Newport Folk Fest 2017: Highlights


Newport Folk and its now-veteran booker Jay Sweet has proven itself to fans year after year. This year, the festival asked us to trust. Read More

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Newport Folk Festival Recap

Newport Folk Fest 2017: Highlights

Posted on by Caroline in Newport Folk Festival Recap | Leave a comment

Newport Folk and its now-veteran booker Jay Sweet has proven itself to fans year after year. This year, the festival asked us to trust. With three unannounced sets and more newcomer acts than usual, there was less clarity and star power to orient around leading up to the weekend. Of course, the surprises were well worth the wait. Here are our highlights from one of the most memorable Newports to date.

The Wild Reeds – “Capable”

The Wild Reeds converted every audience member into a disciple when this slow burner hit its grand crescendo.

Grandma’s Hands Band

This star-studded Bill Withers cover set was like a perfectly played hand of cards. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Hiss Golden Messenger, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Natalie Prass and more all contributed at just the right intervals to create a perfectly curated and unexpected set. An unforgettable Newport memory.

Fleet Foxes

Save for Bruce Springsteen, one of the most athletic performances I’ve seen to date. From its layered and varied instrumentation to its multitudes of falsetto-ed harmonies – Fleet Foxes stuck every unthinkable landing.

Big Thief – “Mary”

Seeing Big Thief live is not for the weak. Adrianne Lenker, lead singer/songwriter of the band, seems to feel every emotion on another plane than most of us – ranging from fragility to frustration – and anyone in the nearby vicinity will feel it too. It became painfully, beautifully, clear when Lenker was overcome with emotion at a midway point in the set: “I don’t know… I just feel like I’m shaking inside,” she said. What resulted was a stunning rearrangement of “Mary,” a dense, poetic ode to her best friend. Kneeling on the ground, clutching the microphone with two hands, with her band right there on the floor with her, it felt like she was holding her heart out to us on her palm – and isn’t that the way great music should feel?

Preservation Jazz Hall Band 

Can every day of Newport kick off with Pres Hall at the Fort Stage? Nothing has ever felt so right – except for them being a staple on just about every stage throughout the weekend. That felt pretty good too.

Whitney

I always got a casual vibe from Whitney – and that was before they ordered a bottle of white wine to the stage mid-set. But this nonchalance does not preclude their musicianship. From Ehrlich’s simultaneous lead vocals and drumming, to effortless solos from guitarist Max Kakacek, and intentional support from trumpet and piano, Whitney proved they’re playing for keeps.

Pinegrove

I could write forever about the merits of this band, but instead I will shout out the dad and his fifteen year old son who sang every single word to this set. Is that not the truest sign of a great band and a great festival?

 

Newport Folk Festival 2016 Recap

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Recap | Leave a comment

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

The Scene at Newport Folk Festival

Posted on by Ryan Schmitz in Newport Folk Festival Recap | Leave a comment
Photo by Tess O'Connor

Photo by Tess O’Connor

There ain’t no doubt in no one’s mind that the Newport Folk Festival is first and foremost about the music.  The 56 year old festival has seen some historic things, one of which celebrated its 50 year anniversary this past Sunday, as seemingly every performer ever took the stage to “go electric,” excluding Dylan of course.  The music is not the only palpable force at play when one enters the old sailing town positioned right at the Southern tip of Aquidneck Island.  Any festival goer can attest, Newport is not just a festival, it is a scene.

You can see it as you cross over the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge, the Fort, the old fashioned town, and of course the harbor.  From the second you first catch that view, you know that a good time lies ahead.  Every year in late July music fans from around the world flock to the town’s inns, hotels, and in my case, family members’ couches in order to take part in the time honored tradition that is the folk festival.  And while it’s easy to get caught up in the party, sometimes it’s nice to try and take in the surroundings that you’ve somehow found yourself in.

