M&T Best Songs of 2017

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M&T Best Albums of 2017

The moment you've all been waiting for...our favorite albums of 2017. We've compiled a list of the 40 best albums of the year and highlighted a Read More

January 2018 Spotify Playlist of the Month

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Newport Folk Festival Spotlight

Making Newport Dangerous Again: Predictions for NFF’s Speak Out Set

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

Screenshot 2017-06-18 22.17.27

On May 4th, Newport Folk quietly announced “Speak Out,” a set scheduled for Sunday evening, just before the headliner. Not much has been officially stated about the set, simply – “Since our inception artists have challenged injustice, fought for equality and exercised freedom to sing the truth. This tradition continues with SPEAK OUT, a celebration of the power of song.”

Firstly, we’re proud to see NFF shining a spotlight on protest music given the code-red status of American politics today. And secondly, since Newport is chock full of surprises already, seeing a near-headlining set shrouded in such mystery has us fiending for answers. We insatiably searched every folk-ish corner of the internet for clues, and comprised some educated guesses about what Speak Out could mean, and who it might call to the stage.

Our first hunch has been on our Newport bucket list forever – Bob Dylan. Not only does Dylan have a legendary relationship to the Festival, which stokes our constant speculation as to if/when he might ever return, but he is seen by many as a quintessential protest singer. Joining a set dedicated to exercising the freedom of song in the face of injustice would be the ultimate opportunity for Bob make his triumphant return to the Fort. And while we’d be happy with a Dylan-only Speak Out set, a closer look opens up even more possibilities.

Peter Seeger - The Power of SongSpeak Out is about “the power of song” – a phrase directly tied to the late folk legend Pete Seeger, as evidenced by his
documentary of the same name. It seems clear that Seeger’s legendary tenure as a folk-singing activist will be fuel for the set. Less clear, however, is who will carry the torch. If you’ve seen Power of Song, read about Seeger’s influence on younger generations of musicians, or evennn checked out the undercard of the poster to your left… you may notice Bruce Springsteen’s name. Yep, I’m going there – I hereby motion that The Boss will be joining us at The Fort for the very first time this year.

Let me count the ways why this is so crazy that it just might work:

1. Bruce has long been a devoted disciple of Seeger. The two played together at Obama’s 2008 inauguration, and Springsteen even has an album of Seeger covers. Bruce has spoken beautifully of his mentor, saying, “At some point, Pete Seeger decided he’d be a walking, singing reminder of all of America’s history. He’d be a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards more humane and justified ends.” He’s paid tribute to Seeger for years, and I can only imagine the appeal of doing so at Newport.

2. Like Dylan and Seeger before him, Springsteen is a protest singer in his own right. He’s been holding our government accountable since “Born in the U.S.A,” and given his relative silence this year, Newport may be the perfect place to speak out against the Trump administration.

3. Just last week, he showed his interest in playing smaller shows by announcing an 8-week run on Broadway. And while the Fort isn’t a 900-person theater, it’s certainly a more intimate venue than the arenas he sells out.

We’re swinging for the fences here, but a set of this weight and importance merits comparable talent on stage. Who do you predict? Let us know in the comments – and let the speculation begin!

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: Pinegrove

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Newport Folk Festival 2017 is just under three months away, so what better time to kick off our annual NFF Spotlight series featuring artists from this year’s lineup. The first artist we’ll take a look at is one that will be familiar to longtime M&T readers, and at this point they’ve made a big enough splash in the deep end of the indie-folk scene that we’d be surprised if the rest of you out there haven’t heard of them either.

We first covered Pinegrove all the way back in 2012 when they sent us their debut album Meridian and were promoting a local show at All Asia (R.I.P.). Since then the band’s style has evolved and shifted to a decidedly more folk-inspired sound that we hear on last year’s breakout album Cardinal (#10 on our top albums of 2016). We know that Newport’s interpretation of “folk” has been wide-ranging in recent years, so it’s by no means a stretch that Pinegrove appears on this year’s lineup, but we’re sure that the heavy banjo on Cardinal didn’t hurt their chances.

After witnessing the band’s journey over the past five years we couldn’t be more excited to see them rock The Fort this summer. Until then get a taste of their live show via their Audiotree session below.

