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The Sounds of Summer

Your road-trip guide to Ohio's bountiful bill of summer music festivals


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Midwest Reggae Fest • Aug. 9-11


Headliners Yellowman, Victor Essiet and the Mandators, Pato Banton

Tix $100 for the weekend but look for discounted early bird tickets to go on sale soon.

Where? Nelson Ledges, where there will be a main stage along with a "beach stage."

Don't Miss! Victor Essiet is the godfather of African reggae who's known for his covers of classic Marley tunes. The guy's shitty web site doesn't tell us much about him, other than the fact that he's from Nigeria, where he's hugely popular (try fact-checking that bit of info). Regardless, promoter Packy Malley says he'll be the festival highlight.

Skip It We love Carlos Jones and the P.L.U.S. Band but the guys play Cleveland regularly. You're better off seeing the international stars that will be in town for the event. Again, no disrespect!

What To Bring Malley says, "You can bring in anything to drink as long as it's not in glass bottles. So you can bring in your own coolers and beer but it has to be in cans." Good luck finding Red Stripe in cans!

Good Grub Standard Nelson Ledges vendors will be on site, but Malley will bring in Jamaican cooks from Cleveland to prepare special dishes especially for the weekend. Here's to hoping fried plantains are on the menu.

Green Cred Malley says he wouldn't want to pretend that he's an environmentalist but he says Nelson Ledges will have recycling containers on site.  

The History Now in its 22nd year, the Midwest Reggae Fest started small at Meadowridge Farm in Huntsburg and has grown into one of the biggest reggae festivals in the country.

Watch Out For... At a reggae festival, everyone should be chill and feeling irie, but with so many stoners in one place, you never know when someone will start acting all aggro. (Niesel)

Nelsonville Music Festival • May 30 - June 2


Headliners Wilco, Cat Power, John Prine

Tix $110 four-day pass

Where? Nelsonville is located off Route 33, just north of Athens.

Don't Miss! If you haven't (or have) seen Wilco live, then there's your answer. They stand tall as one of the greatest live acts in the country these days. And Mavis Staples is a legend. (I mean, why are you even considering not checking out her set?) There are a lot of cool, under-the-radar outfits rounding out the bill, as well. Wild Belle, for instance, is a slick little duo that will surely dish up a relaxing midday show.

Skip It Calexico can be taken or left, as you please. The band's got talent, but they seem to be shipping something a little less than that on each release. Check out Algiers to get a sense of where their sound is these days.

What To Bring It's all about the environment, so opt for aluminum or stainless steel containers for water instead of a case of plastic

Good Grub O'Betty's Red Hot from Athens is a hot dog LEGEND in Southeast Ohio, if you're into that kinda thang. (Of course you are.) (And, um, we recommend the "Varla." Tell 'em Scene sent you.) Jeni's Ice Cream from Columbus is widely known for offering some of the greatest ice cream ever.

Green Cred The umbrella phrase is "zero waste." In tandem with Rural Action and the Appalachia Ohio Zero Waste Initiative, fest organizers and attendees seek a full-scale recycling and composting op with an emphasis on self-awareness and responsibility.

The History The fest first cropped up in downtown Nelsonville in 2005. The setting is ideal: bucolic, collegiate and home to a top-notch opera house. Andrew Bird once called it "a hell of a lot better than Coachella," to which we Ohioans respond: Hell yes it is.

Watch Out For... Be sure to check out the No-Fi Cabin. "We take one of the cabins [at Robbins Crossing Historical Village] which is an old schoolhouse and have it as a stage all weekend where musicians play with no electricity - as acoustic as it gets," marketing director Brian Koscho says. (Sandy)

Rock on the Range • May 17-19


Headliners: Korn, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden

Tix: The best deal is to get a weekend pass for $119.50. Tickets for Friday only are $39.95 while tickets for Saturday and Sunday run $69.50.

Where? The three-day festival takes place at Crew Stadium in Columbus (a map of all the stages can be found at

Don't Miss! The odd ball on this bill of hard rock and alternative acts is clearly Cheap Trick, which is slated to play on Friday alongside Korn, Buckcherry, Hollywood Undead and a slew of other heavy hitters. The classic rock band has an arsenal of hits at its disposal, though we're not sure how well tunes such as "The Dream Police" and "No Surrender" will go over with a stadium full of head-bangers. Also, this year marks the debut of the "Old Milwaukee Comedy Tent" which will feature performances by comics such as That Metal Show host Jim Florentine and local hero Bill Squire. The festival will also feature Soundgarden's first Ohio performance in years. They've been touring heavily since reuniting a couple of years back so count on them to bring their A game.

Skip It The Smashing Pumpkins are now essentially just singer-guitarist Billy Corgan and a group of hired hands. No reason to bother, especially since their particular style of alt-rock hasn't aged well.

What To Bring Earplugs. It'll be loud.

Good Grub The concert website doesn't list the name of food vendors but vegetarian options will be available, and that's a good thing since the venue doesn't allow outside food or beverages.

Green Cred In the past, the festival has promoted a "Go Green Initiative" that encouraged fans to trade in old cell phones and MP3 players.

The History: The festival started in 2007 (when it was only a single day event) and now regularly draws weekend crowds of 70,000.

Watch Out For... The mosh pit. General admission seating on the field means it's a free-for-all and you know how big and burly (and mean) metal dudes can be. Also, expect to encounter long lines while waiting to get shots of Jager. (Niesel)

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