Nateva Music Festival | 07.02-07.04 | Maine

By Team JamBase Jul 8, 2010 7:35 am PDT

Words & Images by: Andrew Bruss

Nateva Music & Camping Festival :: 07.02.10-07.04.10 :: Oxford Fairgrounds :: Oxford, Maine

The first-ever Nateva Music & Camping Festival was an impressive launch for an event that CEO Frank Chandler hopes will become an annual institution. Factors ranging from attendance to lack of on-site camping may have caused the promoters headaches, but for ticket-holding music lovers, Nateva demonstrated that there was no better place to spend 4th of July weekend. Every new event hits a few roadblocks, so below are a list of weekend highlights, as well as a few thoughts on how to improve the festival for next year.

Top Highlights

1. The McLovins
These teens from Connecticut have developed a cult following thanks to their self-made YouTube videos going viral. Although they were far from top-bill, anyone who attended their Saturday afternoon performance will tell you they dished out the best set of the weekend. If further acknowledgement was needed, Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips had the acne-clad teens grace the stage in costume during the Lips’ headline set. No other performers had the crowd wound so tightly around their finger at any point in the weekend, Wayne Coyne included.

2. The Electronica Acts
Nateva booked psychedelic, reggae, hip-hop, and jam bands galore, but no genre represented quite like the electronica acts. Ghostland Observatory ‘s laser lights show was Friday’s highlight, and the night before Lotus served up a solid set of dance- grooves that let the early birds get the party started. Concluding at 4:20am, EOTO‘s performance was by far the best late-night set of the weekend, and Sound Tribe Sector 9‘s sundown set was the largest dance-party of the weekend, featuring the single best sound quality heard during any of the 50-plus performances on the roster.

3. Joe Russo of Furthur
There’s not a whole lot left for Phil Lesh and Bob Weir to do with the Grateful Dead catalog that they haven’t already done. That’s why it was the latest addition to the Grateful Dead family that really made the show interesting. Joe Russo has backed Mike Gordon and Trey Anastasio to fill the shoes of Jon Fishman on tour with G.R.A.B., and as half of the Benevento/Russo Duo he’s made a name for himself as one of the finest drummers of our generation. More than “Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower,” a cover of “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” Bobby’s short-shorts or the 4th of July fireworks, the highlight of Furthur’s set was hearing how Sir Joe Russo brought new life to decades-old Dead tunes.

4. The Logistics
Nateva offered up the lineup of a national-scale festival with the creature comforts of a backyard BBQ. For a first- time event, Nateva aced all of the “details” that can make or break a festival. All on- site camping was a short distance to the stage, and Wayne Coyne was spot-on when he commented that the Port-O- Potties were “clean enough to eat off of.” The sound system was golden, but most the important logistical factor was the effectiveness of security. For any festivalgoer whose been up at night in their tent, annoyed or unsettled by the hissing of a nitrous tank or overly rowdy neighbors, you would have been well-rested at Nateva. The events security team walked the fine line of keeping hands-off while effectively asserting control over the premises. “Personal use” was openly engaged in throughout the weekend but the sketchier, more-aggressive elements that come along with the drug trade were checked at the door. This played a large part in what made Nateva the most family friendly festival around.

3 Tips For Next Year

1. More Sensible Scheduling
On paper, scheduling Umphrey’s McGee and Keller Williams to go on before moe. is a smart move, but not when you have Jakob Dylan and Passion Pit in between. These are all solid acts that deserve a place at Nateva, but when moe. is the biggest act of the day, you should orchestrate the bill around the jam band crowd. Umphrey’s played an uninspired afternoon set prior to Keller Williams’ performance, but after those shows, the overwhelming majority of the attendees went back to camp until moe. came on. As a result, Dylan, Passion Pit and Jackie Greene played to a near-empty field and the rhythm of the day’s schedule was thrown off. The non- jammy acts should have gone on prior to groups like Umphrey’s and Keller. Everyone loves eclecticism, but if you’re catering to a jam band crowd, be sure to give the actual jam bands priority over the crooners and indie darlings.

2. Lower Ticket Price
The festival-going masses have proved time and time again that they are willing to pay $250 for a weekend of music, if it’s worth it. But events charging that much tend to be more like Bonnaroo Music Festival than Newport Folk Festival. Nateva caught a break when the Rothbury Music Festival announced they were not holding an event this year, but if they come back next summer, Nateva will be in direct competition. If Nateva wants to survive, they’ll need to make their product more competitive by charging considerably less for admission.

3. Increase On-Site Camping
Increasing on-site camping is the single most important change needed to ensure this events survival. Nateva had a 15,000-person capacity but only a third of those ticket holders were offered on-site camping. The rest were expected to camp 2.5 miles from the event and be shuttled back and forth. Needless to say, this was not popular with potential attendees and the empty off-site parking lots testified to that. On-site camping sold out in advance and was a major hit, but if Nateva wants to turn a profit and draw in a max-capacity crowd, they’ll need to find a way to offer everyone in attendance on-site accommodations.

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