Tag Archives: Newport Folk Festival

Newport Folk Festival Part 3: Overall Thoughts

Overall, the Folk Festival was a ton of fun and definitely worth attending.  I do think the ticket prices were a bit steep.  Supposedly, at least according to the Boston Globe, there were only 8,000 people on Saturday and 7,500 on Sunday.  I find that hard to believe as there seemed to be a whole lot more people there than that (and I’m not including the boats).  Regardless of how many people were in attendance, the festival was a great time.  I got to see a lot of new artists and a lot of current favorites.  A lot of people were upset by the fact that it wasn’t folk music.  However, the vast majority of the performers were influenced, at least in part, by folk music.  Some were folkier than others, but most of them definitely had a noticeable connection to folk music.

There was a little shopping area with lots of vendor tents selling their wares.  I wish they had invited more local artists rather than people from other states.  This would have been a great opportunity to showcase some of RI’s own artists who sell their stuff at the Providence Open Market and other local events.  The event was mostly corporate-free, though the whole VIP thing kind of bugged me.  There’s nothing worse than a bunch of yuppies showing up in their nice clothes hanging out in a special section.  Or having a section roped off in front of the soundboard that remains mostly empty because the VIP’s don’t care about the performers on the stage (though it was full for Buffett, and only Buffett).  I understand the need to support the festival and selling super expensive VIP tickets is one way to do it (and avoid seriously corporatizing the event), it’s not cool to prevent the real fans from being able to have the good seats by roping off a special VIP section.  It was empty with the exception of about 2 people during the Black Crowes set.  It’s that kind of thing that pisses me off.  Music has become too corporatized, even the most revered events, such as the Newport Folk Festival.  I did get a laugh out of people ruining their $300 shoes (no exaggeration) in the mud trying to escape while the true music lovers were enjoying the music and having an all-around good time regardless of what the weather brought.

Other than that, it was a good time.  I would definitely go again so long as the lineup is just as good.  I have also decided that I don’t care if I ever see Jimmy Buffett again.  This was a great show because of the opportunity to do things differently and collaborate, but it was too similar to the show I saw last summer.  I can understand the people who go every year to have a great time, but it’s not worth the price of his tickets.  I was able to get a 2 day ticket for the festival for just $50 more than the ticket to the Buffett show at Gilette (though I didn’t get the cheap tickets for his show because I wanted to have some chance at seeing the stage).

My favorite performances of the weekend (in no particular order):

You should check them out if you haven’t already.

Newport Folk Festival Part 2: Sunday

When Sunday came, we were so exhausted from the previous day that we ended up sleeping in a bit, but I still wanted to get on the road.  We left a lot later than I had planned, but still made it to the festival site much earlier than the previous day.  We actually had a great parking space in a lot much closer to the site than where we parked on Saturday.  I imagine this was because the majority of the people wanting to attend Sunday’s show were only going to see Jimmy Buffett, which, in my opinion, was quite sad because they missed out on a ton of great music.

We got there and settled in and listened to Willy Mason, a local musician from Martha’s Vineyard.  We were so impressed by his music, we bought one of his CD’s and got his autograph (and I told him he had to play Providence soon).  He had kind of this folky/country/rootsy sound with someone playing the saw.  He’s definitely family oriented with his brother on drums and he brought out his parents to help sing a song (his mother told him to remind everyone that they were selling CD’s).

After that, I wanted to see The Honors on the Harbor Stage.  They were nothing special.  In fact, I wish I had skipped their act to see all of Brandi Carlile.  She had an amazing voice and a great band.  We were able to catch a couple songs and her encore after we decided The Honors weren’t worth hanging around for (even their stage presence was awful).  Susan ended up buying the CD from Brandi Carlile and got her autograph as well.

We were wandering around and I decided to check out Richard Julian while we ate our hot dogs.  He was on the smallest of the 3 stages.  He reminded me a bit of Paul Simon.  His voice was great and his music fun, with some nifty lyrics.  He had a great song about traveling the world and never being able to get away from the United States.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have any albums at the table.

We left his tent to see the end of Calexico, which had this mariachi/latin feel to it.  They were a lot of fun, but really freakin’ loud (I don’t know if it was just the guy on the sound board or the band itself, but it was loud).

Following Calexico was Gillian Welch, probably the only truly folk singer of the entire festival.  She was just awesome.  Lots of folk, a little bluegrass, and a great voice.

Following her, I wanted to catch some of Son Volt.  We ended up listening to some of it.  They were good, though I don’t know why they were invited (other than to draw people).  I enjoyed the few songs I heard before headed back to the main stage for Levon Helm.

Levon was the highlight of the festival for me.  He was spot on.  His band was spot on.  He had his daughter singing and playing drums when he wasn’t.  He had Larry Campbell on guitar, Teresa Williams on acoustic, and brought out pretty much everyone from earlier in the day.  He brought out Little Sammy Davis for a few songs.  He played some of his newer stuff, some traditional stuff (“Deep Elem Blues”), and a bunch of stuff from The Band (“The Weight,” “Rag Mama Rag,” “Ophelia,” and some others that I can’t remember).

