Sunday, July 29, 2012
Fort Adams State Park, Newport, Rhode Island
*I thought I might catch up on the bloggity blog over Labor Day weekend, but then my best friend’s parents invited me to sail Penobscot Bay with them. I’ll be reading Bill Clinton’s autobiography instead, but have lots more to tell you about soon—including Grace Potter who oozes rock ‘n roll. Woah. Have a great weekend!*
Here’s my recap of the first day of the Newport Folk Festival.
I slept like a rock and begrudgingly got up in the morning when my alarm went off. Monica and I were up and running, planning to be at Fort Adams well before the music started on day two of the Newport Folk Festival. We carb loaded at our nice hotel’s brunch, and talked over our schedules for the day.
I was really impressed with the grounds at Fort Adams—the crew did a great job of making it seem like there hadn’t been a deluge the night before. I wore my lobster print rain boots, expecting lots of mud, but there wasn’t any. I did get a lot of compliments on them, though. There was less traffic the second day and I got to a parking spot with plenty of time to check out Saskatoon’s Deep Dark Woods. They had flannel and long beards and a very mellow indie folk sound. I preferred their recordings to their live show, so I left the Harbor stage before the end of their set to see if I could catch HoneyHoney at the intimate Museum stage (an obvious and sad “no” when I saw the line). I decided to use the little bit of free time I wasn’t expecting to wander around the area outside the Quad stage, including Paste Magazine’s lounge in the ruins at the Fort.
When I got to the Paste Ruins, I was able to catch Ben Sollee wrapping up a set. I figured out there was a way to be much closer to the action, so I wandered into the next cave over and watched through a little opening there. The Sennheiser folks handed out headphones for us to listen with. They recorded a lot of people there that weekend, and the sound in the space was awesome. I watched as Dawes set up, but was committed to getting a good seat in the Quad tent and knew I’d see Dawes the next weekend, so I headed out before they started. Monica found me there first, though, and we said we’d connect for Of Monsters and Men later.
I immediately ran into my friend Rebecca—Boston social media expert and beer aficionado. We hadn’t seen each other the day before, so it was great to catch up. She firmly instructed me not to miss Gary Clark Jr., which turned out to be sound advice.
I knew Chris (check out his pictures and videos of day two) and Rebecca would be coming to the Quad stage, so I took a second row seat next to two girls who were leaving after Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons. We didn’t need their seats, though, because Chris and Rebecca scored me a seat next to them in the front row when they arrived soon after. It was nice to have people to take in the shows with.
Rhode Island’s own Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons’ set is a little bit of a blur because I was completely overwhelmed and distracted by how hot Joe is. I thought they sounded great—a rockabilly/Americana sound with fun lyrics and good energy. Joe is coming to Maine tonight (Friday) at Empire Dine and Dance with the Wrong Reasons for $6 (seriously!?) and will play solo at The Oax and The Ax on September 28. I’m away this weekend, but I will DEFINITELY be at the next show.
Bryan Minto from The Diamond Rugs sat in to play some sick harmonica. I loved Joe’s deep raspy voice and the way the upright bass rounded out their sound. I was really impressed that their rockin’ electric guitarist was filling in for their regular guy whose wife had a baby the day before. I loved “Womanizer Blues” and their tribute to the late Levon Helm with a cover of “Crash on the Levee” from Dylan and The Band’s The Basement Tapes. Every so often Joe made lingering eye contact with me and I readily blushed. He’s working on a solo EP that comes out in October called You’ve Got the Wrong Man. We heartily sang along when asked—“Never would have gotten on the boat if I’d known/That it was going to take me home.” Joe and the boys sang one for George Jones, the very cheeky “Drunk & Single.” Joe invited a gaggle of extra performers from a bunch of bands on stage for “Too Many Doors”—I think there were eleven performers total. They sang their hearts out and left us wanting more. This was a great set, and the band was very appreciative of the opportunity to play Newport Folk Festival.
We were right in the front row for New Multitudes’ set and ready to see this super group up close. Straight from their incredibly detailed Facebook page, New Multitudes’ “Jay Farrar (Son Volt, Gob Iron, Uncle Tupelo), Will Johnson (Centro-matic, South San Gabriel), Anders Parker (Varnaline, Gob Iron) and Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket, Monsters of Folk) gratefully deliver New Multitudes, an intimate interpretation of American icon and musical legend Woody Guthrie’s previously unrecorded lyrics.” My favorite singer-songwriter, Ellis Paul, is also a huge Woody Guthrie fan (with a tattoo to prove it) and has also been invited by Woody’s daughter Nora to set some of Woody’s lyrics to music. Ellis’ interpretation is quite folky, and New Multitudes surprised me with how rockin’ their interpretation was. They had great harmonies and put on a great rock show. I especially liked their namesake song “New Multitudes.”
