First Raw Ruminations On The 2015 Newport Folk Festival
I am still on cloud 327 after returning from three incredible days at the Newport Folk Festival. I want to get some of my feelings out – before looking at the 2,500+/- photographs I shot or doing too much talking about the Festival with my friends (which honestly has been hard to avoid). My usual, full review of each day with photos will follow.
About the music. In a word, fan-freaking-tastic! Let me say first that I prefer seeing entire sets rather than fifteen minutes here and fifteen minutes there. Unless, of course, a particular act is not resonating with me. That rarely happens.
There was country music. There was soul music. There was rhythm and blues, and blues, and jazz. There was folk and folk-rock. If there is a genre you can imagine, there was probably at least one act playing it.
I could say that every set was a stand-out, which is true. Some of the sets that were true highlights for me include Bahamas, Traveler (a new collaboration of Robert Ellis, Jonny Fritz and Cory Chisel), Sturgill Simpson, The Suffers, The Ballroom Thieves, Roger Waters, and 65 Revisited (an all-star tribute to Bob Dylan going electric at the Festival fifty years ago).
Then there was the Music Makers Relief Foundation afternoon in the Museum Stage. Curated by Dom Flemons, the afternoon started with an introduction to the Foundation as well as the musicians who were there. They ranged from a true gospel group from Mississippi to an 87-year old bluesman to a 77-year old man whose keyboard is attached to an ironing board. This was a highly emotional experience for me and I am so happy I spent the afternoon there.
There was the finale on Sunday night, 65 Revisited. Dylan was not at the Festival, but the guitar he used fifty years ago was on stage. Most of the musicians who played this tribute were not announced, and included David Rawlings and Gillian Welch, Dawes, Willie Watson, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Al Kooper (who was the only person on stage who was THERE), two members of Deer Tick, and Robyn Hitchcock. Also contributing were artists who played the Festival – Hozier, First Aid Kit, Blake Mills – and for the finale, “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35”, all musicians still in Newport came to the stage and we sang right along with them.
There are acts I wish I had seen, had I been able to clone myself – Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Berklee Gospel Choir, Heartless Bastards, Tallest Man on Earth, The Barr Brothers, Jason Isbell, to name a few. The reality is that I probably would have at the very least liked every set! We put our faith in the Festival by buying our tickets before the first act is announced – and I’ll bet it would sell out if they didn’t announce the line-up until a couple of weeks before the event.
There were some emotional moments at the sets I saw. Langhorne Slim sang a song he wrote for his late grandfathers and got a bit choked up (as did many people in the audience). Brandi Carlile appeared amazed, humbled and grateful that the audience loved her as much as we did. One moment I did not witness was Christopher Paul Stelling proposing to his then girlfriend now fiancée after his set on the Harbor Stage (I’ll bet there weren’t many dry eyes there).
Seeing most of the long-term (I never call them old) I expected to see… Making some new friends (hi, JJ) and talking with interesting people about our Newport experiences… Bonding with some of the photographers in the pit…
The weather was mostly amazing! We had some rain on Friday night during the first half of Roger Waters’ set, but otherwise the weather could not have been better. Not too hot, not too humid.
I did a couple of interviews (my first in-person interviews) which I will write up very soon!
And a personal highlight for me. Each day of the Festival, Jay Sweet (the producer of the Festival) greets the people at the gates before they open. On Friday, he walked directly to me and introduced himself. Before I was able to say more than my first name, he knew this website and gave me a huge hug! Thanks, Jay.
Posted on July 27, 2015, in festival review, music, Uncategorized and tagged Bahamas, concert review, Cory Chisel, festival review, Jay Sweet, Jonny Fritz, music, Music Makers Relief Foundation, Newport Folk Festival, Robert Ellis, Roger Waters, Sturgill Simpson, The Ballroom Thieves, The Suffers. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.