Nevada’s Schellraiser Music Festival is a musical oasis in the festival landscape

Schellraiser’s ethereal stage on McGill, Nevada. Photos: Shaun Astor

And like a mirage, the three day and night Schellraiser Music Festival came and went, leaving attendees reveling in the dreamy qualities of performances by bands like Ladytron, We Are Scientists, Sonido Gallo Negro, Sinkane, Everyone Is Dirty and nearly 30 others in the intimate and majestic setting of northeastern Nevada’s Steptoe Valley.

Similar to events such as Marfa, TX’s Trans-Pecos Festival of Music and Love, or Arcosanti, AZ’s FORM Festival, Schellraiser has created a surreal air around itself where the music of the performers – which range from big name headliners to curated smaller bands across the musical spectrum – takes on an almost magical tone at the edge of McGill, Nevada’s large freshwater warm spring swimming hole in a park surrounded by towering cottonwood trees.

European electro pop acts Ladytron and The Raveonettes, New York indie band We Are Scientists, and retro alt fringe group Mercury Rev were just a few of the bands that played this year’s event. Though the catchy cumbia fusion inspired Sonido Gallo Negro from Mexico City, emotive rock act Bully and country singer Anna Hillburg balanced the bill as each day collectively composed a soundtrack of consistently quality music that feels almost simmering at the edge of the underground.

Brandon Blaine of Plague Vendor takes the leap off of the festival’s speaker stacks.

At an elevation of over 6000′, Schellraiser just has a feel of no other music festival. In its third year, it is clear that Schellraiser has little interest in creating an overcommercialized type of atmosphere, instead leaning toward an intimate one. One where by the third day, it’s not uncommon to stop and talk to others in the parking lot or while walking across the small fest grounds because you’ve almost undoubtedly crossed paths with them several times over the past days. Strangers might ask you which bar everyone is headed to after the fest, because between McGill and nearby Ely, there are only a few of them. There’s no jostling for the barricade because the McGill Pool Park where the festival takes place is small enough that it’s easy to find a great view of the stages.

Schellraiser creates an atmosphere where the performers play a part in sweeping you up in it all. Molly Lewis performed as the sun fell behind the Schell Mountain Range across the valley, her whistled songs giving the evening a Disney-esque sense of magic as her songs echoed through the dusk amphitheater. Miki Berenyi, one of the primary songwriters and vocalists for the 90’s band Lush performed reworked versions of songs from her past bands, leaving the crowd demanding more despite her mid-afternoon time slot. The Los Angeles punk band Plague Vendor hit the stage like a wrecking ball, with singer Brandon Blaine leaping over the railing and crowd surfing mid set while continuing to sing. Deserta performed a set of atmospheric shoegaze almost along the lines of The Cure’s Disintegration album as the crowd settled into the cooling night air. And during their dusk set, The Raveonettes asked the crowd to turn around for a moment and look at the last beams of colorful sunlight settling on the side of the nearby mountains before they continued playing.

Keith Murray of We Are Scientists headlines Schellraiser.

Inviting attendees to bring blankets or lawn chairs, throughout the afternoon people lay sprawled out on the park grass or swam in the large natural warm springs that makes up the town’s civic pool right behind the stage area.

Attending Schellraiser gives the impression that this festival has really set itself on the level with more intimate events where the alchemy of the location and musical choices authentically creates a feeling that is far more encapsulating than a standard commercial ‘music festival’ experience.

For information on future events, head to Schellraiser.com

Having performed at all three Schellraiser events, The Paranoyds play music between making jokes about memorable past experiences
Ladytron headline the final night of Schellraiser
The Raveonettes take a second to breathe in the evening light before performing
Miki Berenyi gave one of Schellraiser’s most anticipated performances
Molly Lewis with a surreal performance of whistling helped illustrate what makes Schellraiser so unique
Plague Vendor’s Brandon Blaine moves his performance to the center of the crowd
Dancing this mess around!
Sacramento’s Soft Science with a sonic glow
Ladytron bathed in light
Miki Berenyi Trio
We Are Scientists
Schellraiser Music Festival taking place in Nevada’s scenic Steptoe Valley
Molly Lewis

ABOUT Shaun Astor

Picture of Shaun Astor
Shaun Astor cites pop music singers and social deviants as being among his strongest influences. His vices include vegan baking, riding a bicycle unreasonable distances and fixating on places and ideas that make up the subject of the sentence, "But that’s impossible…" He splits his time between Reno and a hammock perched from ghost town building foundations. Check out his work at www.raisethestakeseditions.com

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