Finally, came Jimmy Buffett.  The crowd grew in size and the Parrotheads were all over the place (that means lots of frat boys and middle aged people acting like frat boys).  They must have passed out Landshark Lager flags to all the boats because they all had one.  This was a much better setting for Buffett than Gilette Stadium.  He opened up with just him and his guitar playing “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw”.  He seemed to have a great time and played all the usuals, as well as some other tunes I was glad to hear, including “Come Monday” and “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes”.  He brought out Jake Shimabukuro, a ukelelist from Hawaii who had played the smaller stage earlier in the day, for most of the set.  The encore was “One Particular Harbor” followed by the band leaving the stage and Jimmy telling a story about how Dylan plugged in and was boo’d at the festival many years ago and how he was honored to hear that Dylan had played “A Pirate Looks at 40” in Hawaii.  So he was going to play acoustic for us and do a tribute to Dylan.  He played “Blowin’ in the Wind,” a fitting song considering the lyrics and what this country is going through.  That was the highlight of his set for me, though a close second was “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” played by Shimabukuro and the steel drummer.

We left and headed straight home afterwards and just got take out in Providence for dinner and then passed out.

Newport Folk Festival Part 1: Saturday

As anyone who reads my tweets knows, I attended the Newport Folk Festival this past weekend.  I skipped the opening night on Friday with Brian Wilson, but attended both Saturday and Sunday.  Unfortunately, I was not able to see all the performances, but I did catch a lot of them.  Please excuse the fact that I can’t remember setlists or any real details for many of the performances as I took in a lot of music over the course of the 2 days, in addition to lots of rain and sun.  I’m writing this review in 3 parts.  The first will be a general review of Saturday, the second will be of Sunday, and the third will be of my overall impression and any other thoughts

We arrived a little late on Saturday, arriving at the gates at 11:35, 5 minutes into the Cowboy Junkies set on the main stage, one I wanted to see (not having known anything about them other than that they’re supposed to be pretty good).  I was very impressed by them and plan on buying some of their albums.  The music was more rock-ish, though kind of an alt-folk/alt-country sound.  The lead singer has a killer voice.  We setup our chairs and settled in at the main stage where most of the performances I wanted to see would be held.

Following their set, we went over to the Harbor stage to check out Jakob Dylan.  Unfortunately, his set started late (as we had wanted to see half of his and half of Richie Havens).  His voice has come a long way since the first Wallflowers album.  He sounds more like his father, though with a more melodic voice.  He was awesome and the crowd seemed to love him.  I didn’t recognize anything but “Three Marlenas” and a Bob Dylan tune, to which I can’t remember the name.

Headed over to the main stage to catch Richie Havens.  We got there just as he was finishing up his set with “Freedom,” the Woodstock staple.  Luckily, he came back to play an encore, which was a medley of something I can’t remember and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.  Richie Havens is a staple of folk fests and an absolutely enthralling performer.  I managed to get his autograph on his latest album and my picture taken with him.

Following his set, we decided to find some food and wandered around and ended up at the Greek stand to get gyros, while we waited for Trey to come on.  He came on and got the crowd going.  Read my tweets for my version of the setlist (which isn’t completely accurate, but close).  My favorites from his set were the Phish tunes.  I’m not very impressed by a lot of his solo stuff.  It’s just not quite as good.  The best tunes were “Bathtub Gin,” “Wilson” (which had everyone chanting), “Sample in a Jar,” and “Chalkdust Torture”.  He seemed to be having a great time, but didn’t really get things going until halfway through his set.  He played a new song called “Peggy” and an old one he write with Tom Marshall many years ago that had never been performed called “If I Could Be a Sailor”.  He said he had to sing it because of all the boats he was staring at from the stage.

During his set, it began to rain a bit and following his set, it was a torrential downpour with lots of heavy wind and lightning.  Susan and I decided that we would stay (it was actually my decision), but would grab our stuff and bring it to the car to stay dry (didn’t want my camera, phone, or wallet to be soaked).  We walked it to the car because the line for the shuttle was long.  Dropped it off and just as we got there, the shuttle was just getting to the lot.  We took it back and enjoyed the rest of the day.  The Marleys were supposed to be on next, but their bus got stuck on the bridge and the brought the American Babies up on stage.  I really enjoyed the couple songs I heard from them, kind of a rootsy rock.  When the Marleys made it, the rain had started to die off and eventually it was nice again.  By the time The Black Crowes took the stage late, the sun was out.  Unfortunately, they couldn’t play an encore, but their set was awesome.

We walked back to the car, having dried of a bit, but our feet were sore and wet.  We decided to go out to dinner and went to Coddington Brewing in Middletown.  I’ll give that its own post.

Schedule Posted for Folk Fest

The schedule was posted for the Newport Folk Festival.  I now have to figure out who I want to see.  Perhaps some of you readers know some of the acts and can point me in the right direction.

View Schedule

I plan on seeing the Cowboy Junkies, Trey (if he plays Runaway Jim, I will cream in my pants), and the Black Crowes on the first day.  I want to see both Richie Havens and Jakob Dylan, so I’ll likely watch half of each.

The second day is more confusing… I know I’m going to check out Levon Helm (The Band is probably my favorite group ever, aside from Phish, of course), though I will check out the first half of the Son Volt set, and I know we’ll end up at the Buffett set, completely skipping the Avett Brothers to hopefully scout out a good seat for Jimmy (pun intended).

This is my first music festival ever.  I wish they had set times the same for each stage, and no overlapping sets (though I guess that’s so they don’t end up with set breaks on all 3 stages at the same times).  If any of you readers wouldn’t mind taking a look at the schedule and give your suggestions in the comments, I’d greatly appreciate it.  When I have the time, I plan on looking up each of the artists and figuring out who sounds the most interesting.

I suppose I should also print out a copy of the schedule to bring with me so I know who it is I’m watching.  Anyway, thanks in advance for the suggestions (Jenny, I’m hoping you actually read this and make some suggestions).