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Nelsonville 2014: Day 1 + 2 Recap

By Zack Baker & Megan Fair

Day One

As usual, ACRN arrived fashionably late to the opening night of Nelsonville Music Festival this year. Things at the festival grounds kicked off at 6 p.m. with local surf-rockers The D-Rays, but we didn't show up to the party until about 8 o'clock. After almost accidentally checking in as volunteers, we finally got into the festival and just kind of walked around looking for where the fun was.

After passing through a gauntlet of very tempting local food vendors, we stumbled upon a cabin nestled in a secluded part of festival grounds bearing the mysterious title of No-Fi Cabin. The cabin fits maybe 20 people and provides an incredibly intimate show for all those who get there early enough to stake out a good spot. Many acts over the festival are playing two sets, and one of which is in that perfect little cabin.

Feeling we'd adequately explored, we ventured back to the main stage to shoot Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls' set at 9 p.m (gallery coming soon!). The wildly energetic folk-rock and punk laced ensemble from across the pond had showgoers singing, dancing and even doing jumping jacks. Turner also took a moment to perform the cheeky "Wherefore Art Thou, Gene Simmons" from his latest record Tape Deck Heart. What was even more exciting was watching little old ladies clap along to "Glory Hallelujah," a track whose chorus exclaims, "There is no God, so clap your hands together."

Day Two

We learned from our past mistakes and arrived just in time for Zack to run over to snap some pictures of Texas solo act Shakey Graves (again, gallery coming soon). The man known as Shakey Graves, Alejandro Rose-Garcia, was a non-stop folk rager. As a one-man band, Rose-Garcia not only absolutely rips on his acoustic, but works two kick pedals: one pounding on a suitcase in lieu of a bass drum and the other rattling a tamborine. The songs all fly by in a storm of shouts and strumming, whipping the crowd into a dancing frenzy. Any passerby who didn't take a glance at the stage could easily be fooled into thinking Shakey Graves was a full band.

Around 5, we convened by the food vendors to meet up with Brooklyn's The Men. The four-piece and their hilarious sound tech gathered with us on a back porch of a cabin near the No-Fi Cabin and chatted. Megan interviewed while Zack took some snaps, and The Men filled us in on their set that night as well as a ton of other interesting updates (interview to be posted soon). The crew was very funny and kept us laughing in the nice reprieve of sunlight on the cool porch, and after almost 20 minutes of questions and answers, The Men ventured off to explore Nelsonville.

After the interview, we took a few minutes to cool off and rehydrate. Zack nearly blew his hand off with a pressurized well we found in the woods behind the cabins, and we finally gave in to the pressures of the local vendors. We grooved to the distant sounds of Grupo Fantasma, a Grammy-Award Winning latin funk group from Austin, and devoured some local grub. Once we finished up we headed over to the main stage to catch the last of the moms showing off their (admittedly impressive) salsa dancing skills and settled in for what turned out to be the biggest surprise of the festival so far.

Quilt took the stage, and the Boston-based psychy dream pop band brought its impeccable three-part harmonies and skilled musicianship in waves of incredibly rich sounds. The exciting set was the perfect way to set the tone for the acts to follow on the Main Stage--Kurt Vile & The Violators and Dinosaur Jr.

Being a little behind schedule, Kurt Vile and Dinosaur Jr. had to essentially soundcheck at the same time. This led to a multitude of technical issues and a handful of very panicked looking sound techs. Kurt Vile couldn't seem to get the reverb he wanted on his vocals, the bass drum was clipping to the point that even the drummer had it dropped from his monitor and we're pretty sure the saxophone mic wasn't even turned on for the last song.

Despite all that, Vile and the Violators absolutely ripped. The Violators were all multi-instrumentalists, swapping instruments and roles with every song. Vile himself was a whirlwind of energy and hair, making his Martin acoustics carry the sonic heft of any rival electric. He kept his guitar tech busy, alternating between acoustic and electric almost every song and having his tech tune up the guitar and perform a quick hand-off before tearing into the next jam. Apart from the technical problems, Vile thoroughly entertained the crowd and performed a solid mix of old and new jams (although where was "Smoke Ring For My Halo"?).

J. Mascis' massive wall of amps was wheeled forward and the energy of the crowed visibly changed. Dinosaur Jr. slowly took the stage, as well as almost every band that had performed on the main stage that night taking places on the side stage. Once the band finally got ready, they launched straight into their massive riffs. Zack's ears are still ringing. The band was incredibly in sync, stopping and starting their ocassionally jammy songs with pinpoint precision. The whole set was incredible, with some highlights being an extended version of their incredible The Cure cover "Just Like Heaven" and a perfectly sprawling version of "Freak Scene." There wasn't much banter, but nothing felt left unsaid when they finally set down their instruments and walked away from the massive wall of feedback.

The Men took the Porch stage by noisy and raucous storm. Their set, featuring only older songs and nothing from Tomorrow's Hits, had the crowd enthralled with their thrashing around and unbelievably tight musicianship. It was another very cool mix up from the generally soothing folk offered throughout the day. It was a great example of how well-rounded Nelsonville's lineup is this year.

Maybe Zack's ears will eventually stop ringing. Maybe.

#nelsonvillemusicfestival #zackbaker #meganfair #shakygraves #frankturner #kurtvile #quilt #dinosaurjr #recap #livereview #tinnitusistoomuchfun

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