The beauty of the Nelsonville Music Festival lies, perhaps surprisingly, not in the scenic surroundings — though they are gorgeous — but in the act of discovering new bands.
Sure, I’ll love catching headliners Wilco, Gogol Bordello and Cat Power, but I’m most excited about those acts I’m less familiar with. And you should be too.
What follows are my recommendations of five can’t-miss acts (that won’t appear on the main stage) at this year’s Nelsonville Music Festival, which runs May 30-June 2.
7:45 p.m. Friday or 1:45 p.m. Sunday, No-Fi Cabin
You could see Cotton Jones Saturday or Sunday on the Porch Stage, but your top priority this weekend should be to catch an act in the No-Fi stage, a no-electric, single-room log cabin with pew seating. You might end up on the floor, hanging out a doorway or peeking through windows, but going by Cotton Jones’ mastery of intimacy at its Rumba show earlier this year, I’m willing to bet this will be a transcendent experience.
3:45 p.m. Sunday, Porch Stage
Speaking of intimate, transcendent concerts, I still hate myself for missing Field Report’s Rumba show in November (which our Chris DeVille LOVED). If you’re unfamiliar, perhaps all you need to know is singer-songwriter Chris Porterfield was once in a band with Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and members of Megafaun. Overlaps with Bon Iver exist, but it’s also not a completely fair comparison. Field Report slays slowly, weaving its way into you with a slyness and sophistication I often found lacking in Vernon’s music. But don’t expect a slow-burn Sunday; this show should be compelling and flush with immediacy.
8:15 p.m. Friday, Porch Stage
Phew. That’s the sound of relief I’m perpetually making now that bands like Screaming Females are filling the void in my heart left behind by Sleater-Kinney’s absence. Last year’s Ugly was one of my favorite records of the year, and I’m pumped to see Nelsonville injected with a little dissonant guitar power amid the acoustic twang.
Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers
11:30 p.m. Saturday, Porch Stage
Speaking of female-fronted rock bands (these transitions just write themselves), it’s fitting that Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers are going on after Wilco (albeit on a different stage). Wilco will bring down the house (er, sky?) as they always do, but Shilpa might burst through the heavens. This could be the wildest, rockingest show of the weekend, which is amazing considering Shilpa plays a harmonium.
3:45 p.m. Friday, Porch Stage
Not a fan of slow, meandering instrumental folk? Might want to skip this. If you like Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Wooden Wand or the Silver Jews (all of which have recorded or toured with Tyler), this will be perfection served ice-cold in a frosty mug on a hot and humid summer day. Honestly, nothing sounds better to me right now, in this moment, than to be stretched out on a blanket on a late Friday afternoon and being lulled by Tyler into catatonic bliss.