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5 Questions: Now in its 8th year, Nelsonville's music fest is 'very 'World Café' '

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Indie folk rocker Andrew Bird performs Saturday at the Nelsonville Music Festival in Ohio.
WANT TO GO?Nelsonville Music FestivalWith Iron and Wine, Andrew Bird, M. Ward, Dawes and moreWHERE: Robbins Crossing at Hocking College, Nelsonville, OhioWHEN: Friday through SundayTICKETS: Weekend pass $85, Friday or Saturday only $60, Sunday only $50INFO: 740-753-1924 or CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Nelsonville Music Festival returns Friday for an eighth year in Nelsonville, Ohio. Produced by Stuart's Opera House, the three-day music event has previously included appearances by Willie Nelson, the Avett Brothers, George Jones and The Flaming Lips. This year, it features headliners Iron and Wine, Andrew Bird and M. Ward, as well as 45 other acts, including Guided by Voices, Todd Snider, Dawes, Hayes Carll and Todd Burge.The gazz spoke to marketing and promotions director Brian Koscho about the growth of the festival and why it's worth the two-hour drive from Charleston or Huntington.  Q: How did the festival start?A: "The festival started eight years ago as a chance for us to do bigger shows and bring more people to Nelsonville. Stuart's Opera House seats 400 people, 450 as standing room, maybe. Having a festival seemed like a way to bring in bands you wouldn't hear in the Opera House. I mean, Mudhoney might play the festival, but that would be weird in a sit-down theater. It would be cool, but a little bit strange." Q: What was it like in the beginning?
A: "I've only been with the festival for the past five years, but for the first three, the festival was a one-day event. The first year, we had it on the square in Nelsonville, in front of Stuart's. We had six bands, I think. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band was our headliner, and about 750 people came out.
"After three years, it just made sense to do the whole weekend. We had all these vendors and infrastructure in place for one day. Three days didn't seem like that much more. Now, we see about five to six thousand people, plus volunteers, vendors.  . . .  There are a lot of people every year. It's really growing." Q: What's the crowd like?A: "It's a little bit of everybody. Like just about any music festival, you're going to have a lot of young people who want to camp out for three days, drink beer in a field and stand in the sun, but our festival is pretty diverse compared to some others. I went to Pitchfork last summer and spent time with 50 or 60 thousand hipsters in a field, but here you'll see a 60-year-old standing next to a 20-year-old hippie next to a 35-year-old-professional down from Columbus."I think that comes from the music. We don't pigeonhole ourselves with the lineup. It's not all jam band. It's not all folk. It's not all indie rock. It's very [NPR] 'World Café' sort of people." 
Q: You have a lot of local acts in addition to the national ones. Why is that important?A: "We have about 52 or 53 artists on the schedule. About 25 of them are from Ohio. Some of them, like Guided By Voices and Jessica Lea Mayfield, are kind of big, but we have a lot of smaller bands, a lot of regional bands. We like to think that our festival is a nice little snapshot of the music of our region and why we like living down here."Having those smaller, regional bands at the festival is important to us. I love it when people come up to me and they've got a CD and a T-shirt from some band that's a new favorite." Q: Is there anybody you're looking forward to seeing?A: "Quite a few. I'll be checking lots of people out, but I love Guided By Voices. I'm a huge fan, but there's someone like that for me every year. Last year, I had this moment where I just suddenly realized, 'Holy crap. I'm in a field in Nelsonville watching The Flaming Lips.'"Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.
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