with a big ol’ live roll soon.