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Endless Summer … the summer of music festivals

By Staff | May 26, 2010

A late night drive home with the windows down on the Interstate. The warm summer air freezing time. The echo of a song bouncing around the car. Some people dozing off in the back seat. Joy. Calm. Giddiness.

It’s a long ride back to home, but it was all worth it.

Music lovers in the area know this scene all too well. It’s an annual rite of passage every summer. Few of the bands they love and listen to regularly come to town, so, friends in tow, they haul off to the nearest metropolitan area on a mission from God.

Even better are those increasingly more common occurrences known as summer music festivals. Cropping up all over the country, including several in Ohio and West Virginia, these festivals often showcase dozens of bands spread out over a day or three for roughly the same price as a single ticket to a larger act. The two-plus-hour drive for a show suddenly becomes a little more worth it.

Ask Trent Holbert, 22, of Vienna. For the third year in a row, he’s making the nearly 10-hour trip to Bushnell, Ill., in late June/early July to see some of his favorite bands at the Cornerstone Music Festival.

“I’m definitely excited to see David Bazan of Pedro the Lion and real pumped to see Digman, a band out of the indie scene in Texas,” he said. “Eisley’s playing Cornerstone. That will be sweet, too.”

Holbert’s more likely to drive those longer distances, he said, to see more than a few bands, like the upcoming All Good Music Festival in Masontown, W.Va. But he’ll drive only about three hours to see one of his favorite bands on their own.

“It’s got to be a band I wouldn’t get to see that often,” he said. “For just a normal show or whatever, I might drive two hours or two and a half hours.”

Kicking off the summer music festival circuit was a festival in Nelsonville May 15-17. In its sixth year, the festival has played host to acts as diverse as the Avett Brothers and Willie Nelson to The Swell Season and Billie Joe Shaver.

Tim Peacock, who’s helping manage or organize the festival on behalf of  Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville, said last year people from 23 different states and three different countries came for the lineup.

This year they’ve already confirmed sales to Australia, Switzerland and Canada.

“If this event were taking place in Chicago there would be 10,000 people at our festival,” he said. “People from outside this region recognize, sometimes more so, how eclectic and quality our lineup is and they like that, which is why they travel for it.”

Weekend passes can be purchased for $60 at the gate and single day passes are also available.

Jim Morgan, 36, of 438 Columbia Ave., Williamstown, bought his tickets to the festival months ago.

Morgan went to the festival for the first time last year to see Willie Nelson. He liked the mix of national and local acts, featuring plenty of musicians he’d never heard about, enough to return again this year.

“Nelsonville is my escape for my birthday,” he said. “I like that it’s pretty cheap and we get to see a lot of great bands.”

Rhonda Elder, 29, of Vincent, Ohio, likes things a little harder. As in fist-pumping, head-banging hard.

Elder and her husband, Steve, will be driving two and a half hours to Burgessville, Pa., for the Mayhem Music Festival to see Korn and Five Finger Death Punch.

“We were looking at Rock on the Range (in Columbus) but it’s two days, so with kids it’s harder to get someone to stay with them that long and it’s quite a bit more pricey,” she said. “Plus a lot of the bands at Mayhem will be at Rock on the Range.”

For others, most of their concert experiences tend to come with a little more local flavor.

Take Quentin Vigneron, 22, of Marietta and Nelsonville, who likely won’t make it to any festivals this year, but he’s certain to catch a few shows.

“I’ll probably hit up some in Athens, some local shows, and try to get to Columbus for one,” he said. “I’m definitely going to the Avett Brothers at the end of this month (in Columbus).”

Then again, Vigneron dreams of one day making a much longer trip, almost like a rock pilgramage for those on the East Coast.

“I’d like to make it out west for some someday, like Coachella (in California) or South by Southwest in Texas,” he said.

Contact Justin at jmcintosh@graffitiwv.com