I'd originally written this post as one ridiculously long piece, but I figured y'll would be so tired of my rambling by the end that you're tune out, and I just can't let y'all go without telling you about all the amazing people you should check out immediately.
One of my favorite things about Newport is the somewhat amorphic definition of what makes folk music 'folk music.' One of the oldest music festivals in the US, this is the place where Dylan went electric for the first time, where Aretha Franklin sang the blues, where Johnny Cash introduced a little known Chris Kristofferson.... it's a festival steeped in music legends and history, yet it doesn't pigeonhole itself. There are always surprises, and the coordinators are always trying to stretch our perceptions of what folk is. Unlike last year, which was basically my dream lineup of artists, I went into this year's festival not knowing a lot of artists, which turned into such a blessing. Time and time again I was blown away by artists, and with very few exceptions, was in LOVE with their performances. I will be filling my record collection with SO many new albums because of this festival.
Favorite Performances: The Lone Bellow literally BLEW me away. I'd heard a lot of their album before and really enjoyed it, but man y'all, these people put on a performance. There was so much energy and so much love that went into that hour of music. As a perpetual happy leaker, I most definitely found myself continuously shedding such happy tears and danced and clapped like my life depended on it. There was even a little spontaneous crowdsinging of Edwin McCain's "I'll Be," that was easily the most embarassing/awesome/ridiculous thing that happened all weekend. Do yourselves a favor and GO SEE these peeps live if you have any opportunity at all.
Secondly by a hair had to go to Shovels and Rope. Not only are they two of the most adorable people ever (southerners in love with cute little drawls,) but they did it all. I have been preeetty obsessed with their album O' Be Joyful for a while now and they delivered so hard on it. They're rockers, folksy, bluegrass, awesomeness that I just can't get enough of.
Most Groove-Inducing Performances: Y'all know me pretty well, but I'm not sure if I've ever thoroughly explained my love of New Orleans jazz/bounce/blues artists. I've spent a pretty decent amount of time in Nola throughout the years and just feel like that city gets in your blood like no other place. I've been a HUGE fan of Trombone Shorty for years but never had the opportunity to see him, so I was totally pumped to see him playing at Newport this year. Besides being such a handsome fellow, this man can blow a horn like no other. Lucy and I had the opportunity to sneak up really close to the stage and just danced our (figurative) balls off. His performance was unbelievable and SO much fun.
I love the musical trend right now of very old-school rockabilly and bluegrass inspired music, and JD McPherson really fit the ticket. Beyond being not a little dreamy, (i'm easily charmed) I cannot get enjough of this guy's voice. He sounds like he came straight out of the late 50's with a hint of modern bluegrass that cannot be beat. This album is just happiness-inducing and will have even the most curmudgeonly fellow tapping his toes to the beat.
Biggest Surprise: My friend Chelsea is basically my musical spirit animal. If there's someone out there that you've heard once and want an opinion, she's your gal. Chels and I often have very similar taste in music, so when she recommends someone it's nearly a sure bet that i'll like them. But I doubted her. (What a stupid girl i am.) Chelsea had been raving about Lord Huron for months and months when Newport announced that they were playing at the festival I added them to my "if I have time list." Incidentally, they were playing after Spirit Family Reunion and there wasn't anyone else I really cared to see, so we all stayed to listen. Holy crap. Was it what I was expecting? No, but in the best way. They ROCKED. (Literally, I think I temporarily lost my hearing from their show.) Plus there was a fun little kettle drum solo and a bass player who tried to seduce the audience with his eyes and hip shaking. Yes Miguel, I saw you.)
Those who never fail to disappoint:I have been dying to see the Avett Brothers for years now. Years. With what I personally feel is by far their best record, and really one of the best records of the past year, the time could not be more ripe to catch them in all their bearded glory. What I wasn't expecting was how energetic and just darn adorable they were. There was just so much energy and fun happening on that stage and therefore, in the crowd. And they do this adorable little hip shimmy when they play that I was loving.
Newcomers that I'm obsessed with: Hurray for the Riff Raff, Spirit Family Reunion, and Michael Kiwanuka each individually were amazing. Both Hurray and Spirit each have deeply bluegrass roots with just a touch of the bayou. AND they'll be touring together over the next few months! Kiwanuka on the other hand had he most mellow, beautiful, almost Ben Harper circa Diamonds on the Inside vibe that was just so wonderful. These are definitely a few to keep an eye on.
The Performance of a lifetime: I've loved Beck ever since his 90's alt-rocker album Odelay, and just continue to find him to be a fascinating human being. Last year's Song Reader project was such a cool and completely different take on music, but with no really recent albums and almost no touring dates for years now, Beck was my ultimate, you need to see this because it just doesn't happen show. And It Was Amazing. Not only did we hear pieces from each of his most current albums, covers, and a few songs from Song Reader itself, but I was waiting, and hoping for one particular moment.... one which was teased throughout the show with a few guitar riffs. Then he says, "Beings as this is a folk festival, I'm gonna have to play a little 90's folk music for you." And whips out his favorite 90's "folk instrument"....a drum machine. The next 3 minutes were possibly some of my most ecstatic of the festival to the tune of "Soy un perdedor I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me? (Double-barrel buckshot)" 90's folk indeed. Beck I love you. Never change.
And a Minor Rant: My pals and I ALL love the Fleet Foxes. Big time. So naturally, when we heard that Father John Misty (the former drummer for FF,) was playing the folk festival we all wanted to check him out. Musically, he started off, and I'm thinking, hmmm not my thing really, but interesting. I'm intrigued enough to stay a while. Then the douchbaggery begins. Suddenly, he interrupts his own song to go on a tirade in which he informed us that not only was this "not for our fucking amusement" going on to not only denegrate the acts before him; "You might not think this is a folk song because it doesn't have drum beat," or "isn't in the key of G" and even better"if you're getting paid to make music it's your god-damned responsibility to say something with your damn songs" but BERATED THE MUSIC FESTIVAL HE WAS CURRENTLY PLAYING AT. "I was only invited here because i'm white and have a beard and a guitar in my lap." etc. etc. etc.
Hey douchebag, if you're so upset over the festival paying people who write "fluff songs" then DON'T PLAY THERE, and by all means DON'T TAKE THEIR MONEY. Because you know what, I wasn't amused, I got up and left. FYI, you're not Jim Morrison, you're a piece of shit. And I though your music sucked. So there. (I'm currently sticking my tongue out at the computer for emphasis.) I get that Newport supports artists of all types, and even promotes a little bit of discourse, (we all know about Dylan getting booed for plugging in his electric,) but this guy and this rant, did NOT represent the spirit of which I feel NFF is all about. Take your "I'm too good for this festival and these people and go straight to Coachella. You'll fit in just fine. Newport, if you're reading this, please take whatever percentage this asshat would have received from my ticket sale, and give it to someone else. Anyone else. Buy yourself a coke. But if he's playing next year, i'm bringing eggs.
Sorry about that rant y'all... lets get back on a happy note. Here's a gif of Beck jamming. You're welcome.
:: gifs via NPR ::