The Newport Folk Fest is an exceedingly difficult festival to cover, considering there are three main stages, two sub-stages, a little indentation in the fort for other acts… it’s just a lot to cover. Trying to catch it all is nigh-impossible, or maybe wholly impossible. That’s probably more accurate. So we’ve come up with a top five moments of the festival that we caught – if only we were an army of people planting down at each stage. Like NPR. Actually, you can still probably catch a lot of this stuff online, though unfortunately it is a tad less live. Anyway, let’s start off with number five:
|Orton going solo on Sunday. Copyright Julie Markowitz
There wasn’t a huge turnout for Beth Orton’s set, and some of the crowd seemed indifferent to her poignant lyricism and Joni Mitchel-styled guitar. We do feel she has a lot in common with the ubiquitous female folk-star, minus the wild, shifting vocals. But there is one thing we got from her set: that we like Beth Orton. She’s not the most popular, and her voice is something husky, like Cat Power’s Chan Marshall, but she still maintains an intensity – check her out on “Something More Beautiful” – a type of intensity that goes from soft lullaby to burning songstress and back again. It’s mellow talent that she’s got, something that’s hard to pick out, and she’s absolutely an acquired taste, but one definitely worth acquiring. We’re sorry we weren’t able to stick around longer.
Number four: It’s in his name. You, at first, suspect it has to do with something else, someone else, maybe someone has given him a false nickname. But no, it is quite appropriate, and it sticks like glue.
|And on Sunday, his mouth rests. For a minute. Copyright J Markowitz
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, you old coot. He’s a man packed full of stories, and if we counted right, he got in four more of them than he did songs. We’re not really sure about that, actually, but he was a hoot to listen to: stories about hitchhiking with a madman through Europe; stories about Woodie and Arlo Guthrie; stories about sailing backwards on a boat he purchased in Massachusetts; just stories, a lot of stories. Did you hear the one about the driving husky? AUGH! But you can’t hold it against the man, he is, after all, quite old. He’d probably make a good grandfather with all his tangential ramblings. We’d strongly suggest checking out his set if you’d like to see how to banter with the audience; he’s well-practiced at that.
Number three: We don’t have a picture of this for you, because it makes for an awful picture, but Jim James’ set… well. We adore his new album, and he played through quite a bit of it, for as long as we were watching. Still, something about a grown man, in a suit, dancing awkwardly with some black kerchief on his head… well, here he is minus kerchief:
|Jim James, you handsome devil, you. Copyright J Markowitz.
Taking out his Sunday – erm, Saturday best, and taking out all his dance moves which is perhaps best described as waltzing with a woman-sized piece of sheetrock. Flat, I guess, is what we’re trying to say. It was a bit unusual, perhaps, but Mr. James seems like an unusual (though not altogether nutty) guy. Yeah, we still like his music. Rock on, mate.
Number two: Deer Tick frontman John McCauley had a phenomenal set on Friday. Acoustic, out of his normal element: absolutely stunning. He played favorites, he played some Ellington, even played Margaritaville with his moms! All of this and more, except about the fourth song into the set – snap! – SH#T. We suspect it was one of those moments of drinker’s clarity he must’ve had when he realized he didn’t bring an extra string – or guitar, for that matter – and that he would have to chug along until someone rectified the situation. Like five songs later. Here’s the chap tuning up on stage.
|“I helped plan the festival, but can’t plan to bring a few strings.” Real quote. Copyright Lauren Burke
Poor McCauley! He asked for requests and kept having to reply “I need another string to play that one.” But he managed to find a few on his five-stringer. It was our favorite of his, having seen him several times (actually, perhaps Middle Brother a couple years back…).
And number one, definitely the top dog here.
|They’re having just too much fun. Too much. Copyright J Markowitz
This is the Lone Bellow.
This is the audience on the Lone Bellow.
|WOOOOOO! Copyright J Markowitz
Any qu- actually, this is only a couple songs in. These guys (and gal) absolutely nailed it. We were hearing all throughout the day, and the next, how the Lone Bellow absolutely killed their set on Saturday. For a band with a debut album, we were just blown away at their energy and what they whipped up in the audience. Spoiler alert: they actually got the audience…and me… to sing Edwin McCain. Folk style, yo. If it’s still up YOU MUST CHECK OUT THIS SET. Here’s one more shot of frontman Zach Williams inciting a riot here:
|LISTEN! Does anyone have deodorant? Copyright J Markowitz
It was our first time hearing them and we came away with a signed tee… very happy.
We can’t say it was the best year of the Folk Fest, we definitely can’t say that. But was it worth our money? Certainly. This year was more a year of discovering new acts; and while all of them weren’t great acts, we came away exhausted and pleased. Here’s to a great Folk Fest, and we’re going to dump some photos on you tomorrow. Hope you enjoy!