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Outdoor concert and camp-out season set to launch in ’11

May 8, 2011
By ERIC AYRES - Times Leader News Editor

SPRING HAS arrived, summer is approaching quickly and music lovers are ready to shake the cabin fever and get outdoors for festival season 2011.

For those who enjoy camping out and catching a full weekend of live music, the outdoor music festival season can't come soon enough. As schedules begin to take shape, the 2011 season promises to offer a wide variety of options for folks who look forward to packing up the camping gear, stocking the cooler and heading out to a weekend musical extravaganza.

Unlike the typical commercial concert venues, music festivals boast multiple days of nearly continuous live entertainment, camping and plenty of fun for fans of all ages. Festivals of all sizes can be found on any given weekend from spring through fall across the nation, but most of the hard-core festivalists know that the Ohio Valley is centrally located in the heart of one of the best regions in the nation for outdoor concerts and events.

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Outdoor Music Festival Season 2011 is underway, with many great shows in store at nearby venues throughout this spring, summer and fall.

Within a two-hour driving radius, music fans can find more than a handful of great music venues and annual events that range from smaller gatherings to massive Meccas for music lovers.

Fans from all over the United States flock to destination venues like the scenic Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Northeast Ohio and to major summer events like the All Good Music Festival and Campout in Masontown, W.Va.

There are other venues in the region that play host to regular outdoor music vents and campouts, such as Legend Valley Music Center off of Interstate 70 east of Columbus in Thornville, Ohio; Poston Lake near Athens in Guysville, Ohio; Sunshine Daydream Music Park near Morgantown in Terra Alta, W.Va.; Kaeppner's Woods near Hocking Hills in Logan, Ohio; and others.

In many ways, the music festival circuit of recent years fills a void left in the wake of the passing of Jerry Garcia in 1995, bringing a close to decades of touring by the Grateful Dead. Subsequently, other jam bands grabbed the torch and ran with it. Bands of all sizes began attracting more followers and embracing the "flower power" philosophy of the late '60s.

But the scene isn't just for contemporary "hippies." It offers something for everyone, boasting some of the best grassroots artists, most talented musicians and most spectacular events you can find today. Summer music festivals are home to a music lover's smorgasbord of talent that often feature an eclectic mix of musical genres, from rock'n'roll to bluegrass, funk, jazz, electronic, dubstep 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.

And that's what makes the entire audience dance.

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. Locally-based bands like The Trainjumpers - who will be performing at Spring Hookahville later this month - are expanding their following on the festival circuit. Wheeling's own Uncle Eddie and Robin perform at festival venues like Nelson Ledges Quarry Park. Wheeling-based songwriter and musician Smilin' Joe is tapped to perform at this year's Shamy Bash, and local native Cherylann Hawk has graced the stage and many different festivals in recent years. These local acts 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. Many festival fans come away with a yearning to learn tricks with a hula hoop, how to spin fire, to make hand-crafted jewelry or even write songs, play and instrument and start of band of their own.

The 2011 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



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