Newport RI

Overview | Newport Folk Festival 2013

by Shan
photos by Ady

Deer Tick at their self-hosted after show at Newport Blues Cafe (Sunday)

It’s late Sunday night. Ady and I are at the Newport Blues Cafe for night three of the Deer Tick after parties—which, in addition to being the perfect night cap to the days spent at the Newport Folk Festival, are also a fundraiser for the Newport Festivals Foundation and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. It’s crowded, elbow to elbow, but without anyone being grumpy about it, a testament to the evening’s mood. Everyone is here to dance and howl and have fun. Ady and I drift around the venue for the four plus hours of the event: downstairs and up, at the bar, at the front of stage, above the stage looking down through the ceiling viewing box, dancing up the steps, all the while exploring, listening and watching from different vantage points. We try to shake up our experience up in any way we can just for the sheer fun of it. I am relaxed and purposely let myself be jostled by the comings and goings of the other patrons, feeling a bit like a tiny ship anchored in rollicking waves, as the sounds from some of our favorite bands rise from the stage. I become curious to see who will randomly bump into me next, because every interaction has thus far proven to be entertaining (even when I am bumped into and spill my beer onto my and the person next to me’s foot). Meanwhile, various members of bands that played at the festival mill around the venue, and everyone comes together in a great big sing-along.

Felice Brothers at the Deer Tick after show, Newport Blues Cafe (Sunday)

Deer TickThe Felice Brothers and other musicians jump on and off stage in various configurations to play for the still music-hungry crowd (this, after three days of non-stop music already ingested at the Festival, as well as the nightly post-Fest after shows). The night ends with Deervana emerging to play “Something In the Way,” leaving me teary-eyed, nostalgic (I won’t give away my age just yet), and then with a sweet “Goodnight Irene” the entire bar seals the envelope of the 2013 Newport Folk Festival in unison.

Even later still as we forage for after-show pizza, Ady and I revisit our second and so very satisfying adventure in beautiful Newport, Rhode Island. It dawns on me as we talk that the feeling of the bobbing ship-in-the-harbor I felt within the microcosm of the Deer Tick after show was precisely the kind of experience we consciously set out to carve out for ourselves on a large scale while at the Newport Folk Festival. We had decided early on, after seeing a jam packed schedule that necessitated cloning or teleportation devices to allow us to be everywhere we wanted to be and when, that we would let go of any sense of urgency trying to accomplish this. Of course we would follow the music and use the schedule to point us to where some of our favorite bands would be to form the overall arc of our experience, but

Ady accidentally meets Hi-Five Guy en route to Lord Huron’s set at the Quad Stage

we also resolved to ramble along and let ourselves be carried away by whim and whimsy and any other unpredictable factors—beckoning sounds emanating from another stage, weather, hunger and hydration levels, Newport Folk Festival app pop up notifications (a must have in bringing that surprise element to the festival, read “Felice Brothers at the family tent in 4 minutes!”), Ady’s brush with Hi Five Guy, and even the cryptic “Look up!” message from Deertick’s twitter account— to heavily influence our decision making.

We fielded curve balls to our plans all weekend long, and we were rewarded at every turn (this is as much thanks to the curators, producers and board of advisers of the Newport Folk Festival and their selection process as it is a testament to the caliber and musicianship level of the artists that are chosen to perform). The music is diverse, yet there is always some silken thread tying every artist to the roots of folk (Beck winning with the most creative tie-in, introducing the synthesizer about to be unleashed for “Loser” as an 80’s folk instrument).

In three days time we, the NFF-goers, took it all in from the three main stages (Harbor, Quad and Fort in order from small to large) and three intimate and very unique environments (Museum stage, which is literally a 90-some seat room with a stage set in an old

Spirit Family Reunion, Quad Stage

Joe Fletcher, Museum Stage during his Nashville to Newport curated show

Amanda Palmer at Paste Ruins (featuring Sennheiser’s sound system)

schoolhouse style building converted to a little museum; the very cool Paste Ruins, literally tucked within the walls of Fort Adams, where artists stroll in for quick 2-3 song sets, with incredible sound engineering by Sennheiser; and the Late July Family Tent hosted by Elizabeth Mitchell with special pop up guests throughout the weekend). In the end, we experienced so much music, so many styles, from so many different bands it felt as though we were handed a mix tape of the highest order.