If you didn’t manage to get yourself a ticket to get into Fort Adams, all is not lost, find yourself a friend or family member with a boat and you’re golden.  This is where the party truly lies, anchored just off the rocky beach of the fort.  Because while the lucky ticket holders may be taking in the sights or traveling from stage to stage, the boat goers are doing just about whatever the hell they want.  From rafting up 7 boats deep to paddle-boarding with a beer stocked cooler as a lawn chair, the water crowd at the festival were having almost too good of a time.

Some people may be saying, “Ryan I came for the groovy tunes man, not some loud annoying party.”  Well anonymous music snob, I am equally pretentious and I thought that people yelling and chugging beer would get in the way of my spiritual connection with whoever was up on stage.  Luckily for me any sort of passive aggressive retaliatory response was never needed because once the music got started everyone remembered exactly why they were there.  This was never more apparent then when James Taylor took the stage, and this is not the biased ramblings of the self-proclaimed “world’s most dedicated James Taylor fan.”  When he sat down and played the opening notes to “Sweet Baby James” the people of the Aqua-Squad not only shut up, but actually clamored for the best spot to watch JT do his thing, it was truly an awe inspiring moment.

Photo by Tess O'Connor

Photo by Tess O’Connor

One of the coolest parts about the festival is that once the day was technically over, you could go to one of the local bars and find yourself watching one of the performers step up and jam.  Every second of that weekend was about the music, the party was always secondary, though it was still very easy to find.  Walking down Lower Thames was like walking through the festival all over again.  You could find old hippies in tie-dye shirts with bald heads and pony-tails chatting up frat boys about how good The Barr Brothers sounded, and make no mistake they sounded AMAZING.  The point is Newport is not just for the folkies or fans of the indie scene.  You don’t need to be a card carrying hipster or a hippie who can’t stop talking about “the good old days” to enjoy it.  Really, all you need is a love of music and the good time will be had for you.

Newport Folk Festival 2015 Recap

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Recap | Leave a comment

Photo by Andrew Cleak

The M&T crew had a wild and wonderful weekend at Fort Adams and we’ve chosen some of our favorite sets from this year’s Newport Folk Festival to share with you. Once again Newport proved why it’s such a magical place with once-in-a-lifetime performances from My Morning Jacket and Lucius backing Roger Waters to everyone who is anyone paying tribute to Bob Dylan in the hullabaloo that was ’65 Revisited. Now we begin counting down the days until next July and wondering what special surprises Newport will have in store for us in 2016.

Friday July 24

Hiss Golden Messenger @ Harbor Stage

A great example of stumbling upon a set you didn’t intend to see and having that band blow your mind. Hiss Golden Messenger’s bluesy jam vibes were perfect for a sunny Newport afternoon.

-Eric

Strand of Oaks @ Harbor Stage

We billed them as one of our most anticipated acts of the weekend and they did not disappoint. Timothy Showalter and co. knew exactly how to get the Newport crowd going and clearly understood the essence of the festival by expressing some very heartfelt sentiments to the crowd before launching into the slow burning ballad “Plymouth” from the band’s breakthrough album HEAL.

-Eric

Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell @ Quad Stage

A magical friendship reignited after 15 years. Iron & Wine (Sam Beam) and Ben Bridwell took control of the Quad Stage a little after 4 on Friday. The two musicians knew each other well during their formative years in South Carolina and they have kept in touch through letters and cassettes ever since. Although their careers took off on opposite sides of the country they haven’t forgot the songs that bound them together over so many miles. Inside the fort, Bridwell and Beam delighted the crowd with an entrancing rendition of Pete Seeger’s “Coyote, My Little Brother” from their new all-covers LP,Sing Into My Mouth. The set also included versions of Band of Horses classics “General Specific” and “No One’s Gonna Love You.”

