Nowhere Else Festival. A boutique gathering of some of the finest craftsmen and women in the artistic community. If over the river and through the woods takes you home, rivers and oceans take you to Nowhere Else Festival. A family musical reunion on a historic pre-Civil War farm located, well, in the middle of nowhere and yes, it takes some dedication to get there, but it’s exactly where it needs be.
The curators of the festival are Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist of the band Over the Rhine. Nowhere Else Festival is more than music and more than a reunion. It is a nurturing of creativity, history, storytelling, friendship, and good food and wine. Proceeds from the festival will help to restore the 140-year-old barn into a fully functioning performing arts center. The barn and its location make it a perfect venue for hosting intimate concerts and workshops. With a “pay it forward” attitude, Nowhere Else hopes to eventually record future albums and nurture budding artists. Festival Master of Ceremonies Peter Mulvey in trying to discern the difference between this and other festivals, came to realize “This festival is a poem!”. As curators of Nowhere Else Festival, Linford Detweiler speaks in lyrics and Karin Bergquist paints with her words. Nowhere Else Festival is a work of art.
Nowhere Else Festival commands a great use of space. Visitors to the festival mingle throughout the day enjoying the historic grounds on their own or as part of photography rambles. Artists set up easels to capture the scene. Talented artistic displays in the restored barn captivate visitors. Writing workshops and conversations with the artists engage and energize anyone interested in the creative process. All this, great music as well as the much-anticipated presentation of his forthcoming film: HOLBROOK/TWAIN by Film Director and Screenwriter Scott Teems, make Nowhere Else Festival unique on its own terms.
Some of the best songwriters and Americana performers have graced this stage. Nowhere Else Festival sets a high bar and the artists of 2018 gave rise. Beginning with The Red Dirt Boys, those wolves in sheep clothing, musically set the tone for the festival. The boys are a heavy hitting, masterful Nashville session player supergroup, Their rousing “Oh Chief Cook That Down” identified their sound as a multi-genre feast of blues, jazz, country, and hillbilly red beans and rice. The “best friends” vibe is obvious and infectious, a reminder that theirs is a well honed craft. The boys have earned their right to play.
It was the guest appearance of The Red Dirt Boys with Over the Rhine That simply ROCKED the festival! Over the Rhine has beautifully crafted songs. The Red Dirt Boys are rock solid rhythm and masters of improvisation. For these boys, punctuating great songs are what they line their pockets with. Together they blew the roof off. I do hope someone captured that moment.
Peter Mulvey who served as Master of Ceremonies for the festival, and presented an in-depth songwriting workshop, brilliantly captivated the audience bringing his tales to life with vivid imagery. Some of Peter’s songs derived from letters to his siblings’ children; as is this telling of a time he happened into conversation with “Vlad the astrophysicist”. A story so compelling it became a TED talk and a popular children’s book for adults. Will Kimbrough joined Peter onstage for an impromptu performance. Combining Will’s masterful guitar and Peter’s command of a story, that song leaped off the stage.
The Carrie Rodriguez (trio) added the right amount of zest blending their interpretations of traditional Mexican compositions with Carrie’s “Ranchera” inspired original songs. “Z” was a rousing favorite evoking cheers from the crowd.
As Loudon Wainwright III took the stage the sky’s opened up. Watching him harness that storm into his backing band was master-class. He opened with “Natural Disaster” and the storm abated. “Gray in L.A.” open the sky back up. With tarps drawn, thunder clapped and the lightning flashed its approval. “Daughter” was an obvious choice, and Lucy Wainwright Roche’s joined her dad on stage for a beautiful duet of “You Can’t Fail Me Now”, his song cowritten with “Nowhere Else Festival” alumnus Joe Henry. Louden brings the calm after the storm.
That calm is Mary Gauthier – The air had a new clarity and coolness, perfectly crafted for Mary’s songs. We expected her iconic “I Drink” and “Mercy Now”, but her newest songs resonated strong. Opening with “Rifles and Rosary Beads” the title track from her 2018 Americana Album of the Year nominated album, and having given a songwriter workshop earlier in the day, Mary gave us insight into the healing properties of helping to pull the pain out of a person, a skill honed through a painful existence and perfectly suited for her work with the life-giving “Songwriters With Soldiers” program. http://www.songwritingwithsoldiers.org/ Mary was deserving of many extended applause and several standing ovations. A perfect choice for this Memorial Day Weekend.
*of special note and a heartfelt thank you, to the City of Wilmington Ohio for providing a grant, making it possible for one hundred veterans to attend free of charge.
Saturday’s performances had an electrifying element to it. Perhaps the threat of an impending storm, or was it the anticipation that something magical was brewing. At any rate, these performances were emotionally charged and are hi-lighted here. Let that not take away from the rest of the festival. Both days were absolutely inspiring.
Sunday’s performances continued the with a more diverse artistry and format. The “Song Catchers” stage hi-lighted several up and coming acts. It was Nikki Lerner with her soaring melodies and dense vocal harmonies that took the festival by storm. Hers was a rousing performance that brought the audience to their feet and left us wanting more.
If you find yourself in need of inspiration, make your way to the middle of nowhere. Magic happens there and you don’t want to miss it. Stay in touch with Nowhere Else Festival and other great workshop opportunities at the link above or follow along at https://www.facebook.com/nowhereelseohio/ See you next year.
– Viola Krouse