Another Great Day At Newport Folk Festival
It is impossible not to hear great music at the Newport Folk Festival. The first day of this year’s Festival was fantastic, with possibly the best closing set I have heard to date. Saturday’s music was at least equal to the previous day.
The day was gorgeous, blue skies with some high, wispy clouds. The temperature was moderate. All in all, a perfect day awaited as we patiently sat at the gates.
I planned to spend most of my day at the Quad Stage, but needed to start at the Fort Stage so I could see The Suffers perform. They scheduled an interview with me for early afternoon so I wanted to hear them for myself (the video from their performance on the David Letterman show was not enough) so I had a good idea of who and what they are. They had an interesting pre-show ritual of raising their hands into the air as if praising something.
Wow! They are a force with which to be reckoned! Fronted by an extremely strong female singer, their Gulf Coast soul music draws you in and keeps you there. Kam Franklin has much charisma; I watched her reel in one of the male photographers standing in the photo pit and he did not seem to mind!
Composed of Pat Kelly on keyboardist and vocals, Kam Franklin on lead vocals, Adam Castaneda on bass, Michael Razo on trombone, Kevin Bernier on guitar, Jon Durbin on trumpet, Cory Wilson on saxophone, Nick Zamora on drums and vocals, Jose “Chapy” Luna on percussion, and Alex Zamora on guitar and vocals, this Houston-based band has a sound that draws from the diverse musical influences in the area (Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi, Caribbean). (Huge apologies to Pat Kelly for not being able to get a photo of him, other than the shot of the entire band.)
This is wonderful dance music (not only wonderful dance music, but terrific music generally) and I hope to see them again soon.
After their set, I caught the last two songs of Spirit Family Reunion‘s set on the Quad Stage. I have seen them a number of times and always enjoy their lively performances.
Next on the Quad was Traveller, a supergroup comprising Robert Ellis, Jonny Fritz (a/k/a Jonny Corndawg), and Cory Chisel. They delivered what I believe is my favorite set of the Festival – possibly because it was completely unexpected.
All three are based in Nashville, and the country influence was in evidence in their songs. This was my first time seeing any of them perform and I think their talent is immense. Ellis plays lead guitar while Fritz is the lead singer and Chisel plays rhythm guitar. All three sing. Fritz quipped that they had not gotten together to rehearse until several days before the show; he had to have been kidding because they were completely in sync with one another.
Fritz is the dance master; sporting genie shoes, he floated across the stage, dipping and twirling to the enjoyment of the standing crowd.
I hope they record an album SOON!
Following Traveller was Langhorne Slim & The Law; this was my third time seeing them in two weeks and this was the best of the three shows! I think there’s something about a Festival that brings heightened energy to a performance.
Langhorne was truly on fire for this set, as was The Law. He hopped the barrier a couple of times to come into the audience, climbing on chairs and singing in our faces!
For ‘Song for Sid’, which he wrote for his late grandfathers, The Law left the stage and Langhorne delivered an emotionally-charged rendition of this beautiful song. He choked up, and half of the audience was right there with him.
Malachi DeLorenzo on drums, Jeff Ratner on bass, and David Moore on keys and banjo comprise The Law (although they added a guitarist for this show), and clearly have great chemistry with Langhorne. They were joined by a song or two by Delorenzo’s sister on fiddle.
I could have listened to them perform for the rest of the day, but then I would have missed Courtney Barnett, the 27-year-old Australian sensation who is taking the music world by storm.
Barnett’s music is fairly raw rock with witty lyrics. For example, ‘Small Poppies’ includes the following: “I stare at the lawn it’s Wednesday morning, it needs a cut but I’ll leave it growing. All different sizes and all shades of green, slashing it down just seems kinda mean.”
She is touring with a trio composed of Bones Sloane on bass and backing vocals, and Dave Mudie on drums. Barnett takes center stage, however, even though her mic is set to the side! She has an engaging performance style with an impish grin that I found endearing.
Next up was the act I most wanted to see this day, Sturgill Simpson. I saw him perform during the winter, but he and most of the band were fairly sick so it was not as high energy a show as I heard he is capable of delivering. I am pleased to report that everyone was healthy and the set was amazing!
The audience was on its feet screaming before the first note emanated from the stage. Simpson has a fabulous voice which was thankfully in evidence for this set. It took a couple of songs before he began to move around the stage but once he did start, there was no stopping him. Simpson does not banter much, preferring to regale us with his musical talent.
Simpson has assembled a terrific band, including the fantastic Laur Joamets on guitar. The first time I saw them, I was in awe of Joamets’ talent. The rest of the band is Kevin Black on bass, Jeff Crow on keyboards, and Miles Miller on drums and backing vocals.
Simpson is the face of country music today; smart songwriting, exquisite vocals, and a great performance style. He is clearly dedicated to his craft, and I hope he gives us much more superb music.
The last act of the day on the Quad Stage was Brandi Carlile, performing with The Twins (Phil and Tim Hanseroth). I was fortunate to have seen them on the Pin Drop Tour, a short tour in which they performed unamplified. That was a wonderful show, but I was excited to see them perform the way they usually do.
To say that they rocked the Quad is an understatement. They were all so obviously thrilled to be playing for an adoring crowd that they could not wipe the smiles from their faces.
There were many references, both in the songs and in her banter, to human rights in general and same-sex marriage in particular. “There is nothing worth sharing like the love that let’s us share our name” could well be her anthem.
Brandi’s set list drew from her entire catalog, including her recent release, The Firewatcher’s Daughter. Some were songs I recognized – ‘The Story’ and ‘That Year’ in particular.
Carlile was beyond grateful to the audience; she and the band laid their emotions wide open on stage. What a way to end another day of music…
Sure, there were sets I would have enjoyed seeing – the unannounced James Taylor set, Jason Isbell, Madisen Ward & The Mama Bear – but I am not the least bit sorry I saw the sets I did. That is one of the beautiful things about the Festival – no matter what you see, it’s going to be good. And if you don’t enjoy it, for whatever reason, there are three other stages to which you can move.
Ticket courtesy of Newport Folk Festival; all opinions are my own.
Posted on August 1, 2015, in festival photos, festival review, music, Uncategorized and tagged Brandi Carlile, Cory Chisel, Courtney Barnett, festival photos, festival review, Jonny Fritz, Langhorne Slim & The Law, music, Newport Folk Festival, Robert Ellis, Spirit Family Reunion, Sturgill Simpson, The Suffers, Traveller. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.