Keeping Newport Weird: Three Folk Fest Acts We Can’t Wait For

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Father John Misty

Newport Folk Fest has a history of perfectly curating its weirdness. The weekend is always punctuated with truly unique, unexpected acts, and they’re often the ones we remember the most. We’ve been entranced by world acts like Bombino, awed by the DIY polyrhythms of tUnE-yArDs, and kinda terrified by Reignwolf’s primal shredding. Below are a few acts likely to join these rare ranks at Newport Folk this year.

Raury on Friday July 22

On Twitter, Raury identifies himself as “coconut oil papi ☯.” Please take a moment with that. We are working with a quintessential bb of the internet here, and them youngsters are all about embracing their strange. The twenty-year-old’s two albums pull from a grab bag of genres, ranging from rap to trap to soul to folk, naturally. This chaotic blend of influences mixed with Raury’s self-assured star power guarantees an unmissable set. Based on Raury’s prior shows, prepare for: crowdsurfing, his pausing the show for ten minutes to hand out free vinyl, social justice rants, and just maybe a cameo from collaborator and NFF alum, Tom Morello.

Basia Bulat on Friday July 22

Basia Bulat’s instrument of choice has long been the autoharp, which is definitely up there in terms of indie cred (especially ever since the ukulele jumped the shark). But on her latest album, Good Advice, she dresses up her harp and other folksy sensibilities with a new experimental energy and sound. Bulat’s latest now sports resonant drums and electro-pop synths, providing a startling freshness that had me quickly committed to stopping by her set. Let it not be a surprise that the otherworldly yet precise production on Good Advice was helmed by none other than Jim James of My Morning Jacket, which gives us all the more reason to A. listen to her new tunes B. plan for some magical guest appearances on stage.

Father John Misty on Saturday July 23

I’d give FJM the freak folk crown right now if I had to declare its fearless leader. Father John Misty a.k.a. Josh Tillman has already blessed us with a set at Newport in 2013, which was charged and awkward and beautiful and featured much mom dancing. Since then, Tillman has only doubled down on his flamboyant troubadour stage act, one that won’t fit in at the Fort as much as it will stand out. Tillman is billed to perform solo this year, which has me both curious and wary (were we not promised a mariachi band?), but given his reputation as one of today’s best songwriters and biggest liabilities, I’ll be there to witness his singular presence, no questions asked.

There are many exciting, unusual acts to look forward to at the Fort this year. Your time is precious, so I only wrote about three. Who did I miss? Let us know in the comments.

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: The 5 Most Intriguing Sets From the 2016 Lineup

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Newport Folk Festival 2016

With the lineup set for this year’s festival we take a look at the 5 most intriguing sets and raise a lot of questions that will hopefully be answered next month at the Fort.

Ryan Adams with The Infamous Stringdusters featuring Nicki Bluhm on Saturday July 23

Adams makes his triumphant return to the Fort, but this time with The Infamous Stringdusters and Nicki Bluhm in tow. This is sure to be an interesting set mainly because Adams can be so unpredictable when it comes to song selection on any given night, but pair that with a brand new backing band and it’s anybody’s guess. The collaboration with the Stringdusters and Bluhm suggests he’ll be exploring the twangier side of his catalog, but here’s one far-out theory– Heartbreaker. Adams put out a deluxe reissue of his seminal album this year and this backing band would be a perfect fit on tracks like “Come Pick Me Up”, “To Be Young”, and “My Winding Wheel” among others.

Middle Brother on Sunday July 24

First let me say that I hope and pray that this set will be at the Quad Stage for old time’s sake. Knowing Newport and their reverence for even recent history, I think it would be quite fitting to put the Middle Bro boys back where it all started in 2011. Everyone loves a good reunion, a supergroup reunion especially, but what makes this set most intriguing to us is the potential of new Middle Brother music. Could there be a follow-up to their 5-year old eponymous debut on the horizon?

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats on Saturday July 23

At the 2015 festival Rateliff and co. seamlessly transformed their now mega-hit “S.O.B.” into a cover of The Band’s “The Shape I’m In” featuring a ripping guitar solo from J Mascis and we proclaimed that big things would be coming from the band after a performance like that. Last year the band seemed immediately at home at the Fort and we’re interested to see what collaborations they might have up their sleeves during their second year as part of the Newport fam.

