As I traipsed through the iconic Nelson’s Ledges Quarry I saw a myriad of people: Forty-year olds with butt-length dreads, eighteen year olds hoola-hooping, and guys holding up signs willing to barter sex for cigarettes, a diverse crowd had gathered at this campground.
This outdoor music festival occurs almost in the middle of nowhere, deep in the woods of Garrettsville, Ohio, which I guess is the best place to hold a festival. A 167-acre facility, it holds thousands of people, vendors, and tiny beaches leading into the quarry. I wasn’t there in the ‘70s, but I doubt that much has changed since those days. Or, perhaps, since the 1870s.
It seemed to be the perfect setting for bands like Iration and Slightly Stoopid.
After a few hours of enjoying the sights, smells, and sounds of Nelson’s Ledges, Iration took the stage. The eighty-degree cloudless day didn’t bother these California transplants; they took the stage with boundless amounts of energy that flowed over and into the large crowd that had gathered in front of the stage.
It was clear to see how growing up in Hawaii influenced the band. All of the band’s original members originated in the fiftieth state but attended college in California, transplanting the “Jawai’ian” sound, a mixture of Hawaiian slack guitar and Jamaican rhythms, to the mainland. Starting in 2004, Iration has built up a steady following with the release of several albums and a breakneck touring pace.
Micah Pueschel and Micah Brown’s vocals rocked me like a hammock in the sea breeze—gently–but with a little bit of salt. Joe Dickens and Adam Taylor kept everyone swaying with the drums and bass. I believe the most enthusiastic member was the keyboardist Cayson Peterson, due to his many facial expressions.
Iration’s mix of reggae, club and rock kept the upbeat, hippie-surfer vibe going for the headliner, Slightly Stoopid. With their unique mix of island music, punctuated with a rock underscore, Iration is one of the leading bands in the genre of “Sunshine Reggae.”
To experience the vibe for yourself, check out Iration’s website here.
Mopping before sweeping is slightly stoopid. Pouring milk in before the cereal is slightly stoopid. A band that has managed to continuously tour over the past decade is anything but. Why co-founders and guitarists Kyle McDonald and Miles Doughty chose to name their band Slightly Stoopid is a mystery to me; but probably not to the thousands of fans that spent some serious time to see them play Saturday.
Fans as young as two were here this past weekend; families were camped at Nelson’s Ledges amongst young adults and festival veterans. Slightly Stoopid was able to bring out such an array of fans because they’ve been adding blues and hip-hop/funk to the folk/rock/reggae style since 1995.
Concertgoers grooved to all eight members’ punk-funk tunes as the sun descended over the trees Saturday night. If you’re reading this and wondering why I named so many different genres, it’s because Slightly Stoopid has created their sound using all of them.
Andy Geib, Dela, and Karl Denson harmonize every second of the melody with the deep brass sounds of their trumpet, trombone, and saxophone. Most of the members have nicknames because Slightly Stoopid is an outrageously fun type of band. Ryan “Rymo” Moran and Oguer “OG” Ocon keep the heads nodding on tempo as the bands’ percussionists.
It definitely felt like California at Nelson’s Ledges this weekend. The San Diego natives brought constant smiles, body paint, and dancing with their folk, reggae, rock, blues, hip-hop, and punk music; made especially unique by keyboardist Paul Wolstencraft’s skills behind the 88s.
Understand how so many unique genres can be mixed by listening to Slightly Stoopid at their page here.
I only spent one day at the festival, but in those few hours I heard unique music, tasted pineapple tacos, and learned how to play a cajone. If you enjoy a hippie-esque lifestyle, visit Nelson’s Ledges during one of their many annual festivals!
Photos and Article by Courtney A. Ramey