Newport Folk Festival 2016 Recap

Newport Folk Festival 2016 Recap

Another beautiful Folk Festival weekend at Fort Adams State Park has come and gone, and though we’re sad it’s over, we can still relish all of the incredible performances we were able to see over the course of three days. Check out the highlights below while we start dreaming about next year’s lineup.

Friday July 22

Basia Bulat at Quad Stage

An impressive Newport debut from Basia Bulat included a 101 year old harp that she bought from ebay, rocking a cape on-stage à la (her producer and our hero) Jim James, and a genuine excitement and reverence for being part of the festival. Something tells me this won’t be the last time we see Ms. Bulat at the Fort.

-Eric

The Staves at Fort Stage

The Staves’ impeccable recordings set a high bar, and their live performance clears it handily. Armed with a drummer, synths and vocoders, The Staves dispelled false notions of “folksiness” by nailing highly complex new releases like “Outlaw.” The similarly intricate, yet-to-be-released “Tired as Fuck” was a crowd favorite, though perhaps not for the parents in the crowd – sorry, kidz!

-Caroline

Matthew Logan Vasquez at Quad Stage

It’s no secret that Vasquez, much like his Middle Brother cohorts, gushes with love for this festival and that was certainly on display during his Friday set inside the Fort. Vasquez performed a selection of songs from his debut solo record, Delta Spirit’s catalog and a handful of covers, and was joined at different points throughout the set by Parkington Sisters and Fruit Bats’ Eric D. Johnson. We knew to expect a rollicking family affair from Vasquez, but what made this set extra special was that Vasquez was able to put his stellar guitar playing skills front and center.

-Eric

Violent Femmes at Fort Stage

As longtime fans of Violent Femmes we really couldn’t have asked for much more from this set. The classic xylophone line on “Gone Daddy Gone”, the tongue-in-cheek perfection of “American Music”, most definitely the largest saxophone I have ever seen in my life (that thing had to be at least 10 feet tall), and of course “Blister In The Sun”. Video via YouTube user cstoltze

-Eric

Ray LaMontagne at Fort Stage

Or should we say Ray LaMorning Jacket? The “Jacket Boys”, as Ray called them, were just as much of an attraction for this set as Ray was himself. With a set comprised mostly of tunes from his last two records, LaMontagne was all business and barely spoke between songs, but let his music do the talking instead. An incredible live vocal performance from LaMontagne and ripping solos from the “Jacket Boys” throughout made this set one of the highlights of the weekend.

-Eric

Flight of the Conchords

Though some of the comedy duo’s songs may have pushed the envelope for Newport’s family vibe (see”Too Many Dicks (On The Dance Floor)” and “Business Time”), the majority of the crowd still got their fair share of hearty laughs from the performance. Fans of their HBO show were certainly pleased with song selections like “Bowie In Space” and “Prince of Parties,” but their new tracks and between-songs-banter probably got even more laughs.

-Eric

Saturday July 23

Rayland Baxter at Fort Stage

A perfect way to start Day 2, Rayland has certainly come into his own performing with a full band, and that was prominently on display early Saturday morning. Extended jam sessions on songs like “All In My Head” and set closer “End to Come” were highlights, but what was most impressive was the dynamic setlist and his ability to keep the whole crowd captivated throughout.

-Eric

The Texas Gentlemen and Friends at Quad Stage

Led by Beau Bedford, the Texan collective brought some of the more country-leaning folk music to this year’s lineup. Each band member was a stellar player and performer in their own right, but the moment everyone will be talking about was when the “and Friends” portion of the billing turned into Kris Kristofferson and Margo Price performing “Me and Bobby McGee.” One of those hallmark Newport moments that hardly happen anywhere else. Video via YouTube user cstoltze

-Eric

Father John Misty at Quad Stage

I think Caroline put it perfectly when she called Josh Tillman a “trollbadour,” as his solo acoustic set was filled with jabs at fellow festival performers like Brittany Howard and Graham Nash. The former may have been warranted (see this cringeworthy Chipotle ad with Howard and, it pains me to say it, Jim James), but picking on a sweet old man like Graham Nash is another story. All trolling aside Tillman certainly kept the crowd engaged with his one man show of music, social commentary, and comedy. The only thing that was missing was an on-stage boxing match between him and Ryan Adams to settle their 1989 pseud0-fued.

-Eric

Sunday July 24

River Whyless at Quad Stage

The Asheville quartet kicked off the festival’s final day with a bang and I wouldn’t be surprised if it earns them an invite back to the Fort next year. They created epic soundscapes on songs like “Pigeon Feathers” and “Widows Walk” from their 2012 debut LP, and also got the crowd moving with their new single “All Day All Night.” To close out their impressive set they brought out Kam Franklin from The Suffers to perform a cover of Billy Brag & Wilco’s version of Woody Guthrie’s “Airline to Heaven,” bringing everyone to their feet.

-Eric

Glen Hansard at Fort Stage

When the Irishman opened his set with The Swell Season classic “Falling Slowly” we knew we were in for quite the treat. Hansard’s passion is so raw and you can feel the emotion in his voice with every word he sings so that made songs like The Swell Season’s “When Your Minds Made Up” and Woody Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man” all the more powerful. Not to mention guest appearances by Elvis Costello, Jocie Adams, and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes throughout the set. In true Newport fashion Hansard closed out his set by inviting a fellow Irishman up from the crowd to sing a verse of Brendan Behan’s classic Irish drinking tune “The Auld Triangle,” along with Costello, Adams, and Fowlkes. See full video below including said random Irish dude in the plaid shirt and fast forward to 2:20 to see his featured verse. Video via Anthony Mulcahy aka THE DUDE IN THE VIDEO.

-Eric

Middle Brother at Fort Stage

Vasquez, Goldsmith, and McCauley made their triumphant return to the Fort on the five year anniversary of their debut and certainly did not disappoint. Playing their entire self-titled album and joined by guests like Kam Franklin, Shovels & Rope, and Jonny Fritz, their main stage set was certainly a highlight for all of the festival faithful in attendance. “Million Dollar Bill” served to be the perfect ending to a joyous set with each of the three frontmen taking a verse and leaving us hoping for another reunion in the near future.

-Eric

Elvis Costello at Fort Stage

Elvis seemed to pick up where Patti Smith left off: critiquing the establishment, yet through beauty, not hate (best evidenced by new ballad, “American Mirror”). Costello took NFF Producer Jay Sweet’s decree of “love each other” to heart in more ways than one, as he invited about half of Sunday’s performers on stage with him. Flanked by Larkin Poe, the Preservation Jazz Hall Band, Dawes, Villagers, and more, Costello provided us with the cathartic gang’s-all-here singalong we needed to close out the weekend.

-Caroline

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Recap

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