We think this is as good a spot as any to wax wistful. Why not, right? Over the years, we’ve gone over what the Newport Folk Festival means to us: music, fans, artists, and rain on occasion. But this year was a little different.
It was Saturday morning, snoozing in the shade, where we were met by a fellow Newport Folk Fest photographer. She had missed the first day, and maybe was hoping to catch a familiar face when we felt the tap on our leg.
Imagine a quick “hey.”
Or a pretty lengthy chat. We caught up, on life and on music, and crossed paths at a few of the stages. She’s a medical student, and has on rare occasion written and photographed various concerts in the area. It was nice to catch another friendly face.
Which leads us to our next point, where Newport differs from other ‘fests: it’s a friendly environment. We’d spoken at length to the other photographers in the photo pit, and where there can be open animosity to get the best shot, Newport is different.
“People are polite. They move around and let you through.” (Paraphrased.)
And there’s something to be said about that, about a congenial environment where everyone’s here to do their job, and there’s an unspoken (or in several cases literally spoken) respect. And where does that respect come from? The top, of course.
There is great respect for the musicians at the show, respect for the fans who keep showing, and even though we’ve heard some frustrations that other photographers have had over the course of this weekend, there is respect there, too. For those in, and those running the photo pits. And that’s something that doesn’t just happen overnight, it doesn’t just appear like a genie, it’s something that, actually, we just noticed this year. And that respect is, yes, something we respect.
Anyway, enough sidetracking, we know. We’ve got photos and musical advice to get to. Our first photo for Saturday being Rayland Baxter (all photos (c) Matthew Keefer):
|Rayland Baxter, main stage.
And our second photo is of Ruby Amanfu…
|And Ruby Amanfu, Harbor stage.
Rayland Baxter is your fairly typical alt-rocker, opening the main stage, and Ruby Amanfu is your fairly atypical, almost soul-style singer on a side stage. Amanfu was a backup singer for Beyonce and has broken into her own career; Baxter was fine enough, but set us off in search of shade (where we met aforementioned photographer). We mention this because, yes, there are great acts that come to Newport. Doesn’t mean we dig everything.
Note: the surprise cameo of Chris Ryan (from Deer Tick) and the not-shown cameo of Dennis Ryan (also Deer Tick) at Miss Amanfu’s stage. These guys were cameo’ing every stage.
And speaking of cameos… we’d heard Kris Kristofferson had graced the Texas Gentleman’s stage (who were the last signatures we’d picked up on Sunday). But we don’t have photos of Mr. Kristofferson. We do, however, have photos of this howler:
Nathaniel Rateliff and his Night Sweats have returned to Newport to boogie away your blues. And they certainly had: playing a handful off their self-titled full-length, this set was everything we wanted from the Missourinian. They even orchestrated a sing-along to “Howling at the Moon,” which, of course, is our favorite song off that LP.
The tragedy with having three incredible stages of music is having to jump around a lot. Our next stop was Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, aka Lady Lamb nee Aly Spaltro. Here’s one of the diminutive singer:
|We be jammin’.
Yes, she really is that adorable AWWWWW. Case in point:
“You guys [referring to the rhythm section] want to jam something so I can braid my hair?”
(They lay a beat. Then Spaltro proceeds to attempt braiding hair. Realizes not enough time to finish.)
Adorable, indeed. We still miss her a bit from a Providence show we’d caught her at some years back. Jammable, definitely indie-lyric’ed tunes to her.
But if you want a song that you know, that your neighbor knows, that everyone in the whole freaking tent knows… then you go to this old geezer.
|The man who is Folk.
We don’t anticipate you’ll recognize him at first glance. So: three hints. First word: yummy sweet honey ____ cracker. Second word: country nexus, ____ville, Tennessee. Hint # 3…
“I’ll light the fire, while / you place the flowers in the vase / that you bought today.”
You don’t even need to guess. The audience didn’t need to guess; all they needed to do was sing along to the classics that Graham Nash helped pen. We already said that St. Paul and the Broken Bones was our pick of the whole festival… we think we lied a bit. He was our discovery of the festival, and a great one, too.
Graham Nash was the Newport Folk Festival. Hands down. With Shane Fontayne, they played some new, played some old, but mostly, they just played, and the audience sang along. It was a bit maddening that Mr. Nash was on the back stage, but that didn’t really disturb us; it was a lot more intimate at that stage. A lot more enjoyable. Mr. Nash even quipped – “It’s ironic that we – two Brits – are playing at a colonial fort initially intended to keep us out,” (paraphrased, of course). And then Nash and Fontayne proceeded to play a song about immigration. On point, good sir.
We have one last highlight, which may be a bit of a let-down after the N of CSNY, but we have to tread here, because, quite frankly, he’s pretty hilarious.
|Jesus-attired economic preacher, here.
He adore Father John Misty. We like that he’s sardonic, ironical, nonsensical. We like that he’s a bit preachy, even, shooting himself in the foot for pointing out all the oil that goes into making his own vinyls (and for lambasting consumerism in general). We like him.
And you know, this is where we say… “but.”
But no, no “but” here. Sure, there were a couple kids on the Pokemon Go during his set (whom we were tempted to chastise) and perhaps his solo output isn’t as beautiful and velvety as the brief Fleet Foxes catalog. But we like to put it this way: Graham Nash is the protester of old. Father John Misty, then, is the hip hipster protester of new.
He’s fighting the good fight, we feel (even if he is just a hipster of sorts) and for that, we give him props and last billing for Saturday. Well, that and he was the last act we caught (chronology counts for something).
That’s it for Saturday! We’re going to type up our Sunday review and round-up as soon as possible, that is, within the next 3 months certainly.
Back right soon!