Matthew Logan Vasquez on Friday July 22

Of course the focus will be on his impressive debut solo LP, Solicitor Returns, but think of all the potential for collaborations from this lineup. McCauley and Goldsmith are shoe-ins to make an appearance, and knowing Vasquez’s flair for delivering one-of-a-kind performances I’d say it’s a safe bet to expect at least a few other faces from the lineup to make an appearance.

Elvis Costello on Sunday July 24

With Taylor Goldsmith scheduled to make an appearance with Middle Brother on Sunday, might we see him join Costello on stage to perform some material from The New Basement Tapes? Will Elvis put in a call to Jim James to join in on the Dylan revival? Could that lead to another unannounced My Morning Jacket set with the rest of the MMJ boys already scheduled to appear with Ray LaMontagne? So many questions, not enough answers.

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: Villagers

Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | 1 Comment

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight - Villagers

Back in 2010, while on a study abroad trip, I became slightly obsessed with Later… with Jools Holland. Instead of doing what little work was required of me during that semester (sorry Mom and Dad), I spent most of my downtime scouring the internet for videos from the late-night BBC Two show. It was during one of these trips down a YouTube rabbit hole that I discovered an unassuming, boyish solo performer who went by the name Villagers. To this day I distinctly remember sitting in my tiny London apartment, clicking onto the video for his performance of “Becoming A Jackal,” and immediately being drawn in. I was absolutely floored and in awe of how one man could command an audience with such a performance. His wild-eyed gaze was locked into the camera for nearly the whole song and his delivery of each word was so precise and deliberate that it made me feel like he was singing directly to me each time he repeated the song’s refrain, “I’m selling you my fears.” Of course now that Villagers has been added to the Newport Folk Festival lineup, and I have an excuse to blog about this 6 year-old video, it seemingly no longer exists on the internet…WHY ARE YOU SO CRUEL INTERNET?!

Since that fateful performance O’Brien has released two studio albums and another live record under the Villagers moniker. 2013’s {Awayland} saw O’Brien experiment with different sounds and arrangements whereas its follow-up, 2015’s Darling Arithmetic, was back to basics with most songs featuring only an acoustic guitar, piano, and O’Brien’s beautifully breathy vocals. Villagers is certainly an under the radar addition to this year’s lineup, but not one that should be under-appreciated. If anyone can find that video from Later… please, please, please post it in the comments, but until then the performance below will just have to do.

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: Ray LaMontagne

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Ray LaMontagne - Ouroboros

Between now and July the M&T crew will be taking a close look at the lineup for this year’s Newport Folk Festival through a series of NFF Spotlight posts. Being the first artist announced for this year’s festival, we thought Ray LaMontage would be the obvious choice to kick off this year’s Spotlight series.

The New England native recently released Ouroboros, the tremendous follow-up to 2014’s Supernova. Though LaMontagne is known for being very solitary in his creative process, he enlisted the help of none other than Jim James for his latest record. If you read M&T you know that we salivate over anything even remotely related to My Morning Jacket and this is no different. With Ouroboros James enlisted a band of frequent collaborators like Dan Dorff (who you Newport diehards out there might remember for playing percussion with James, Ben Sollee, and Daniel Martin Moore for their 2010 performance at the Fort) on keys, synths, organ, etc. as well as Floating Action‘s Seth Kauffman on bass. What resulted is an epic two-part, 40-minute long journey that’s meant to be listened to all in one sitting.

With the advent of streaming we understand that it’s very rare for most people to sit down and actually listen to an album all the way through, but I implore you to please, please, please take 40 minutes out of your day, clear your mind, kill the lights, and melt into this record. You won’t regret it.

