May has finally arrived, bringing with it the official kickoff to another season for outdoor concerts, music festivals and campouts.
For the hardcore music festival enthusiasts, this past winter was a brutal reminder of how precious the warm weather months truly are. There's been few other years in recent history when the urge to shake off cabin fever has been so strong.
It's also a great year for the many hippies at heart. Members of the Grateful Dead - Phil Lesh and Bob Weir - have reunited once again for a Furthur tour, bringing with them a slew of dedicated fans, many of whom follow them from city to city and show to show.
The All Good Music Festival on Marvin's Mountaintop, just outside of Masontown, W.Va., is one of the biggest and most respected music festivals in the nation. This year's 14th annual event will take place July 8-11.
The Grateful Dead helped create a countercultural phenomenon during their iconic run in the history of rock'n'roll through the '60s, '70s, '80s and early '90s . Of their hundreds upon hundreds of shows around the world, no two shows were ever the same, with each performance delivering a different set list of songs, improvisational instrumental marathons and a unique experience for the fans. It's yet another reason why so many Deadheads took to the road for months on end to follow their favorite band.
Unfortunately, most of us can't just drop out of society for several weeks, live in a van and sell grilled cheese sandwiches in parking lots across the country for our sole income.
The good news is that a slice of "flower-power" Americana can be found fairly close to home every year during the warm weather months, and it makes for the perfect weekend escape from the corporate world's daily grind . In fact, we here in the Ohio Valley are centrally located within about a two-hour driving radius of some of the best music festival events and venues in the eastern United States.
While some fans flock to these gatherings from far away states, our quick and convenient trek to sites like the annual All Good Music Festival in Masontown, W.Va., Hookahville and the Legend Valley Music Center on the east side of Columbus near Thornville, Ohio, Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Northeast Ohio near Garrettsville, Poston Lake outside of Athens, Ohio in Guysville, and Sunshine Daydream Campground in Terra Alta, W.Va., come by way of a short enough trip to make most of the fans - particularly the ones who regularly venture to these venues from afar - extremely jealous.
The weekend music festival circuit is boasts some of the best grassroots artists you can find. It's home to a music lover's smorgasbord of talent that often features an eclectic mix of musical genres, from rock'n'roll to bluegrass, funk, jazz, electronic and even touches of country, hip hop and pop. The least common denominator is that it's good, honest music that can at any time break into a jaw-dropping improvisational jam. Plus, it makes the fans dance like crazy.
More often than not, you won't find these artists' songs on commercial radio or television. These underground musicians stay true to their roots, paying their dues on the road and building their fan bases through word-of-mouth, by winning over fans during live performances and by reaching fans via independent radio and the Internet.
Many local artists from the Ohio Valley have tapped into the music festival scene. Artists like The Trainjumpers, Uncle Eddie and Robin, Smilin' Joe, Cherylann Hawk, Seven, members of The Recipe and others have shared the bill with some of the nation's biggest touring acts, earned new fans and gotten the opportunity to perform to much larger audiences compared to those in the local club venues.
Of course, some of the biggest names in the business can also be found headlining music festivals instead of playing commercial amphitheater venues on big, corporate-sponsored tours. From Rock'n'Roll Hall of Famers to the newest, cutting-edge musical acts, the lineup at the best music festivals offers something for everyone.
Plus, the festival goers also get to enjoy camping, check out unique food and merchandise vendors, meet new friends and see some unforgettable sights.
The 2010 music festival season has a lot in store, so get ready to pack up the tent, put on your tie-dye shirt, and tune in, turn on and drop out of the rat race for a weekend filled with music and fun.
Ayres can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.