-Kyle

My Morning Jacket/Roger Waters @ Fort Stage

We don’t even know what to say that could possibly explain how magical this set was. Look at the combined setlist and then try to pick your jaw up off the floor. Newport has gained a reputation as a hotbed for on-stage collaborations, but this was even more special since MMJ performed their own set and then backed Waters for all of his, which effectively made them dual headliners for the evening. For Waters Newport was a logical launching point for an upcoming tour due to its historic roots as a hub for protest and a platform for artists to speak their mind. Guiding the crowd through a stunning setlist of Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and John Prine hits, Waters commanded the stage while being joined by additional stars such as G.E. Smith, Lucius, Sara Watkins and Amy Helm. We’re not gonna lie, we may have shed a few tears during the “Forever Young” finale.

-Eric + Trev

Saturday July 25

Traveller @ Quad Stage

We’ve been huge fans of Jonny Fritz aka Jonny Corndawg aka @dadcountry since his legendary stint with Middle Brother at Newport ‘11, so we had high hopes for his new project, Traveller. It didn’t disappoint (despite the fact that the band had only begun rehearsing together two weeks ago). Fritz was ever the entertainer (guy really needs his own variety show) while Robert Ellis made his electric guitar sing, but most importantly, we discovered their track “Hummingbird.” It’s basically “Meet Virginia” for the internet age, and it’s the best music discovery I made all weekend. (Evidenced by some moderately disturbing search results, it’s not yet available online, but we’ll link to it as soon as it is.)

-Caroline

The Barr Brothers @ Fort Stage

These brothers and their band from Montreal via Rhode Island were another act we told readers to keep an eye on heading into the festival. The band blew everyone away with back-to-back epic jam sections on “Come In The Water” and “Half Crazy,” but the best moment may have been when frontman Brad Barr told the story of his parents’ first date where they snuck into Newport Folk Festival to see Arlo Guthrie. Another perfect example of how Newport is so much more than just a music festival.

-Eric

Photo by Tess O'Connor

Photo by Tess O’Connor

Langhorne Slim @ Quad Stage

Having seen Langhorne Slim before, I knew he put on a good show, but there’s something about Newport that brings out the best in artists. The appreciation and respect that the musicians have for the festival is apparent, and Langhorne did that sentiment justice with the raw energy and emotion he brought to this set. As he himself said of Newport, “This shit feels good.”

-Tess

Colin Meloy @ Museum Stage (Solo Set)

Ever since the festival added this indoor venue as a fourth stage a few years back it has produced some of our favorite moments at Newport (see Jeff Tweedy solo set from last year). Meloy performed a handful of songs totally acoustic and without any amplification, which added even more intimacy to the small room. Along with two old British folk ballads, Meloy also performed The Decemberists’ “June Hymn” and “Blues Run The Game,” a song that has been covered many a time over the years and most famously by Simon & Garfunkel.

-Eric

Photo by Tess O'Connor

Photo by Tess O’Connor

Courtney Barnett @ Quad Stage

Courtney Barnett’s sound might seem out of place on a Newport lineup, but Barnett has established herself as an entertaining lyricist who can paint a picture that encapsulates both the mundane and extraordinary. It was impossible not to enjoy this set, not just because of the excellent music, but also because Barnett was so clearly enjoying herself, breaking out in smiles between head-banging solos.

-Trev + Tess

Photo by Tess O'Connor

Photo by Tess O’Connor

James Taylor @ Fort Stage

Saturday’s unannounced appearance by James Taylor had the crowd in a buzz all morning. Taylor, returning to complete his 1969 set, played staples such as “Fire and Rain” and “Sweet Baby James” all while bantering with the crowd. A special moment for those in attendance.

-Trev

Sufjan Stevens @ Fort Stage

All of us at Maimed & Tamed are still talking about Sufjan Steven’s brilliant and haunting full-band set. His synth-heavy rearrangements of Carrie & Lowell tracks challenged our expectations, yet still retained – even magnified – the beauty of his work. He even turned “All of Me Wants All of You” into a “sexy slow jam” – his words, not mine. It was a stunning reimagining of a song we thought we knew (but let’s be clear, you haven’t felt weird inside until you’ve watched a man bodyroll while singing about his deceased mother). In addition to that new new, Sufjan’s rare take on old tunes like “The Dress Looks Nice On You” and “Come On! Feel The Illinoise!” was the cherry on top of a very strange, delicious cake.

