An Amazing Start To An Incredible Festival
What an auspicious start to the most incredible music experience I think I have ever had! I have read comments by many who felt that this was the best Newport Folk Festival they have attended, and I am quite inclined to agree. The rainbow over the bay says it all…
One of the most beautiful things about this Festival is hearing bands that become my new favorite band. Of course, there are a number of bands that are my new favorites! The Festival in general, and Jay Sweet in particular, do right by those of us who place our faith in them to find acts we will love.
There are four stages and more if you count the Kids’ Tent; I spent most of the day at the Quad Stage which is the largest of the side stages (and is covered with seating). The front row was my home for the day.
First to the stage were The Goodbye Girls, a Boston-based bluegrass/old-timey music quartet composed of Molly Tuttle on guitar, Brittany Karlson on bass, Allison de Groot on banjo, and Lena Jonsson on fiddle, with Molly providing most lead vocals and all providing backing vocals.
Their set included both traditional songs (‘Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie’) as well as original tunes (‘Saltolovotka’ written by Jonsson who is Swedish). Their harmonies are tight and they are engaging performers as well. The smile never seemed to leave Tuttle’s face.
Even though their music is lively, the audience was somewhat mellow electing to sit and concentrate on the music rather than jumping around. The Goodbye Girls were an ideal band to ease us into the day.
Next up was Bahamas, a band based in Canada. Bahamas is Afie is the title of their new album, and Afie Jurvanen is Bahamas. When he tours, Jurvanen is accompanied by Jason Tait on drums and Felicity Williams on backing vocals. I apologize for not knowing the names of the guitarist and bassist.
There is no single word to describe this music. There is much soul in it, as well as rock, R&B, and roots. Jurvanen has a fabulous voice and I could have listened to him sing all day. Williams’ backing vocals added a lovely dimension to the music.
They received a well-deserved standing ovation for their innovative set. Jurvanen truly connected with the crowd.
Leon Bridges, the amazing young soul singer who was next to the stage, rocked out in the wings for Bahamas’ entire set! That was so cool to watch.
This was one of the acts to which I was most looking forward when the line-up was announced; I missed his last show in Boston because of a conflict and knew nothing was going to prevent me from seeing this set (despite a couple of acts I wanted to see that conflicted).
What a set! The audience was on its feet for most if not all of Bridges’ set. His voice is like caramel, sweet and rich, and his dance moves are fabulous! This felt like a throwback to the 1950s (not that I experienced music in that decade).
Brittni Jessie on backing vocals, Jeff Pazey on saxophone and keyboards, Austin Jenkins on guitar, Josh Block on drums, Andrew Skales on bass, and Kenny Hollinger on guitar comprise his band and they do a great job at supporting him.
Bridges played all of his debut album as well as some new material (which means that he’ll release a sophomore album, hopefully soon). I was ‘Twistin & Groovin’ right along with Bridges to most of the set. This was great music and a terrific addition to the Newport Folk family.
Following Bridges was a band I love but had not seen perform live, Calexico. I was beyond excited to see them because I missed their recent Boston show due to a conflict (I think my life is full of conflicts, but I have already blocked out the dates for next year’s Festival).
I do not know their music well, but what I do know I love. Their Facebook description is alternative/folk/country, but there is a lot of Latin/Mexican influence in their music. After all, one of the songs they played was ‘Cumbia de Donde’, cumbia being a genre originating in Columbia.
The country influence is evidenced, in part, by Connor Gallagher on the pedal steel, an instrument I adore which is closely associated with country music. He is an animated performer and I was glad to be on his side of the stage so I could watch him play.
Most of the members of the band are multi-instrumentalists; Connor also plays guitar, while Jacob Valenzuela and Martin Wenk play trumpet, keyboards, and vibes, with Valenzuela also playing ukulele. Other members are John Convertino on drums and Ryan Alfred on bass. Burns provides most of the lead vocals, with Valenzuela, Wenk, and Alfred providing backing vocals.
Their set list drew from the depth of the band’s discography, including the album they released last year. Their music is lively, eminently danceable, and generally fantastic! The audience was on its feet from the first note and stayed there.
They brought both Iron & Wine (Sam Beam) and Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses to the stage to each perform a song with them. I had no idea that Calexico and Iron & Wine released an album together; it seems like an incongruous pairing but it worked extremely well. Now I need to get that album along with many of their other albums!
The last act I saw on the Quad Stage this day was Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell. This was a pairing that seemed unusual when I read about their addition to the line-up, but as soon as they started playing I realized that they are a natural pair.
Childhood friends from South Carolina, Iron & Wine’s acoustic guitar and Bridwell’s electric guitar played around each other quite masterfully.
The two clearly have strong chemistry; they are terrific separately (yes, I have seen each of them) and together they seem to enhance each other – not that either needs enhancing.
They had a good backing band. I do not know if any of those musicians play regularly with another band that I may have seen since none looked familiar.
I went to the Fort (main) Stage for the final acts of the day. The first set was an ‘unannounced’ band that turned out to be My Morning Jacket! I predicted that MMJ would be at the Festival; Jim James is/was on the board and the band recently released its first new album in several years. I was thrilled to see them at the Fort!
The first time I saw MMJ perform was at this Festival in 2012, when their set was cut short by a tremendous thunderstorm. Although the skies were threatening, and it did in fact rain at the beginning of the final set of the day, everything remained copacetic for their set.
Their set was drawn mostly from the new album, Waterfall, but they added a few crowd favorites such as ‘Wonderful’. Jim seemed almost subdued in his mannerisms but not in his playing which was impeccable as always. The entire band was on fire, and why not. Not only did they have their own set, but they remained on stage as Roger Waters‘ band!
When he was first announced for the Festival, I wondered what this psychedelic rock musician would do at a folk festival. I need not have been concerned; Waters was amazing, perhaps the best closing set I have heard at the festival to date (of course, some of that stemmed from being in the photo pit, six feet away from him, for the second, third and fourth songs). He fit right into the folk family.
In addition to MMJ, Waters had G.E. Smith with him. This was my first time seeing Smith live, and he was a wonderful addition to the band.
Waters performed many Pink Floyd songs and had the crowd singing right along with him. When they played a medley of ‘Lunatic’ and ‘Eclipse’, people who were not even a glimmer in their parents’ eyes were happily belting out the lyrics. It was one of those special moments, where nothing mattered but the music. And isn’t that what the Festival is all about?
I thought it was brilliant that Lucius provided backing vocals throughout the set. In the aforementioned medley, they sounded as if they were the singers on the original recording. I closed my eyes and was transported to the early 1970s when I heard Pink Floyd for the first time.
This was an amazing day of music, friendship, and all else good that is the Newport Folk Festival.
Ticket courtesy of Newport Folk Festival; all opinions are my own.
Posted on July 30, 2015, in festival photos, festival review, music, Uncategorized and tagged Afie Jurvanen, Amy Helm, Bahamas, Ben Bridwell, Calexico, festival photos, festival review, Iron & Wine, Jim James, Leon Bridges, lucius, My Morning Jacket, Newport Folk Festival, Roger Waters, The Goodbye Girls. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.