"Your weird party in the woods... I hope it goes on for 500 thousand more years," Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne told the crowd Saturday night (May 14) at the Nelsonville Music Festival. "I'm perfectly one of you."
Indeed Coyne was, becoming something of a mascot for the rain and mud-filled seventh incarnation of Nelsonville, Ohio's increasingly visible music festival, held this past weekend (May 13-15) at a historical camp site nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Coyne's weird, wonderful presence was felt as he encouragingly nodded along from the side of the stage to Sean Lennon's latest band, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, and checked out lesser-knowns like folkie Samantha Crain in a schoolhouse cabin-turned-venue. And like the festival itself, which has grown in size and clout with each passing year, Coyne remains eclectic -- and clearly a bit different.
Video: The Flaming Lips, "Worm Mountain," Nelsonville Music Festival
A calvacade of artists from across the rock, folk and country genres -- including George Jones, Neko Case, Wanda Jackson, Justin Townes Earle, Yo La Tengo and a whole slew of emerging ones (Lost in the Trees and Nick Tolford & Company are notable favorites) -- found their way to the fest, whose previous headliners include Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Sharon Jones and the Avett Brothers.
Sunday headliner Neko Case remained low-key and dressed down, letting her acoustic-driven songs -- and chatterbox back-up singer Kelly Hogan -- do the talking. On Saturday night, priceless (and hyper-local) stage banter from Yo La Tengo won over attendees who may not have been feeling their sludgy 15-minute songs (nestled among upbeat faves like "Sugarcube" and "Mr. Tough," of course).
The fest's laidback, down-home vibe inspired Americana picker Justin Townes Earle to open up on Friday, as he vaguely referenced his September 2010 arrest and rehab stint between songs off his new album, "Harlem River Blues." But the award for best stage banter goes to 73-year-old rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson, who name-dropped at every turn. Even through her declarations of love for ex-boyfriend Elvis ("what a super guy") and biggest fan as of late, Jack White, Jackson's aim remained a musical trip down memory lane.
Video: Neko Case, "Red Tide," Nelsonville Music Festival
As for the big-ticket band (the Lips), the Oklahoma City psych-rockers did not disappoint on the second stop of their summer tour, pulling out new theatrics (dancers dressed like "Wizard of Oz" characters, recent tracks like "Is David Bowie Dying?") and old favorites (Coyne's space bubble, classic likes "She Don't Use Jelly" and show-ender "Do You Realize??"). The increasing bouts of storms seemed to unhinge the masses of Lips devotees even further (as if that's possible), with trippy, mud-filled rain dances abounding.