Sunday particularly in the morning I wasn’t 100% sure going in what acts I was going to go see. It is also the day I one million percent made the best decisions. Everything i went to was so amazing that there is no way that I made the wrong choices.
Christopher Paul Stelling
I had not ever heard of Christopher Paul Stelling before Newport, but I will certainly never forget him now. Going to his set was the single best decision I made during the festival this year and possibly any of the years that I’ve been. I had listened to a little bit of his music on Spotify prior to Newport so I knew I liked it, but I had no idea what an amazing performer he would be. I don’t always expect much in the way of performance when it’s a single guy with an acoustic guitar walking out on stage. Oh how little I knew. He had the crowd into it immediately. He told a lovely story about how excited he was to be playing Newport and the musical family he had been adopted into. After he found out he would be playing the Harbor stage at 11am on Sunday people told him that was the Brown Bird spot (if you don’t know Brown Bird was a regular act at Newport for a few years until one of the members of their duo died of leukemia last year), so he invited a bunch of people out on stage to sing 16 Tons with him dedicating it to Brown Bird.
And if the amazing set itself wasn’t enough he ended it by proposing to his backup singer Julia on stage. It was a beautiful moment and I’m so glad I was there to witness it.
Berklee Gospel Choir
The Berklee Gospel Choir is the first act on the main stage every Sunday of the folk festival. This year I only got to see the last 15 minutes because I was over at the Christopher Paul Stelling set. I do appreciate that this is the way Newport kicks off Sunday every year, and I know it’s one of Paul’s favorite parts of the festival.
Jon Batiste & Stay Human
Jon Batiste & Stay Human were another set that wasn’t something I originally planned to go to but because I was eating my lunch it was just easier to stick around the main stage at that point. Holy cow am I ever glad that I did. They are a New Orleans Jazz band, who will soon be taking over as the house band for Stephen Colbert’s version of Late Night. They were amazingly fun. The whole crowd was up on it’s feet and dancing, which usually doesn’t happen at the main stage where people are camped on blankets and chairs. They even came down into the crowd towards the end of their set. The whole thing was just great fun and good music.
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats
I had no knowledge of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats before seeing about half their set at Newport. I just stumbled up on them in my attempt to fill every possible moment with music. Why wait around at one stage during a set change when you can run over to another stage and get into 25 minutes of music from someone else. I really liked what I saw and heard from them. They were very high energy and I definitely digged their music. I almost didn’t want to leave when it was time to head back to the main stage for Lord Huron. I definitely need to look into them further.
One day I will see an entire set of by Lord Huron. I had to walk away from their set at Newport 2 years ago to see someone else, and I did the same thing this year. They are great performers and I keep thinking that I really want to go see them in an actual club at some point instead of at a festival. NPR Music has their full set up if you want to listen.
I’ve been digging Field Report for a few years now and really liked their newest album Marigolden. I was excited when I saw they were going to be playing Newport this year. I still do very much love their music, but sadly I can’t say that I thought they were super compelling performers. Oh well. I can still enjoy their songs like this one even if I probably won’t be seeking them out again live any time soon.
First Aid Kit
First Aid Kit is a Swedish folk duo of sisters Klara and Johanna. I love their music and they have some beautiful harmonies. Johanna had actually lost her voice, so it was mostly just Klara doing all the singing during this set. It was still wonderful though, so I can’t imagine how great they sound when they’re both their in full force. There’s not a video up of them doing it at Newport this year, but one of their standard covers is Simon & Garfunkel’s “America”. After the first time I heard it I said I now want nothing more than to hear the four of them sing that together in four part harmony. Here’s them singing one of their popular singles at this year’s festival.
You may be thinking to yourself, self didn’t she already write about seeing the Suffers? You would be correct, but one of the great things about Newport is that in addition to the 3 big stages there are various other locations that bands pop up to play music. There is an area inside the ruins of Fort Adams. The first few years we were there it was sponsored by Paste Magazine, but has been sponsored by Squarespace the past few years. There is also the children’s tent that has sponsored by Late July Organic snacks every year we’ve been there. Shout out to the sponsors! They don’t put out official schedules for these places, so you either have to stumble upon them while they’re happening or catch when they make an announcement on social media about who is going to be playing where.
On Sunday the Suffers did a short set in the Late July Family Tent. It was pretty much the embodiment of everything that I love about Newport and what makes it special. First of all just the idea of these small special sets occurring. Second that The Suffers were sticking around the festival for longer than when they played (their set was Saturday morning), which is not unusual. Third that the festival is so family friendly. At the end of their set they invited all the kids in the tent to come up on the little stage to dance with them. It was a great moment. I loved their official set so much that I was excited to see them again, and this was even more special.
This was I think the fourth time I’ve managed to see Hozier at a music festival including last year’s Newport Folk Festival. I have always liked his music, but I do have to say that he’s definitely growing into his abilities as a performer. I wasn’t impressed with his ability to command a crowd the first few times I saw him, but though maybe if I saw him in a seated theatre type venue he would be really good. He has definitely honed his skills playing some of the really big festivals over the past year or so. I thought he put on a much better performance than he had in the past. His music has always been great, but now his ability to engage even a large festival audience is on par with it. He too is a great lover of the Newport Folk Festival. He said his experience playing last year was the first time that he knew he would be able to make it with an American audience. He also told a story about talking to someone at the festival this year who had done a lot of the videorecordings from the festival back in the 60s. Hozier said watching those videos was one of the ways he taught himself how to play guitar and be a performer. That is the kind of amazing history and legacy this festival has that can never be matched by your Coachellas and and your Bonnaroos.
As I mentioned in my post about Day 2, this year was the 50th anniversary of the year that Bob Dylan went electric at the Newport Folk Festival. Everyone was convinced for awhile that they would be bringing Bob Dylan back. That was not to be. Obviously not being involved in the booking I don’t know why that didn’t actually happen. I do assume they tried. Bob has played the festival again back in the early 2000s, but I guess he didn’t want to come back for this. I don’t know. They tweeted multiple times and talked about on their podcast that Bob Dylan would not be playing the festival. I believed them. Not everyone did as the entire weekend I heard rumors about being having seen him in Newport and during the entirety of this set the people standing next to us kept waiting for him to come out on every song.
What the final set of the festival turned out to be was many, many people who have been involved in the festival in various ways over the years from long ago until today covering Bob Dylan songs. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings started everything off with “Mr. Tambourine Man”. We got a few more acoustic songs before Dawes came out to play “Maggie’s Farm”, the song Dylan played electric, with Taylor Goldsmith playing the exact guitar Dylan played 50 years ago. Apparently Dylan left the guitar on the plane when he left Newport that year. It never made it’s way back to him and was sold at auction a few years ago for a lot of money to the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, who lent it to the festival this year. I had figured out that Dawes had to be one of the bands that was going to be part of this set. It was surprising they weren’t in the line up on their own. Taylor Goldsmith is one of the musical advisors to the Newport Festivals Foundation board, and he was part of the New Basement Tapes supergroup that wrote and recorded music for a bunch of old Bob Dylan lyrics he never actually turned into songs that were unearthed a few years ago.There was a nice little hole in Dawes tour schedule that day, so I was sure they would be part of it and they were. There were a bunch of other people that showed up on stage both who had played the festival this year or also in the past. Everything ended with them inviting any artists still hanging around backstage out to sing “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”.
As always the entire festival was one big utter delight. I cannot wait for next year.