-Caroline

The Decemberists @ Fort Stage

The 3-time Newport vets had a tough task following both James Taylor and Sufjan Stevens, but The Decemberists took it all in stride and delivered a signature headlining set to the Newport crowd. Their set was heavy on material from this year’s What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World, but they also worked in old standbys like “16 Military Wives” and of course, “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.” The icing on the cake though was their singalong finale on “This Land Is Your Land” where they were joined by the Lucius ladies, Bela Fleck, Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch, and more.

-Eric

Sunday July 26

The Ballroom Thieves @ Quad Stage

This was a real proud papa moment for us after watching this band grow from an opening act at Great Scott, to tagging along for their journey to Summerfest, and now seeing them release an incredible debut record and realize their dreams by gracing the Newport stage with their wonderfully epic folk ballads. We couldn’t be happier for these guys, and it’s only a matter of time before they move up to that Fort Stage headlining slot.

-Eric

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats @ Quad Stage

Anyone who covers “The Shape I’m In” and gets J Mascis on stage to rip a scorching solo during said cover is OK in my book. This band is already doing big things and if their crowd-pleasing set at Newport is any indication I expect these guys to be hitting the festival circuit even harder next summer.

-Eric

Blake Mills @ Harbor Stage

Much like Sufjan Stevens, Blake Mills makes sure you get a vastly different experience from his live show compared to listening to his records. Mills put interesting twists on songs like “Hey Lover” and “Seven” putting his guitar virtuosity front and center. Throw in an epic, guitar-driven cover of Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” and you’ve got yourself one of our favorite sets of the weekend.

-Eric

Hozier @ Fort Stage

Hozier performed his stacked catalog on the main stage, and it was celebratory, soulful, and surprisingly loud. Despite the dance party at his Sunday set, we also saw him pay homage to the festival’s roots when he and his cellist played traditional Irish folk songs to a reverent Museum Stage crowd. Hozier showed incredible range at NFF this year, proving – if there was any doubt – that he deserves every bit of fame he’s received.

-Caroline

’65 Revisited @ Fort Stage

Everyone halfway knew what to expect from this set, but I don’t think anyone out there predicted the set that was actually delivered. With a core backing band featuring Dawes, Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings, and Dylan’s collaborator and keys player Al Kooper, an all-star cast of Newport artists ripped through songs made famous by Mr. Zimmerman. Nearly every artist who hit the stage got a chance to play the very guitar that Dylan used in his (in)famous 1965 set and it was clear how happy each of them was to get their hands on it. Only at Newport will you see names like those mentioned above plus Deer Tick, Robyn Hitchcock, Willie Watson, Hozier, Blake Mills, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and more all in one set.

-Eric

Newport Folk Festival 2014 Additional Highlights

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Recap | Leave a comment

Photo by our very own Andrew Cleak

After posting our Newport Folk Festival 2014 Recap  yesterday afternoon, we quickly realized that we still had so much more to say about the best weekend of our year. We compiled a list of additional highlights from our fearless team of writers in attendance at the fest which we hope will help to sate your folkin appetite until next year.

  • Andrew Combs and Ron Gallo making the kidz bop with the crazy-catchy singalong “Emily” in the Late July Kids Tent -Caroline
  • J. Roddy Walston bringing the crowd to their feet on his soundcheck alone -Caroline 
  • Hozier taking the Harbor Stage parishioners to church early Sunday afternoon with a transcendent version of “Work Song” that featured the the Berklee Gospel and Roots Choir -Andrew 
  • Tall Tall Trees breaking the toy-gun-as-a-musical-instrument barrier at NFF -Jeff 
  • Mavis Staples proving she was the undisputed Queen of the Newport Folk Festival as she celebrated her 75th birthday in style throughout the weekend -Eric 
  • Pete Seeger tributes abound throughout the weekend, even Jack White struggled to keep it together when paying tribute to the late Folk patriarch Eric 
  • Having reconstructive surgery on our faces since Rodrigo y Gabriela melted them off -Trev
  • Seeing a young girl on her father’s shoulders holding up the peace sign while Mavis sang “We Shall Overcome” -Trev 

