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Nelsonville 2014: Day 3 Recap

By Zack Baker & Megan Fair

ACRN once again took to Nelsonville Music Festival to scope out the tunes, and boy, was it a scorcher! The unrelenting sun beat down, but that certainly didn’t stop festival attendees from pouring into the venue early in the afternoon.

ACRN’s crew arrived just in time to catch one of our favorites, the amazing Saintseneca (who Zack was lucky enough to interview a few weeks back). It was the earliest we had managed to make it out to the festival grounds all weekend, but the early (read: 1:30 p.m.) trek was well worth it. The band ripped through most of its latest release, Dark Arc, and threw in a few classic surprises as well. Opening with Last's "Acid Rain" was a perfect introduction to the band's stompy take on folk, and the 5-piece's constant role rotation kept the crowd engaged. It's one thing to hear Zac Little's vocals through your headphones, it's another experience entirely to have him belt them out in front of you.

Quilt took to the Gladden House porch in the beautiful shade and lulled listeners into a soothing stupor in the haze of the midafternoon. Their set was very similar to their full electric set the day before, but the lyrics really pulled through in such a stripped-down setting, providing a very intimate experience for those who were lucky enough to find the shady haven.

While Meg was catching Quilt, Zack was glued to a good spot in the No-Fi Cabin waiting to see his second Saintseneca performance of the day. While he was there for a very specific reason, the bands that took the cabin's--um, floor--caught his attention as well.

He managed to work his way to the front while Nathan Moore had the small room enraptured. His set began as a duo performance with his brother on mandolin, rolling through classic folk tunes at a breakneck pace. Eventually a man who had been leaning just off to the side of the room walked up front and picked up his stand-up bass and the set became a makeshift performance of Sport Fishing USA. The band worked through a few more "scorchers" and eventually made its way out of the cabin's front door through the crowd squatting on the floor.

As Sport Fishing left, Maine's Village of Spaces walked in, already barefoot and feeling the vibes of the room. After explaining that the duo normally makes much louder and more electrified music than they would be performing today, the band broke out a few tools to help recreate their dizzying psychedelia without the aid of an outlet. Between a Melodica (think kazoo meets keyboard) and a busted old toy megaphone, the duo was able to fill the room with sounds that most wouldn't expect from a totally stripped-down set.

Although it had only felt like 30 minutes, two hours had passed and Saintseneca finally made its way into the room. As a band with five members and roughly twice as many instruments in its stable, the band had to stack the cabin's lone chair behind the stove-pipe furnace and kill the fans in favor of a bass amp. What happened in that room is hard to describe, so hard that Zack doesn't feel as though he can put it into words. It was a sort of weird magical bubble, seeing five people craft such delicate and intricate songs for a room of maybe 30 people in the middle of a festival with thousands in attendance. Even more songs from the back catalog were brought out, and the crowd only grew louder with each finished song, culminating in a beautiful solo encore of "Beasts" by Little. It was an experience that's impossible to find at most festivals, and only served to encapsulate what makes Nelsonville Music Festival so special.

After catching most of the No-Fi Cabin session by peeping through one of the cabin’s windows, Megan sprinted over to the Porch Stage to catch Motel Beds, a very energetic rock band out of Dayton. After shooting some of their set, it was yet again time to scramble over to the Main Stage for Lucius.

Meg was unbelievably stoked on Lucius. Not only were Lucius’ bright red lace macrame dresses and black and white striped shirts totally on point, but its brand of fun pop music brought the crowd to life in a very cool way. The music was tight and percussively energetic, and when “Turn It Around” began Megan actually squealed. (Fun fact: “Turn It Around” is a staple of Chipotle’s radio station and keeps Megan sane on those long shifts.)

After Lucius it was time for us to hit up O’Betty’s vendor stand and stuff our faces in preparation for the night to come. That is, after several hours of just hanging out and waiting. At this point we posted up on a little porch and observed as ultra-resilient youths sprinted around in the sun playing an innovative mash up of dodgeball and soccer. We finally decided to stop loitering and headed over to the Porch Stage to observe some live music.

We caught a little bit of Saint Rich's set after getting our fill of watching children getting pegged with soccer balls, and what we caught was endearing. The band made music that felt like a strange hybrid of New York '00s indie rock and more modern indie a la Vampire Weekend. What really impressed was how tightly the group played, and their stage banter was on point. After the opener the guitarist snagged the mic from the lead singer and launched into a quick comedy set. Halfway through the second song, the singer paused to ask a member of the crowd how much it would cost to get him to sell his Prince shirt ($50 was evidently not enticing enough).

As the sun set, it came time for Megan to brave the gauntlet that is photographing bigger-name acts at festivals. The addition of a catwalk made the two-deep line of photographers even more stuffed up, but The Head and The Heart provided a lot of imagery to photograph, and the crowd hollered and sang along with a passionate vigor.

We would have loved to stick around for all of The Head & The Heart’s whole set, but it was 100% necessary to snag prime territory for Tweens. Tweens’ raucous trash pop was a loud and violent change from the band’s lineup and provided a perfect setting for headbanging and thrashing around. Upping the punx with two new tracks and favorites “Be Mean” and “Hardcore Boy” and a handful of delightful others, Tweens sprint of a set concluded. Tweens was one of, if not the most entertaining band of the weekend.

Zack had to dip out before the end of Tweens' thriller of a set to snap some photos of The Avett Brothers. The weekend's headliners pulled a massive crowd, converting the main stage's lawn into a labyrinth of soccer-game folding chairs and blankets. The set was heavy on new material, and the crowd bounced along with the lighter tone of the new tunes, but the band still ripped its way through them. The kick drum alone could be heard for miles around the festival, and served as an appropriate backbeat to the walk out to the car.

Neither Megan or Zack could stick around in Athens for the final day of music, but the festival gave them more than enough to rave about for the rest of the summer.

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