Initial Musings On Newport Folk Festival 2014

This year’s Newport Folk Festival has been ‘in the can’ for about 18 hours. I have not yet looked at my photos in depth, but wanted to get something out for those who were there as well as those who weren’t.

Newport Folk Festival

Newport Folk Festival

This year had some stellar moments as always, as I have come to expect.

I expected a lot of tributes to Pete Seeger who died earlier this year. He was a stalwart supporter of the Festival and is missed by musicians and music-lovers alike. I was in the audience for only two of the tributes and both were spectacular.  Mavis Staples leading the crowd in ‘We Shall Overcome’ and Hurray for the Riff Raff doing the same with ‘If I Had a Hammer’ were tear-inducing moments that nobody who was there will likely forget.

For now, I will name my four favorite sets; I am not a fan of lists such as ‘The Top Ten Sets At ______’. First, one person cannot possibly see every set at a multi-stage festival so those top ten lists are either an amalgamation of the opinions of different people, or someone’s top- ten-of-the-sets-I-saw list. Second, if multiple people are reporting on the top ten, how would the person compiling the list determine which number one is truly The Number One set. When I write my full review, I will probably start second-guessing myself.

My four favorites (I was going to name three but…) are, in no particular order:

1. Mavis Staples. Her energy is amazing! She turned 75 years old a few weeks ago and the celebration continued with an on-stage birthday cake! She sang gospel, she sang protest songs, she sang anthems. She had many artists on stage with her band for the signing of ‘We Shall Overcome’. It was a highly emotional set; I saw many people wiping tears from their eyes.

2. The Oh Hellos. I did not know this band prior to their addition to the Festival lineup. Their set was possibly the most energetic set I’ve seen at the Festival. They had the large crowd on their feet from the very start of their set of what their website says is ‘eclectic folk rock.’ Whatever you want to call it, it was amazing. I was exhausted after watching them! It is rare that Jay Sweet (producer of the Festival) comes to a stage and asks the band to play one more song, but he did it here.

3. Hurray for the Riff Raff.  I cannot understate the emotion I felt seeing Alynda Lee Segarra lead the crowd for ‘If I Had a Hammer’. So many memories went flooding through me. I saw HFTRR perform two weeks ago, and I almost did not stay at the Quad Stage for their set, but I’m glad I did, especially since The Deslondes (whose set I missed) joined them!

4. Gregory Alan Isakov.  He was also new to me, and I thought his set was outstanding! His songwriting, singing, and quality of his band are so wonderful that I cannot wait to see him again soon.

The best story I heard was something that happened to an acquaintance. She and her sister were wandering the Fort when Jack White ambled past them. They uttered their amazement at seeing him walking around, when he turned to them, pulled out a Polaroid camera, and asked if they wanted to take a selfie with him. They didn’t hesitate for a nanosecond and it turned out to be a great shot.

One cool moment for me was when a man seated near me at the Quad Stage asked if he could take a photo of the tattoo I have on my leg of the opening measures of George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’.

The Festival is also about friends, both old and new. It was great spending three days with the group that has brought me into their fold (you know who you are, Karen, Teri, Babs, Rose, Jim, Sarah, Cheryl, Amy, Jamie, and new-to-me Ross, Julia, Shari and Kelly – and missing Nan and Dan). I also thoroughly enjoyed finally meeting some new friends who I have gotten to know over the past year (Gail and Mitch).  Thanks for making this year’s Festival a winner!

I am not an inveterate attendee of the Festival, having attended my first one in 2012. That seems to be the last year of the ‘old’ Festival according to many people with whom I have spoken. Mostly seated versus standing and dancing is what separates the ‘new’ Festival from the ‘old’. I understand why there is a huge standing area in front of the main stage, even though it upsets some veterans of the Festival. The veterans will not be around forever, and in order for the Festival to see it’s 75th or 100th anniversary, it must appeal to a new generation of Festival-goers. The Festival is now thriving, selling out well before the lineup is fully announced and that’s a beautiful thing. I don’t know how to mesh those two worlds…

Keep your eyes out for further posts about the Festival. It will take me several days to get them written – especially since I am already behind in writing about the shows I saw before the Festival!


About suze72

I've loved the arts all my life... I go to a lot of concerts, take lots of photos and want to share them. Every once in a while I do something other than a concert, too. The Boston area is full of opportunities to indulge my passion - I'd like to help make it yours too!

Posted on July 28, 2014, in concert reviews, music, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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