Newport Folk Festival 2014 Recap

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Recap | Leave a comment

Photo by our very own Andrew Cleak

If you’ve read this blog over the years then you know how much we love the Newport Folk Festival. It’s difficult to put into words how incredible this festival really is, especially the feeling of community amongst the artists and fans alike. Luckily, former Boston scenester Hilary Hughes summed it up better than we ever could in her recap of this year’s festival for Esquire. We could keep gushing about the festival, but instead let’s cut to the acts that made this year’s event so incredible.

Tall Tall Trees – It would be a damn shame for Mike Savino’s set to be forgotten simply because he was the first act to perform at this year’s festival. We included him in our list of 5 Must See Acts before the fest started and we hope that you were smart and took our advice. Savino aka Tall Tall Trees wowed the crowd with his impeccable looping skills and somehow incorporated the spacey sounds from a toy gun, along with various other props, to create a beautifully hectic soundscape. The ebbs and flows of the set kept everyone on the edge of their sets all the way through the last song, a rollercoaster version of the 2012 standout track “Highwire”.

-Eric

Band of Horses – We won’t lie, we were a bit worried when Ben Bridwell started off this Friday evening set with just an acoustic guitar…Don’t get us wrong, the band is capable of incredible acoustic arrangements, but we were thankful that through the first few songs more of the band’s members joined until they reached full-on rock out mode on “The Great Salt Lake.” From there the set literally became a run through of the band’s greatest hits. “Is There a Ghost”, “Islands on the Coast”, and “Ode to LRC” were certainly highlights, but overall they couldn’t have picked a more perfect setlist even if they asked us to make it for them. We didn’t think that their intimate show at The Paradise three years ago could ever be topped, but this 12 song romp came pretty damn close.

Eric

Stream the full Band of Horses set via NPR

The Oh Hellos – Each year, a Newport Folk set comes to exemplify the community of the festival for us, and this year it was The Oh Hellos. While the band in itself is a community (they’ve got fourteen members!), The Oh Hellos and their interactions with the crowd exhibited the endlessly giving spirit that lies within the walls of Fort Adams. The Oh Hellos, one of the more modestly known acts at the Fest this year, came out swinging with their eclectic foot-stomp folk. As the band exerted full force on song after song, the screams under the Quad Stage got louder and louder. The crowd’s roars lasted long after each song, which clearly stunned and moved the entire band, as they exchanged wide-eyed glances and surprised smiles among one another. The immense reciprocal appreciation for those on stage and those watching was palpable throughout the set.  It’s clear that each and every musician, even the legendary Jack White, feels blessed to play at Fort Adams, but watching the Oh Hellos experience and react to the crowd’s unconditional love embodied the community spirit of Newport Folk Festival like nothing we’ve ever seen.

-Caroline

Jenny Lewis – When Jenny Lewis appeared on the Fort Stage draped in a billowing purple cloak, she joined Jim James in a very elite crew of cape-wearing music royalty. And while there’s no proof that a cape bestows singers like James and Lewis with special powers… given Jenny’s mesmerizing performance, y’all best believe. Jenny captivated the crowd with darkly funny soon-to-be hits from her brand new album The Voyager, like “Head Underwater” and “She’s Not Me.” And just as importantly, she didn’t hesitate to dig into her deep pockets of past work: the revelatory call to arms of “Rise Up with Fists!!” left us emotionally spent, and the ultra-rare loneliness ballad “Acid Tongue” stung so good. Even if she’d left her majestic stage attire back in the van, Jenny Lewis’ Newport performance made one thing blatantly clear: the Reigning Queen of Indie Rock is here to stay.

