This year was my fourth year in a row at the Newport Folk Festival. It is by far my favorite musical experience of the year every year. Every single thing you could read about this festival says the same thing, that it’s a music lovers festival all about the music. It’s completely true and that is why I love it so much. I have been to other music festivals where it’s really just an excuse for people to go get drunk and high and oh yeah there happens to be some bands playing to enhance those experiences. At Newport people of all ages (literally from newborns to people ready to fall into the grave) are gathered together to experience the joy of music. Even the musicians love it. Every single one of them gets up on stage and talks about the history of the festival and how much it means to them to be playing it and how the Newport audience is like no other. That and if they’re playing the main stage they all comment on the incredible view of the bay.
The spirit of musical collaboration is also one of the fantastic things about Newport. Musicians pop up in each other’s sets all the time. As best as I can tell Lucius (who played the festival last year) wasn’t even scheduled to play anywhere in the area over the weekend yet members of the band, Holly and Jess showed up and sang in numerous sets during the actual festival as well as some of the after shows that take place in the evening. I saw someone joke on Twitter on Monday that they woke up fully expecting Lucius to make a surprise appearance in their kitchen. It speaks so much to what Newport is that bands who don’t even have an official set show up and play.
This festival really is a music lover’s dream. Every year I think there is no way it can get any better because it’s more amazing every year. Yet somehow they manage to top themselves every year. I am already counting down the days until I can go back next year. Now that I’ve once again regaled you with reasons that I love the festival so much on to the actual bands I saw on day one. I’ll have separate posts for days two and three.
The Goodbye Girls
Every year Newport introduces me to bands I had never heard of before. Once the schedule goes up and I see times I’m not committed to a set already I listen to the bands to decide who I want to check out live. This year for the first set of the festival I went with The Goodbye Girls, which is a band of four women on the fiddle, acoustic guitar, upright bass, and banjo. They also create some beautiful harmonies. Listening to this song, “Devil on my Mind” is what sold me on seeking out their set. They were a lovely way to kick off hte festival.
I only saw about half of Elephant Revival’s set because it overlapped with Leon Bridges, but what I saw I enjoyed. I always love some upbeat folk music with the band members playing all kinds of instruments. It doesn’t look like anyone has posted anything online from their Newport set, but this will give you an idea.
I’ve been digging Leon Bridges roots/soul sound for months now, so I was super excited to get to see him live at Newport. I think he was one of the first acts announced as they rolled out their lineup and I immediately fell in love. It was probably within a week or two that I started hearing him played on NPR music stations.
The Lone Bellow
If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time you know that I adore The Lone Bellow and that I’ve seen them numerous times in concert previously. They are always amazing and this set was no different. More than anyone this year they embraced the spirit of collaboration. They played four different songs with other artists from the festival: Leon Bridges, Holly and Jess from Lucius, Sara Watkins, and members of the New Breed Brass Band. You can listen to their full set from NPR music and I highly recommend that you do.
Tallest Man on Earth
I missed the Tallest Man on Earth’s set when he was there two years ago as it conflicted with someone else I wanted to see more. I’m happy I got a chance to see him this time. I love the music and I he was commanding the stage. This is another one that NPR Music recorded and you can listen to if you want.
Watkins Family Hour
While most of the people at Newport were off at the main stage listening to the surprise My Morning Jacket set, I was over at the Quad stage for the Watkins Family Hour because I will follow Sara Watkins wherever she goes. The year we were at Newport she was playing with Jackson Browne as well as doing a solo set, the second year she also had a solo set, last year she was there with the reunion Nickel Creek did for their 25th anniversary, and this year she was there with the Watkins Family Hour. The Watkins Family hour is a monthly live show she and her brother Sean have been doing along with a rotating cast of other people for 12 or 13 years (they couldn’t remember) at Largo in Los Angeles. Fiona Apple is a regular and was there for this. They just recorded their first album that came out the same day as this set. They also used to record the show and put it out as a podcast on the Nerdist podcast network, but that only lasted about a year. I wish they still did it. Unfortunately we wound up leaving about 20 minutes before their set was over because it looked like nasty thunderstorms were rolling in and we didn’t want to be stuck out in the open during a lightning storm. It did rain, but it seems the worst of it skirted to the west of Newport. Oh well. I’m happy I got to see what we did, and I’ll be excited to see Sara back at Newport again next year because I can’t imagine she won’t be there.
The video is from the set they did at one of the after shows Friday night.
It was a great first day and set the tone for a wonderful weekend.