Oh, and one other minor detail we forgot to mention– Ray’s backing band for his summer tour will be some dudes named Patrick Hallahan, Bo Koster, Carl Broemel, and Tom Blankenship. Never heard of ’em? Neither have we…


Newport Folk Festival 2016 Lineup Predictions

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Newport Folk Festival 2016 Lineup Predictions

The best weekend of the year is still 4+ months away, but that won’t stop us here at M&T to speculate on who will be joining what is sure to be an incredible lineup at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. The rolling lineup announcements have begun with some stellar acts already confirmed like Norah Jones, Glen Hansard, Fruit Bats, The Staves, Father John Misty, and Ray LaMontagne (accompanied by My Morning Jacket minus Jim James), among others.

Who else will be joining those amazing acts at The Fort this summer? Here are seven predictions and reasons why we think they’ll make an appearance on Narragansett Bay this July.

1. Lucius

With a new album out and an upcoming tour this summer, Lucius would be an obvious choice to join this year’s lineup especially since they were everywhere at The Fort last year (except on the official lineup that is). They are scheduled to be at the WayHome Music Festival in Ontario the same weekend, but we’ve seen plenty of acts double-dip in the past and the ladies of Lucius love Newport too much not to make an appearance.

2. Eryn Allen Kane

A newcomer to the scene in 2015, Kane burst onto the scene after a feature on Prince’s protest song “Baltimore”. With The Purple One on the bandwagon it won’t be long before others start realizing the brilliance of this Chicago-based artist. We featured Kane’s ridiculously impressive track “Have Mercy” on our December 2015 Spotify playlist and each time we listen to both of her EPs, we can’t help but picture her performing on the Quad Stage this summer. Listen to the singalong refrain at the end of “Dead or Alive” and tell me that wouldn’t make for a magical live performance at NFF.

3. My Morning Jacket

Everyone except for Jim will be there already, so why not? Though they sort-of headlined last year along with Roger Waters, wouldn’t it be fitting if they had a chance to finish what they started in 2012 before the rains washed it all away?

4. Jonathan Wilson

Another NFF vet who has promised new music in 2016, Wilson would be a welcome addition to the lineup and one who is sure to join plenty of on-stage collaborations throughout the weekend.

5. 1966 Lineup Reprise

Last year Newport celebrated the 50 year anniversary of Bob Dylan famously going electric with an epic tribute led by Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch, and Dawes. Why not keep the gold anniversary streak going and bring back someone from the 1966 lineup this year? A few viable options include Buffy Sainte-Marie, who is already scheduled to make a handful of festival appearances this summer, Tom Rush, who I don’t think has stopped touring since 1966, or Tom Paxton, another legend who tours non-stop. With Newport’s recent track record of facilitating unique performances we wouldn’t be surprised if all three were added to the lineup to perform in a round together either.

6. Frightened Rabbit

This one might be more wishful thinking than a prediction, but who wouldn’t love to see the boys from Scotland at Newport this summer? There’s plenty of overlap between fans of the festival and fans of the band and with a new record due out next month, 2016 seems to be the perfect year to make this booking happen. Plus I can guarantee that everyone at The Fort will fall in love with Scott Hutchison and his hilariously witty and self-deprecating between songs banter. Everybody wins.

7. Bruce Springsteen

Back in 2011 festival producer Jay Sweet told us in an interview, “The fact that Bruce Springsteen has never played a solo acoustic set either is really disheartening.” We also know that Jay reached out to Jack White’s team every year until he finally delivered a powerhouse performance in 2014, so here’s to hoping that Sweet’s persistence pays off in 2016 with The Boss as well. Plus with the impending release of Bruce’s completed solo acoustic record it would seem that all of the stars just might be aligning for Springsteen to make an appearance at the Fort in July.

Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: Leon Bridges’ Coming Home

Posted on by Ryan Schmitz in Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | Leave a comment

Leon Bridges

In a musical climate with a high premium for nostalgia, Leon Bridges manages to bring an old school flavor to his music while offering something undeniably fresh at the same time.

It has been a few months since the release of his first single “Coming Home,” which immediately grabbed the attention of indie fans around the country. The Fort Worth, Texas native has begun to pick up steam and attention playing shows from Sofar Dallas to the upcoming Newport Folk Festival. His first taste of the Newport stage comes on the heels of the release of his debut album Coming Home and any soul music fans should rejoice, for the second coming has finally arrived.