A woman to my right got up and left after New Multitudes, so my friend Rebecca, who’d mandated I see Gary Clark Jr., was able to join Chris, Rebecca, and I in the front row. I’ll admit I’d never heard of Austin, Texas’ Gary Clark Jr. before, but I’m a big fan now. He was insanely impressive on guitar and has this buttery falsetto voice that gave me chills. I wrote in my notes “I never want him to stop singing.” Here is a video of him performing “Bright Lights” at Coachella. When I posted on Facebook about how we saw gorgeous actor Ryan Gosling just next to the stage for Gary Clark Jr.’s set, a bunch of friends commented about how jealous they were that I saw Ryan Gosling up close, but my college friend Ken said “see, I’m jealous that you were listening to Gary Clark, Jr. His Daytrotter session was mesmerizing.” If you can see Gary Clark Jr. live, do yourself a favor and get there early. Oh my. Here’s the link to the NPR Music recording of his set.
Rebecca took off after Gary Clark Jr. and Monica got to snag her front row seat. Iceland’s colorful and lovely Of Monsters and Men was a total blast. Of all the acts I saw at The Newport Folk Festival, they were the most energetic. They opened with “Dirty Paws,” one of my favorites, and played most of their awesome album My Head Is an Animal. We were on our feet for the majority of the set, and a huge group of people jumping up and down just outside the tent even got a shout out from the band. We sang along with “Mountain Sound” and learned that “Love Love Love” is not a love song. There was a sign language interpreter for their set, and I loved watching the band watch him with interest as they played. They dedicated a song to him, too. They wrapped their super fun set with “Little Talks” and the heavily percussive “Six Weeks.” I realized about two songs into their set that I was sad just knowing it would eventually end. They were SO good. (There are a variety of rules from labels and artists surrounding recording, so their set is sadly not available from NPR Music or Folk Alley.)
Monica, Rebecca, Chris, and I took off the moment Of Monsters and Men wrapped their set because we were desperate to get a seat for The Tallest Man on Earth. We chose to divide and conquer. Chris got there first and I was second. He snagged two seats in the second row. He decided that since he had a media pass and needed to shoot the first three songs anyway and still catch Jackson Browne, he’d give me one of the two seats. What a gift. Rebecca joined me and Chris took his spot in front of the stage. We lost Monica to the insane crowd. Probably my only real complaint of the whole weekend is that Tallest Man on Earth should have played at a bigger stage. It was so crowded and so many people were trying to fit under the tent that the police had to come in and clear fire lines before the set could start.
Sweden’s Kristian Matsson is Tallest Man on Earth, which is funny because he is really small. He wore a tight tank top and skinny jeans and moved all over the stage (in a somewhat chicken-like way, I’ll say) and made eye contact with the enamored audience. I knew the whole time how lucky I was to be so close for this set—it was a magical experience. I saw a couple of different people around me singing along with their eyes closed and tears streaming down their faces, actually. There’s a tangible something special about Kristian’s music. He played the songs I wanted to hear—“Love Is All,” “1904,” “Where Do My Bluebird Fly,” and “King of Spain.” It started to POUR and no one moved. There was an enormous crowd outside who couldn’t fit under the tent, and everyone stood and listened anyway. It was beautiful to see people show love and devotion like that, and it was just the right way for the weekend to end. Luckily, you can listen to the whole set here.
I was a little nervous that it was raining so hard because I’d left my iPhone to charge using an extension cord I’d found under a covered tent adjacent to the stage. (Hey, NFF—how about phone charging stations next year?) Funny that I didn’t worry about anyone stealing it, because I felt like everyone at NFF was connected in some way, but I did worry about having a dead phone battery for the four-hour drive home to Maine in the dark and the rain. I decided to skip Jackson Browne in the pouring rain, made it back to my car, and got out of the parking lot in half the time of the night before. I was so pumped from the weekend that driving home was a breeze and I listened to everyone I’d just seen live to keep me company on the ride. What a weekend. Thanks, Newport Folk Festival!