-Caroline

Stream the full Jenny Lewis set via NPR 

Jeff Tweedy Surprise Solo Set at Museum Stage – The Newport Folk Festival is full of little surprises and that’s what makes it so special. Tweedy brought along an acoustic guitar and played through stripped down versions of Wilco songs like “Misunderstood”, “Hummingbird”, and “Passenger Side” to a very packed house at the Museum Stage. The highlight though was when Tweedy, who always springs for an opportunity to interact with the crowd, called out a young child sitting near the front of the room donning a Wilco t-shirt. When Tweedy asked if the kid knew any of his songs or if his parents just dressed him up in a Wilco shirt the kid’s retort caught everyone off guard– “Heavy Metal Drummer.” Of course Tweedy obliged, but not before warning the crowd that the song contained adult themes (classic Tweedy). After taking the request Tweedy had time enough for one more song and again turned to the tiniest fan in the room whose reply caught everyone off guard for a second time– “I am trying to break your heart.” It was a perfectly hilarious and fitting exchange, one that we wouldn’t expect to see anywhere else but Newport.

-Eric

Conor Oberst – The Bright Eyes frontman returned to the festival’s main stage for the second time in three years and did not disappoint amidst the Sunday afternoon drizzle. There wasn’t much banter between songs, but that didn’t matter as Oberst let his music do all of the talking. Backed by the boys from Dawes alongside accompanying mandolin, slide guitar, and horns, Oberst stormed through a mix of tracks from his recent solo effort, Upside Down Mountain, along with selections from the Bright Eyes catalogue. Though I was already a fan of Upside Down Mountain, seeing the songs performed live took my appreciation for the record even further. “Governor’s Ball”, “Artifact #1”, and “Double Life” were certainly standouts that allowed Oberst to really dig in and show off the visceral stage presence he has become known for over the years. The real treats though were the Bright Eyes selections, especially “Old Soul Song (For The New World Order)” and set closer “Another Travelin’ Song”, the latter of which saw Oberst kicking his mic stand straight off the stage and leaving the crowd screaming for more.

-Eric

Stream the full Conor Oberst set via NPR

Newport Folk Festival 2013 Recap

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Recap, Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | Leave a comment

Any time I get to type the words “Newport Folk Festival” on my keyboard I get a bit giddy like a kid writing out his Christmas list, but when the end of July rolls around and those three wonderful words are followed with “Recap,” it is quite the bittersweet moment. If we could stay at the Fort year-round listening to incredible music, eating oysters, and drinking Del’s lemonade we most certainly would, but all good things must come to an end.

NFF ’13 was filled with plenty of special moments, boundless collaborations, and a wealth of memories that will stick with us for a long time to come. Between our crew of M&T contributors and friends we probably caught the majority of sets at this year’s festival, but below we chose some of our favorites from each day that stood out from the rest. Read on and take a listen and we’ll start crossing the days off the calendar until next July.

Friday July 26

Kingsley Flood @ Fort Stage– We highlighted these Boston locals in our Newport preview and they did not disappoint by any means. Seeing the guys and gal of Kingsley Flood enjoy themselves on stage as much as they did brought an energy into the crowd that was the perfect way to kick off the festival.

Phosphorescent @ Quad Stage– This was quite the pleasant surprise after hearing mixed reviews from friends and colleagues who caught Matthew Houck and Co. at SXSW earlier this year. With Phosphorescent’s Muchacho being one of our favorite records of 2013 thus far, we were quick to our feet at the Quad Stage, but by the end of the set the tent was a full-on dance party.

John McCauley @ Quad Stage– Although we had expected a few more artist collaborations from the Prince of Newport Folk Festival, all we really needed was McCauley’s cover of “Margaritaville” with his Mom. Yea that happened. And so did rousing singalongs of Deer Tick standbys “Ashamed” and “The Bump,” but Mama McCauley belting some Buffett was certainly a highlight.

Video by Shivohn Fleming

Saturday July 27

The Lone Bellow @ Quad Stage– Another group that we touched on in our Newport preview, this Brooklyn trio brought all of the passion and energy that we had hoped they would. Combine their foot-stomping, hand-clapping show at the Quad Stage with an after-party in downtown Newport where we were lucky enough to catch them cover Mariah Carey and Brian McKnight, and we’d say The Lone Bellow had quite the day for themselves.

