Now we’re wrapping up our Newport Folk Festival coverage with the final day of a ridiculously great weekend… and with our favorite #1 Top of the Pops discovery of the weekend. But first, the soulful and spiritual stylings of Kim and Reggie Harris.
Thankfully we decided to get out of the sun and sit down for the start of our day (we’re not lazy! Just extra restful) and caught this wife and husband duo in the Museum Stage. To be perfectly honest here… we absolutely enjoyed ourselves at their set. The two have great, powerful voices (they didn’t really need mics), great powerful songs (Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger), and a humble presence about them. They were incredibly good, and we feel that sometimes the older generation gets supplanted musically even while they still have so much more to say. Unlike Dylan. Bob Dylan can get supplanted already. We planted ourselves here for the whole set, though.
And while we were in the Museum, look who stopped by!
It took us a few moments (okay approximately none) to recognize this otherwise recognizable gent with our recognizant recognition. Nick Offerman was still at the Folk Fest! And yes, he strapped up and sang.
Offerman was no less surprised than us that he played folk songs at Newport; his sense of awe and irony on this stage certainly had not failed him. He took these few moments to play the more profanity-laden songs of the entire Folk Fest, perhaps upwards of 65% vulgarity of all the sets combined, and serenaded us with Jesus flasks, Jesus three-somes, and his wife’s 50th birthday present song (maybe the most profane of the three?). But Offerman took the last song to sing a Tom Waits cover, because, let’s face it, when you’re at the Newport Folk Fest, you can only monkey around on stage so much (even if your name is Nick Offerman). We suspect his bucket list is now more than halfway checked off: congrats, good sir. Welcome to Newport.
Next: welcome to the Chuck Tribute.
Chuck as in Berry. He passed away mid-March this year, and the Folk Festival needed to do a tribute set on the legendary Rock and Roller. Needed to. So take the Texas Gentleman, stir in some Kam Franklin and Charlie Sexton (above), sprinkle a little Jim James (aka Johnny Not B. Goode) and you have a rousing rendition of Berry’s most famous.
This here’s Pinegrove, which we felt were a fairly decent indie rock band. We included them for two reasons: a photo of a Black and White Cookie dress, which we thought was kind of funny and cute. And two, because we like that the Folk Fest keeps reaching out for new acts, it keeps trying for new sounds and the undiscovered, and while Pinegrove didn’t fall flat, certainly not, we didn’t feel a special connection here. They were fine, but we were looking for great and amazing. Still, we appreciate that Newport is a melting pot of different directions, and is always trying something new. That’s the important part. If it were all sets of Jim James and Fleet Foxes and the big acts, we’d get bored at some point. Not too bored, but it’s that discovery we need every now and then.
Next up is a bigger act.
We didn’t really get Michael Kiwanuka’s debut LP, but we totally got his Newport set. It felt like spacey, cool indie stuff, much of it instrumental. We like how he’s progressed, and admittedly, Kiwanuka fell of the radar for us after his 2012 Home Again, but we know we have to give it one more listen, and search out his 2016 Love & Hate.
There was an unannouced set as well. The rumors were flying: Bruce Springsteen. Neil Young. Glenn Miller. It was Nathaniel Rateliff and his Night Sweats. We’re thankful we caught some photos of Rateliff, as he’s a serious soul-feeling kind of man. And his dance moves prove it. (See below.) His was likely the craziest crowd at the Harbor stage: it ran at least the length of the whole seating under the tent, perhaps an extra half, as well. We could barely get within hearing distance of Rateliff, except to shoot photos for a few brief moments. Another congratulations on success here.
We have two more stops left. Our #1 of the whole weekend. We were totally taken by her jazzy, incredibly gorgeous and powerful vocals. Here she is, formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Miss Rhiannon Giddens.
Her set was a total knock out of the park. Absolutely our favorite, with a little sway here, a bit of kick there. Mavis Staples agreed: the two of them sung “Freedom Highway” off her new LP of the same name, which we bought in vinyl immediately after the folk fest. She’s good in studio, but brilliant and incredible live. She appeared next weekend in the Jazz Fest, which we didn’t catch, but we loved loved loved her performance this weekend. An amazing performer, and we caught all of her songs in this set.
We’ve got to jump to legendary songwriter, this gentle-folk right here, John Prine:
If there was a theme to his set, “It’s Love Love Love,” something he’d felt the world needed. He sang his own “Glory of True Love,” among others. This was our first time seeing him live, and we’re a little tongue-tied. We don’t know what to say! If you know John Prine, you know this was a big deal landing him in Newport (again… and again…) and we were remiss to miss him in ’10. But he’s a legend, a hero in folk, and we cannot overstate this enough. Yet another thanks goes out to Jay Sweet, for his contribution to the Folk Fest and its lineup.
That’s it. All of it. Toodles – except wait. We have one last parting thought, and we wanted to thank y’all, our small handful of blog viewers, and the larger crowd of music-listening folk. We, the listeners, are the reason we have music, of course: music that uplifts, music that challenges the status-quo, music that drags us from the deepest pits and gets us on our feet again. To us, at the blog, music is sweet honey and nectar, with Newport’s Folk Fest simply the cream on it all. It’s something we know we couldn’t live without, and again, our mission is for people of our mindset – and people who casually listen to it – to find the best of the best, to spend your limited budget on the music that really is honey and nectar, not the stuff that dreams are made up, but the dream realized. We see this music through a prism of our own writing, and we feel we understand some of its importance to the musicians themselves; and perhaps we understand somewhat what these musicians hope to bring to others, to their audiences and beyond.
And in our political environment, we feel change is afoot. Folk music has been on the cusp of this political change for decades and decades. Perhaps it’ll guide us yet through these violent, crowded times?
We hope so. And Newport has always been seeking for the voices to put our thoughts to these words. Until next year,