The 9th Annual Nelsonville Music Festival will take place from May 30 - June 2 at Robbins Crossing, located on the campus of Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio. A comparatively young festival that precedes the glut of international summer music festivals in June and July, Nelsonville is one of the best gatherings of musicians you’re likely to see all year. The 2013 lineup is no exception, as Cat Power joins an already impressive lineup that includes Wilco, John Prine, Mavis Staples, Gogol Bordello, Sharon Van Etten, Calexico, Jonathan Richman, and many others.
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All I wanted to do was watch a performance of the song “Bruises”. And because – surprise!—Train wasn’t scheduled to be in Austin, Texas, this week, my only hope was Ashley Monroe, an up and coming country music star with whom Train collaborated to compose the silly, little pop song at hand.
I didn’t hear it, of course. South by Southwest artists run on the click of a very important and very lucrative clock. If you’re Ms. Monroe, why offer up a song more synonymous with another artist when this is your one true moment in the spotlight? Then again, if you’re me, why schedule your first day at the preeminent music conference in North America around a slate of country music artists when you have spent 28 years despising that very niche?
“This work includes a strobe light, smoke, and loud sound” read the disclaimer on the front of the Playbill for the performance of ‘Vertical Road’ by the Akram Khan Dance Company. But the powerful effects in this performance flowed from the dancers fluid motions, as choreographed by Akram Khan, garbed in earthy-toned, loose attire. His production was supported by music from Nitin Sawhney, the UK composer whose most recent work includes a concept album with William Hurt entitled Last Days of Meaning and the score for the movie Midnight’s Children, though neither were present for the US performance.
Having stopped in three venues in one night on the first night of CMJ, and stepping away to take in the White Light Festival at Lincoln Center, I found myself out on the last night of CMJ at the Mercury Lounge for a packed showcase with several bands going into the early morning.
For full disclosure, I came to this showcase with the intent to meet some people, and I only really got to see one band, Black Taxi, one I had seen before as they put on a wild show. The band’s immediate live sound drew comparison to Kings of Leon and the band seemed just as close as the Followill Brothers. But Black Taxi do have more variety—throughout the set elements of other bands were apparent and the wild vocalist Ezra Huleatt jumped up to sing, sat down for the keyboards, wailed on a trumpet and dragged out a bullhorn to supercharge his voice. The audience ate it up. And if you can’t check out the live show, the band has a Live EP stream that will allow you to make comparison to other bands yourself.
It’s the week of the CMJ Music Marathon in New York and that means you can’t walk two feet in the Village without running into some band, or a hipster or even worse, a music critic. But this is after the music conference has wound up for the day, when attendees find themselves freed up and can take in a show afterwards with their colleagues. It’s just too easy to see new music and most of it is free with the stylish CMJ badge around your neck. On one hand, unfortunately, many of these music showcases feature abbreviated sets by many bands. On the other, the many small bands means you might hear something new way before anyone else does. At least you would like to think so. In my case, I had my camera strapped around my neck and went to take in and capture some performances.