Video by Boston Through My Eyes

Jim James @ Fort Stage–  How could you not see this one coming? The My Morning Jacket frontman got the crowd moving with his spacey vocals, crunchy guitar licks, and of course his smooth saxophone skills which have become a staple of his Regions of Light and Sound of God tour.

Deer Tick After Party @ Newport Blues Cafe– Deer Tick + Jason Isbell + Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” = Magic.

Sunday July 28

Spirit Family Reunion @ Quad Stage– Singing along to “Green Rocky Road” under the shining Sunday sun was one of the happiest moments of the weekend.

Lord Huron @ Quad Stage– We caught this LA based band give an acoustic performance at Bonnaroo earlier this summer, and although we thoroughly enjoy the intimate sets that Bonnaroo’s Sonic Stage provides, that set did not hold a candle to what we saw at Newport Folk. Drummer Mark Barry brought a whole new layer and vigor to the songs from Lonesome Dreams that wasn’t there when we saw the band in June, and the rest of the group certainly raised the energy level to meet the anticipation from the crowd. Lord Huron also had the distinction of being one of very few bands that were cheered back on stage for an encore last weekend.

Video by Boston Through My Eyes

Bombino @ Harbor Stage– Even though he could barely speak English between songs, Nigerian born Bombino had no issues connecting with the crowd through his impressive guitar chops. It was as if Hendrix had been reincarnated in the African desert and transported 5000 miles to Fort Adams to grace us with his blazing guitar riffs and impeccable style.

Newport Folk Festival 2012: Interview with Sharon Van Etten

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Girl crush alert! I’m smitten with Sharon Van Etten, particularly after getting the chance to speak with her at Newport Folk Festival. Here’s the shortlist as to why:

  • She was really sweet and funny. She also, in the sweetest and funniest way possible, told some wasted guys to leave when they were interrupting her set at Newport Blues Café on Saturday night. Preach, girl.
  • Her set at Newport Blues Café was a master class in musical control. I really hope Sharon continues to make it big, and someday sells out huge venues, but damn, does her sound fit perfectly in a dirty, dark bar.
  • She remains unfazed by her success.  In fact, Van Etten says, “I’m freaked out. It’s surreal. But now I have a sense of responsibility to be a positive role model. I take things more seriously now.” Everybody all together now… Awwww!
  • Despite wanting to be a positive influence on listeners, she doesn’t hesitate to write a big, fat curse word into her song lyrics (as needed). “I have one or two songs with bad words… but sometimes, you just have to say ‘shit.’”
  • She’s close friends with Kyp Malone, a member of TV on the Radio who helped Sharon rise to fame. While the match may be surprising, Van Etten says, “he encourages me to read, keep up with politics, and just be a good person.”
  • While  her 2012 album Tramp was influenced by factors like social anxiety, living a nomadic lifestyle, and crappy relationships, Sharon’s in a great place now.  She says, “It’s the first time I’ve had a home, and I’m in a solid relationship. I feel really comfortable with my band. I want to focus on writing in New York, so [my next record] will be a development from the last.”
  • And lastly, I love Sharon for her voice. Her raw tone makes a perfect match to her dangerously honest writing.  I’m pretty sure listening to her music is saving me hundreds of dollars in therapist bills.
To fall in love with Sharon Van Etten yourself, check out NPR where you can stream the recording of her concert at this year’s Newport Folk Festival.