The album begins with the title track “Coming Home” and right from the start the listener is transported to (insert early 60’s location of your choice here).  Bridges does not make any attempt to disguise his influences but at no point does it feel insincere or forced.  The soul that erupts from the speakers even during the first line is enough to prove that this man feels his music.  Every word, syllable, and inflection is sung with passion, every sentiment is delivered as though he is speaking directly to the listener.  Listening to this album is not a passive experience, it is not meant to be background music while you focus on something else.  If you put on Coming Home prepare to participate in the experience.  Each note and beat are played with unmistakable purpose, carried on the back of arguably the finest Rhythm and Blues voice of this generation.  The melodies on this album could make you want to dance, cry, or apologize to your ex, maybe even all of the above.  Essentially, if you play this record you’re going to feel it, trust me on that.

Once you get past listening to the opening track over and over again, the album begins to expand musically and thematically.  The second track titled, “Better Man” ups the tempo slightly and explores who Bridges is as a person.  The song is a cry to a lost love about regretting the past and wanting her back, all set over doo-wop music to continue the Classic Soul nature of the album.  There is a clear Southern influence permeating every facet of this record, from the style to the lyrics, the music can transport you straight to the banks of the Mississippi River in New Orleans or to some blues club in Nashville.  Even Bridges’ voice has a distinct Southern quality, not in drawl or accent, but the way he sings has that unmistakable Southern feel, reminiscent of  Otis Redding or Sam Cooke.

The record continues to climb and fall in tempo as Bridges takes you through his life, from women who have come and gone, to regrets from his youth, to celebrations.  The music is eclectic, Bridges seamlessly transitions between Soul, R&B, Rock and Roll, the Blues, and Gospel, to create a sound that, while rooted in the classic days of Soul music, is fresh and new.  Each song brings its own unique flavor while being delivered by the sweet yet soulful sound of Bridges’ voice.  In spite of his obvious influences, he manages to avoid being stuck to one type of song or style, Bridges is not just a soul singer, he is a story teller.  In “Lisa Sawyer” we get the story of a woman’s life, from her lineage to her transgressions.  The song is both moving and compelling, and if the story somehow doesn’t keep you interested his voice certainly will.

After nine remarkably well crafted songs, Coming Home finds its conclusion with the track “River.”  Putting this song at the closing spot on the album is genius in itself.  The album is one long story, it has told us who Bridges is, who he has loved, how he celebrates and how he mourns.  “River” is the closing paragraph to that story, it is the final summation of who Bridges truly is. The song is the closest link to the gospel tradition on the album, it is a confession where Bridges can wash away his sins and we as the listeners act as witnesses.  The slow moving ballad carries more emotion and power than any other song on the record.  “River” is the perfect closing point to what is a remarkable debut record and hopefully the start of a very long successful career.

Here is Leon playing “River” live.

Unannounced Newport Folk Festival Acts

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Newport Folk Festival 2015 Unannounced SlotsWith the M&T crew already posted up in a vacation rental in Newport (yea, we’re pros at this), all of our conversations this week have eventually turned to speculation as to who will be filling the two “unannounced” slots on Friday and Saturday of the festival. We won’t know for sure until we show up at the Fort, but here are a few (somewhat) educated guesses at who will be playing in those two slots and why.

Friday July 24: 530-630pm  @ The Fort Stage

My Morning Jacket

The Case For: We’ve been pining for MMJ to make their NFF comeback ever since their headlining set was cut short by rain three years ago, and their tour to support The Waterfall seems like it is perfectly routed for a performance on Friday. Another possible indicator of an MMJ set is that there is literally no changeover time on the schedule between the unannounced slot and Roger Waters’ set so it could be someone who has collaborated with Waters in the past and would potentially join him during his set. Well, remember that time Waters and MMJ rocked out on “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” at the Love for Levon concert?

The Case Against: As we mentioned, MMJ has headlined Newport Folk Festival before so it would be a bit odd for them to return in a non-headlining capacity.

Jeff Beck

The Case For: Earlier this year Roger Waters re-released his 1992 concept album Amused to Death, an album that featured a host of collaborators and special guests. One guest who featured prominently was English guitar god Jeff Beck who could certainly hold down an hour long set as well as join Mr. Waters onstage during his.