We are still working our way through our photos and notes from the weekend so that we may document our experiences more in depth. We will continue to share them with you here and on our Facebook and Twitter accounts in the days to come. Meanwhile, many of Ady’s photo sets are already being rolled out in our Flicker gallery, including sets from Spirit Family Reunion and The Felice Brothers at both the Quad Stage and the Late July Family Tent, which you can find via those links.

. . . more to come!

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2013 Newport Folk Festival is on!

We are here in sunny/rainy/foggy/stormy/breezy (depending on what time you’re checking) lovely Newport, Rhode Island! For the past two days we have been soaking up the sights and sounds and even tastes that make up our favorite concentrated three days of non stop music, beautiful music! Newport Folk Festival of course is the star and anchor, but the revelry continues nightly with after shows (this year with Dawes and Friends at Jane Pickens Theater and nightly music hootenannies hosted by the boisterous and oh-so-fun! Deer Tick at the Newport Blues Cafe).

We’ve been documenting our special blend of Sis Diss experiences through images and words that will appear here and via our Twitter and Facebook outlets as well as the days carry on and will be shared soon. Until then, here are a few moments from the previous two days.

Review | The Newport Folk Festival: Hurry Hurry Step Right Up!

“We need a strategy,” he said as they looked over their 2012 Newport Folk Festival schedule.

Those were the very first words I heard in passing as we entered the festival grounds on Saturday morning, and he wasn’t kidding. Starting the night before—with the utopian setting sun, cool breeze off the bay and Wilco doing ultimate justice to the acoustics afforded by the old Fort Adams infrastructure—it was a whirlwind jam-packed-music-filled weekend beyond our expectations (although, we did expect it to surpass anything we hoped it to be, so we were right in that regard).

I liked imagining that it was a giant musical carnival, one filled with impromptu on-stage collaborations and surprise performances emerging among scheduled sets. Everyone dashed with excitement from stage to stage, just as one would do from ride to ride and game to game at the carnival, in attempt to catch as many diverse acts as we could, thanks in no small part to the equally music-obsessed festival organizers and producers. General consensus was that Ben Sollee, Taylor Goldsmith and Jackson Brown were the most frequently spotted wandering minstrels, though Conor Oberst and the Söderberg sisters (aka First Aid Kit) and many others randomly popped up on stages throughout the festival (collaboration is both fostered and encouraged at the festival) painting even more layers into the atmosphere.

Wilco performing at Fort Stage

Starting on Friday evening after our epic journey from Philadelphia PA, where rain and traffic and an accidental detour onto the wrong highway (by me, the guilty party) caused our drive to be almost double what we expected, we arrived into town and plunged into the myriad of events that awaited us. Wilco sounded better than ever as they opened with a punchy “Christ for President” in a nod to the festival’s celebration of Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday and the weekend blasted off from there, crowd tightly packed and on their feet at full attention.

It took every ounce of willpower for us to peel off slightly early so that we could slip back into town to catch Conor Oberst and Friends for the four hour plus set (which we will cover in more detail in a forthcoming post) at the beautiful Jane Pickens Theater. Happily, on our way on foot to the venue, we could hear the rest of the Wilco set bouncing across the water giving us a second, very different perspective of the show—a (very enjoyable) theme that would reoccur over the weekend with us seeing sets from front of stage, in the photo pit, on screen in the media tent, through portals in the old Fort Adams walls, from the backside of stages, and from the outskirts of the audience taking the entire scene in.

Night one down and already about 6 hours of live music under our belt.

[Insert post show food search and 5 hours sleep]

On Saturday we worked on our own strategy of how to properly cover the festival and take in and enjoy as much as we possibly could of the jam packed lineup. Upon entering we caught part of Brown Bird’s set on the Fort Stage, and then hurried over to the Museum Stage to see Sleepy Man Banjo Boys (truly talented beyond words already at ages 9, 13 and 14).