Newport Folk Festival Recap: Interview with Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes

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 “Newport is kind of legendary, isn’t it?” says Brittany Howard, of the Alabama Shakes. When we sat down to chat with the lead singer of this powerhouse blues-rock band on Saturday afternoon, Howard got straight to the point. As is the case with most artists at the Festival, Howard felt to be a little part of history by playing at Newport. We have to agree, as her performance with the rest of the Shakes will go down as one of our favorites of this past year. Howard and co. charged through a set full of powerhouse vocals and dynamic blues riffs that captivated the lawn at the Fort Stage.  Unfortunately, not every tour experience hasn’t been so idyllic for Howard. Brittany regaled us with a story from a recent set she played in Seattle, saying, “I was on stage and the sun was right in my eyes. It melted the mascara right into my eyeballs. It felt like there was ants and fire in my eyeballs, and I had to finish the entire set blind.” Well, shit. Regardless of the whole ants/fire/mascara fiasco, we feel pretty confident that she killed it in Seattle.

The Alabama Shakes have gained popularity just about as fast as a mash-up of cringe-worthy Ryan Lochte interviews. In under a year, the band went from relative obscurity to playing major festivals like Newport, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza. On her wildfire rise to success, Howard says,“None of us expected what’s happened. It was never my dream to be famous or make millions; I just never thought it was possible. I was just happy to tour around the South and quit my job. It’s turned into something completely different. And there go all my expectations. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.” To keep their winning streak going, the band is constantly writing and prepping for their next record, though right now they’re focusing on touring. Their aggressive touring schedule has certainly paid off, seeing that about every review of their show has been consistently glowing. So how do the Shakes put on a hype-worthy performance, night after night? Brittany breaks it down, plain and simple: “You gotta mean it. That’s all I’m tryin’ to do.” And damn do they.

 

Newport Folk Fest 2011: Interview with Suz Slezak of David Wax Museum

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With a lot of talent and a little bit of luck, the David Wax Museum found themselves at last year’s Newport Folk Festival by winning a contest.  After a year of recording and touring, the DWM crew was back for more this year, and had the honor of taking the main Fort Stage at 11:30 Sunday morning.  Following their captivating and lively performance, we had the pleasure of speaking to the band’s Suz Slezak.  “Our whole landscape has changed,” Suz says of the progress they’ve made since last year.  “Newport led to NPR coverage.”  Before Newport 2010 and their NPR Tiny Desk Concert, they played a lot of “house concerts” and shows in almost-empty bars, but through perseverance and great live shows, their fan base grew to where it is today.  And their progress didn’t just stop there.  They recently released a new album, Everything is Saved, which is a follow-up to 2009’s Carpenter Bird.  Their newest work is more layered with the Mexican folk sounds that inspire them.  Suz said in regards to their major musical strides, “First off, we just matured as a band.  Also, Sam Kassirer [the album’s producer,] really helped us find our voice.”

The band is well-known for their use of unorthodox instruments like the jarana guitar and the jawbone.  We went out on a limb and asked if the band has intentions to add any more instruments to their repertoire.  Lucky for their fans, Suz did not disappoint.  “We are trying to add more [instruments].  I’m trying to pick up the accordion, and I play the harp, so we’re thinking about using that on the next album.”  Though they look forward to experimenting, Slezak recognizes that the jarana guitar is a defining sound on the album, particularly recognizable on their first major single, “Born With a Broken Heart.”   They have no intention of losing that sound on future albums.

During their Newport set, one of the most powerful songs was actually their quietest. They played “Look What You’ve Done To Me,” which featured haunting vocal support from Rhiannon Giddens from the Carolina Chocolate Drops.  Suz said the collaboration was organic. “We opened for them in Boston, and we have the same support team, booking agent and manager.”  For Suz, her only disappointment was that she and Dom Flemons of CCD, who plays the bones, couldn’t collaborate on-stage with their respective archeological instruments.

Lastly, Suz and I talked about Boston, which will always remain the band’s “unofficial headquarters.”  She says, “because the band formed there, it will always be home for us, but no one actually lives [in Boston proper] anymore.”  However, they’ll continue to visit as much as possible, especially since the band’s major core of fans is there.  Luckily for us, we won’t have to wait long for their return.  Suz Slezak and the David Wax Museum will be stopping by to play at the Museum of Fine Arts.  Get your tickets here for this intimate performance on August 24.