The Case Against: Beck’s tour schedule is becoming more and more sparse as he gets older in age and he recently wrapped a North American tour earlier this spring. With no upcoming Stateside shows on the schedule it’s tough to think he’d come to Newport for a one-off performance in an hour long time slot.

Saturday July 25: 350-420pm @ The Fort Stage


The Case For: We predicted this Decemberists/Guided By Voices/The Minus 5 supergroup would be on this year’s lineup and it would make sense that they perform the same day that The Decemberists are headlining.

The Case Against: They haven’t played many shows recently as a group and their website indicates that there are no dates scheduled for the future. Much like Jeff Beck, it wouldn’t make too much sense for them to play a one-off gig in a 30 minute time slot.

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott

The Case For: Ramblin’ Jack is the wise old folk sage on NFF’s board of advisors and this year’s lineup is lacking a representative from Elliott’s generation. Not to mention Colin Meloy being the only member of the aforementioned board who is scheduled to appear this weekend, it would only make sense for at least one more (and possibly Jim James??) advisor to join the lineup.

The Case Against: Like Beck, touring for Elliott has become less frequent in recent years and with a short tour scheduled in August and September it would be a bit of a stretch for him to add any new dates and deviate from that course.

5 Undercard Acts To Keep Your Eye on at Newport Folk Festival

Posted on by Ryan Schmitz in Newport Folk Festival Spotlight | 1 Comment

The schedule for this year’s Newport Folk Festival was just released on their app and though there might be a few scheduling conflicts, we’ve got you covered if you’re not quite sure who to devote your time to. In addition to our most anticipated acts of this year’s fest here are 5 more acts who are not quite near the top of the bill, but very much worth checking out.

The Barr Brothers – 12:10pm Saturday July 25 @ Fort Stage

Rhode Island natives Andrew and Brad Barr return to their home state to play the hallowed grounds of Fort Adams along with their full folk ensemble.  With the drop of their newest EP, Alta Falls, happening only a few months ago, The Barr Brothers will have plenty of quality material to bring to the stage.  For the uninitiated, one can expect a haunting blend of traditional folk, delta blues, and a remarkably unique use of ambient sound to create a sound that can only be classified as The Barr Brothers.

Leon Bridges – 1:35pm Friday July 24 @ Quad Stage

The 26 year old out of Fort Worth, Texas may be new on the scene but his sound is distinctly classic.  With his debut album, Coming Home, less than a month old, Bridges is still picking up steam and will no doubt bring some youthful energy to the stages of the Newport Folk Fest.  More importantly, with him comes a taste of 60s rhythm and blues.  His sound is a harkening to the genre’s heyday when the likes of Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding were at their heights. Well now, in the year 2015, Leon Bridges is coming up North to show us all that Soul music is alive and well.

Joe Pug – 12:00pm Friday July 24 @ Harbor Stage

Joe Pug is no stranger to the folk scene, the veteran finger picker just released his third album titled Windfall earlier this year and will no doubt bring plenty of fresh folksy material up to Newport.  Pug is one of the leaders of the modern day singer-songwriter movement, melding his gripping acoustic guitar playing with some of the most vivid and thought provoking lyrics of this generation.  Pug is an absolute must see for any appreciator of the singer-songwriter.

Elephant Revival – 1:00pm Friday July 24 @ Fort Stage

This folk quintet out of Colorado brings a taste of the West with them wherever they go.  They have cultivated a sound that I have eloquently dubbed “prairie music,” bringing all familiar Americana ingredients together with a sort of romantic style of songwriting that really can bring you right to the foot of the Rockies if you let it.  Of course, Fort Adams is a solid 5 hour flight to Colorado but Elephant Revival is guaranteed to make you forget that for at least a minute (no easy task given the view you get in the grounds).

Spirit Family Reunion – 11:10am Saturday July 25 @ Quad Stage

Feeling a craving to stomp your feet?  Look no further than to whichever stage is tasked with holding up Spirit Family Reunion.  This New York roots group brings high energy Americana everywhere they go and is sure to bring out the hillbilly in anyone.  SFR just released their newest album Hands Together earlier this year so some exciting fresh material should be in the lineup.

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