New Martinsville, WV hosted the Back Home festival this past weekend.  This 3 night event has been going on for a few years now and is put on by the community for free.  You can’t beat free, that’s for sure!  This includes 3 full days of music, camping, and even fireworks on Sunday night.  This year’s festival included Sam Bush Band, Melvin Seals & JGB, The Larry Keel Experience, ekoostik hookah, Buffalo Rose, and plenty of others.  For me, this provided an awesome opportunity to visit a town I’ve never been to and take my 7 year old daughter to her first music festival.  I have to say, it ended up being a great decision!

The festival used a public park for the camping area, and it was probably a nicer area than most small festivals.  Plenty of trees for shade, areas for kids to run around, a river, and plenty of flat ground.  It was “camp where you want” style, so we got there about midday on Friday and set up under some pine trees.  The neighbors were pretty relaxed and, other than some noise from the nearby road, it was a pretty ideal area.  The camping was about a quarter mile walk to the stage area, another park in the downtown area of New Martinsville.  It was a great little park for a concert, with a hill behind the soundboard providing some opportunities for everyone to have a good view.  The festival had a small variety of food vendors in the concert area and a huge row of vendors nearby.  Tey shut down a main street for the duration of the festival and had all sorts of vendors selling the standard festival stuff; jewelry, gems, art, clothes, and of course a variety of pins.  

One of the reasons New Martinsville decided to host this event was to bring in tourists, and I was happy to spend money at the local shops.  There’s a variety of restaurants, including places like the Choo Choo’s Restaurant and Bigfoot Hotdogs.  Both were in walking distance to the festival.  Choo Choo’s had breakfast and great other diner staples while Bigfoot Hotdogs had hot dogs, wings, and a basic breakfast menu.  The town was also letting folks swim at the local pool for only $1.  The pool was a nicer community pool with a splash pad and a pair of water slides as well as more than enough room for folks to spread out.  With Saturday set to get into the upper 80’s it was an easy decision to pack up and head to the pool for a few hours of cooling down!

Since this was a free event and my daughter’s first festival I let her set the pace.  This is a strategy I recommend when taking kids to festivals.  They’re not always going to want to sit and watch music.  We caught all 3 bands on Friday. That day had a heavy Americana vibe.  Emi Sunshine & The Rain was very good, with Emi, her vocals, and her songwriting taking the focus.  I’m going to have to check out more from her.  Same with Buffalo Rose.  Another female-fronted Americana group, this band focused on their two vocalists, although other members of the band also stepped up to the mic.  The Sam Bush Band served as Friday headliners.  It was awesome to see such a legendary performer playing this event.  Bush led the band through an energetic 2-hour set, mixing in fast paced instrumentals with some of the band’s best originals and covers.  

Sam Bush & Saxsquatch

We missed out on a lot of the music on Saturday.  We went into town for a late breakfast before heading over to the water park.  This was a great decision, making sure that no one got burned out from the heat of the day.  Plenty of festival goers did the same, so the water park felt like an extension of the festival for the day.  We made it back in time to catch a great set from ekoostik hookah.  The band is celebrating their 30th anniversary and the release of their new album 31 West.  They played a great mix of music I was familiar with along with newer stuff that I hadn’t heard before.  Even after so many years they’re still going strong.  Headliners Melvin Seals & JGB lived up to expectations, keeping the Jerry Garcia spirit alive after so many years.  The highlight for me was a set-opening “Cats Under The Stars,” a song that has always been a favorite of mine from Jerry.

We didn’t stick around for Sunday, but if it was anything like the first two days I’m sure the festival had a great final night.  This is absolutely an event that in other circumstances would be a ticket well over $100 and it would’ve been worth the price.  As a free event it’s almost unbeatable.  This is a great family festival, but also a great festival for folks who might be interested in a bit of partying as well.  There were late night shows starting at 11 at a local theatre and a silent disco on the street at 2 in the morning.  

New Martinsville’s idea of throwing a festival for free turned out to be a great one and well-executed.  I talked to folks from Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, and North Carolina.  It’s unlikely any of these folks would have come to the town had it not been for this event.  Back Home ended up being a great time and I hope to make it back again next year!