Sleepy Man Banjo Boys performing at the Museum Stage

From there we caught (order of appearance may be slightly askew) The Apache Relay for their super-charged set, Alabama Shakes via the screen in the media tent (amazing voice!), and looped around the other two stages, the Quad and Harbor Stages to see Jonny Corndawg, who we both thoroughly enjoyed, and Deer Tick who bowled me over. Preservation Hall Jazz Band (who were joined onstage with Pete Seeger’s grandson, Tao Rodríguez-Seeger and Ben Sollee), I immediately fell crazy in love with. I also did some serious people watching during their set because I really enjoyed seeing how physically affected by the music everyone was—dancing like mad and smiling during the oldtimey upbeat tunes one minute, then moved enough to exchange kisses and embraces during the slower ones the next.

The Apache Relay performing at the Harbor Stage

Jonny Corndawg performing at the Quad Stage

Preservation Hall Jazz Band performing at the Fort Stage

Deer Tick performing at Quad Stage

We later caught the entire First Aid Kit set, memorized just like everyone else. Johanna and Klara are like watching sparkling gems, lovely in sight and sound and full of grace as they belt out some of the most beautiful sounds imaginable. In a surprise, but slightly anticipated guest appearance, Conor Oberst took the stage to help finish the set with a bang during “King of the World” (a little side note, if only the The Felice Brothers could have been there for it, too!).

First Aid Kit performing at Harbor Stage

First Aid Kit

Conor Oberst joins First Aid Kit at Harbor Stage

We also caught bits of Honey Honey and later enjoyed sitting in the grass, listening to the story telling and songs by Arlo Guthrie and family as they celebrated the life of Woody Guthrie. All of this, and about 5 times of the amount of music we saw was going on elsewhere simultaneously, including Conor Oberst’s surprise set in the Kids Tent (tip: get the NFF App and PAY ATTENTION to the alerts they push during the festival!)

Jim James/My Morning Jacket performing at Fort Stage as the rain rolls in

. . . and the rain did roll in. (Shan, Ady and Kristi inside the BBQ tent)

As the evening marched on, the rain flooded Newport just like the music did, which cut loose right at the end of My Morning Jacket’s closing set on the main stage. During their set, I was excited to see Preservation Hall Jazz Band join them on stage. Jim James and co barreled through the songs as we watched through a tiny portal window inside the fort where we made new friends along the way. Finally the crowds dispersed during a powerful end to the set when the torrential storm picked up even more. We were able to keep semi dry until we realized we needed our passes to enter the intimate Backstage BBQ that immediately followed the festival, at which point we took off on foot to obtain them. When we arrived back at the fort, we, along with everyone else (including our friend Kristi who we had planned to me up there) were soaked from head to toe, but not deterred of our eagerness for yet another segment of the evening to begin.

In short, the BBQ was almost entirely cancelled due to the storm, but for those of us who decided to wait out another round of storms and remain, we watched as one by one musicians rose to the challenge to resurrect the evening with only their voices and acoustic instruments (and some hand claps too). A few highlights from the Backstage BBQ included off the cuff performances from Eric George, Joe Fletcher, Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion , Jim James, Ben Sollee, Spirit Family Reunion with many others. When it was all over we made our way through the tunnel exit which, just hours prior was reportedly under, if memory serves me correctly, at least 18 inches of water. The BBQ itself, in my opinion worth the price of the entire weekend itself just to be present for an event that is sure to go down in NFF legend and history, will be covered in its own separate post in the next few days, including a full photo set. Until then, a sneak peak into the night:

Another full day of music still lay ahead of us the next day including one of the three Deer Tick after parties, but a few events occurred that were out of our control caused us to leave the next morning to be with family. I’d say that we were thoroughly disappointed to miss out on day three (we were) but what we experienced while there was so incredible that we did not leave feeling empty in any way. We did however, begin our countdown to the 2013 NFF, undoubtedly the best and most inspiring festival we’ve ever attended, the moment we left.

Until next year, Newport Folk Festival. We love you!

To see more photos the above bands you can find them on our 2012 Newport Folk Festival photo collection on Flickr. (If you don’t find a set you are looking for check back as we are continuing to upload photo sets as the days go by).