I don’t have anything special to say about Saturday, so let’s get right into the sets I saw during Day Two of the Newport Folk Festival. I will say that we left before Saturday’s headliner, Jack White. I don’t know why but I just have never been able to make myself care about Jack White either as a solo artist or in his days with The White Stripes. I obviously know a decent amount of his music by osmosis, and I respect what he does as an artist and producer but somehow he is just not for me. I find that it’s nice to get done a little bit early on Saturdays as well. Even though Newport already ends very early in the grand scheme of music festivals, my introverted self can still use some extra down time in the middle of the weekend.
Aoife O’Donovan was a nice low-key way to start off Saturday on the main stage. It often seems like they schedule very subdued, traditional folk artists at the beginning of the morning to ease you in to the day. I wasn’t really familiar with her before the festival other than listening to her on Spotify a couple of times knowing that I would most likely see her. She definitely folk with some Celtic undertones. A nice start to the morning.
The Oh Hellos
The Oh Hellos completely blew me away with their set. Aside from Mavis Staples’ historic set closing out the festival on Sunday night, this was by far the best set of the festival. They had something like 13 musicians up on the stage and they are all dancing around. It was a wonder that they didn’t all collide at some point. Their music ranges from joyous, literally foot-stomping fun to slower folk ballads. Like one of my favorite performances last year by The Lone Bellow on the same stage, they ended their performance with several members of the band jumping off the stage and going out into the audience to play. Amusingly they were led by someone playing a snare drum who picked it up and jumped off the stage with it. Several other band members seemed like what the hell and followed. They were an incredible joy to watch perform. And as with the best artists that show up to the Newport Folk Festival they seemed awed to be there. At the end of their set they were recording the audience and taking pictures on their phones. I love when bands are as happy to be somewhere as the audience is. And speaking of the audience, like me everyone seemed to be taken in by them such that most everyone was standing there applauding loudly after a minute when The Oh Hellos were told they had finished early and could play one more song if they wanted, which they did. Usually as soon as a band finishes playing everyone is off and running to the next stage, but not so this time. I cannot stress enough that you should go see this band if you get the chance.
J. Roddy Walston & the Business
I made a pit stop by J. Roddy Walston & the Business. I had to walk by their stage to get back to see Shovels & Rope, and I had a few minutes so I think I listened to about 3 or 4 songs. I already knew going in that I’m not a huge fan of the band, but I figured I would see what they had to offer. They definitely are not folk in any way that I think of folk. I definitely define them as rock pure and simple. They’re pretty hot on the indie rock scene right now though. For people who like their music they seemed to be putting on a good show during the few songs that I saw.
Shovels & Rope
I’ve already seen Shovels & Rope a few times live including last year’s Newport Folk Festival and was looking forward to seeing them again. This year they moved from one of the smaller side stages to the main stage. Given that it’s just the two of them up there I wondered how they would command a larger stage than I had ever seen them play before. I needn’t have worried. They completely know what they are doing, and have the power and energy to hold their own wherever they are playing. I really like what they played from their forthcoming album, so I’ll be excited to get my hands on that when it is released.
I only saw a few songs of the Houndmouth set as well so I don’t have much to say about it other than that they are still an excellent band and have definitely created a following at the Newport Folk Festival in their second year there. When I got over to the stage they were playing it was very crowded, and I had to stand far outside the tent where it was when most of the time I’m at least able to sneak right up to the edge of that tent for most bands.
As you may recall I saw Lucius open for The Head and the Heart recently, and I really enjoyed them a lot. At the time I said I looked forward to seeing them again at Newport should their set not conflict with anyone else I really wanted to see. It turns out that it didn’t, so I did see them again and was even more taken with them this time. They are such a delight to watch and listen to. They definitely have a very stylized performance, but it makes them stand out from the other bands I tend to see and especially those that frequent the Newport Folk Festival. And as a bonus this was my second Mavis Staples sighting of the festival as she came out to sing “Go Home” with them. The ladies of Lucius and Mavis Staples collaborated on two other songs on Sunday, and seemed like she was really taken with them. It was fun to watch. As a total aside earlier in the day on Saturday as I was walking around I saw someone else wandering around in a 3 piece suit and thought that’s an interesting choice for attire at a music festival. Of course as soon as Lucius came out on stage, I was like duh of course that was one of the guys from Lucius who dress in matching suits on stage something I commented on after I saw them the first time. I’m sure that is only amusing to me, but it was.
I was so excited to see that Nickel Creek was going to be performing at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. I have been a long time fan of theirs as a band as well as the projects they have each worked on individually since the band went on hiatus. I love the new album they put out to celebrate 25 years of playing together, which is still crazy sounding since they’re all essentially my age. I guess that’s what happens when you start playing together as small children. The last time I saw them live was over a decade ago in a venue that doesn’t even exist anymore. I was super happy to get the chance to see them all play together again even though I’ve seen both Sara Watkins and Chris Thile at Newport in other years with her playing solo and him with The Punch Brothers. Their set was just as good as I hoped it would be. They pretty much played every song I was hoping to hear, which almost never happens from bands that have more than 2 albums. I hope they stick together for awhile and that I’ll be able to see them again.