Music

Newport Folk Scores High Marks with Favorites and Well Curated New Draws

Newport offered sets from favorites like Ryan Adams, Glen Hansard, Flight of the Conchords and chances to see new acts.


Newport Folk Festival

City: Newport, RI
Venue: Fort Adams State Park

The 2016 Newport Folk Festival, like pretty much all recent incarnations, sold out before any artist had been announced to play at Fort Adams State Park. People have come to trust that current festival producer Jay Sweet will bring in great acts. This year, at least in my book, Sweet hit it out of the ballpark. Every day offered at least one must see act. Every day, I discovered at least one new band that I intend to keep an eye out for in the future. And every day offered surprise sets and welcomed guest appearances that are to be expected at a festival that considers its alumni family.

Friday: Flight of the Conchords and Raury

My must see band Friday was the headliners, Flight of the Conchords. I hadn't seen the comedic stylings of New Zealand's most popular (though they may be too shy to admit it) folk duo in a long while. The climax of their set was their take on the "Outlaw Pete" story, "The Ballad of Stana" (Stana being an anagram of Satan, so you know the character will be bad). The romping western tune trailed along for over ten minutes (if not longer) as Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie stared out into the bay. But they also incorporated unique versions of classics into their set, mixing things up on "Robots", "Bowie" and "Too Many Dicks" at least.

He might have been the first set I saw at Newport but Raury made an immediate impact -- it was clear that he and his drummer captivated the crowd under the Quad stage tent. Raury was the first artist previewed on Bob Boilen's "All Songs Considered" Newport preview and he had won over Sweet with a performance on late night tv. At Newport, his mix of guitar folk and hip-hop included songs like "Peace Prevail" off his debut All We Need and saw him running across the stage and pining for a girl he hasn't seen in a while. The kid began his music career fresh out of high school and is definitely on an upward trajectory.

Saturday Ryan Adams and Margo Price

Saturday had an abundance of great music to offer including headliner Patti Smith. I didn't stay for her entire set as she conveyed a similar simmering anger as she had during the Lincoln Center set I saw just a few days prior. But it was clear the audience were eager to see her -- before the fest, Sweet had been chided for seemingly subjecting Smith to people's requests that she play the fest (though he didn't actually).

Beyond Smith, I had most been looking forward to seeing Ryan Adams with the Infamous Stringdusters featuring Nicki Bluhm. The first time I saw Adams was at the Fort two years prior, around the release of his self-titled album. I had been familiar with only a little bit of his work as he took the stage but within a few seconds of hearing "Gimme Something Good" I was smitten (that album remains a regular listen). Adams changed things up this year and jammed out with a more folksy band.

Adams however didn't stick to folk -- he opened up with "South of Heaven" by Slayer and closed with a Black Sabbath tune. Along the way he satisfied my need for something good and he drummed up a song off the cuff. After commenting on the sounds from a louder band at another stage, Adams misheard someone in the crowd shouting "Frightened Rabbits" (the name of that band) and turned it into "Frightened and Rabid" asking "did I write that one?" before going with it. That the man can be so off the cuff and gleefully self-deprecating makes every moment between songs worth paying attention to. [A stream of Adams' set is available at NPR.]

Though I had heard of her, I hadn't had a chance to see Margo Price before Newport. Her debut Midwest Farmer's Daughter has gotten positive reviews and she began her "shit kicking" set with "Tennesse Song" (she's Nashville based). The ten song Americana / hillbilly set included covers of Gram Parsons' "Ooh Las Vegas", Jessi Colter’s “Why You Been Gone So Long” and one she rarely played called "Hands of Time" which featured the addition of a string quartet (who had been performing with other acts throughout the weekend). She too won over the crowd under the Quad Stage tent (not even including her duet with Kris Kristofferson earlier alongside Texas Gentlemen).

Sunday Glen Hansard and Hayes Carll

If I had only seen Glen Hansard's set the whole weekend, I would have been just as happy. It wasn't that it was one of the best he's ever done, I wish it had been longer and it lacked a few favorites like "Pennies in the Fountain". But he is one of the most earnest performers, telling stories about his family he then wanted to have cut from the broadcast, and his solo set included "Didn't He Ramble" plus the two best-known Swell Season songs ("Falling Slowly" and "When Your Mind's Made Up". But it wasn't long before he welcomed out Curtis Fowlkes on trombone to accompany him. Later on, Hansard sought out someone who could play percussion, which led to an appearance by Elvis Costello to help out on "Lowly Deserter".

Hansard's closed out his set with an audience sing-along on for "Her Mercy" and then went into "The Auld Triangle". During this finale, Hansard invited one very lucky Irish chap up from the crowd to join him, Costello (who had returned), Fowlkes and Jocie Adams (Arc Iris) in swapping verses.

On Saturday, I watched Hayes Carll do a few songs with his girlfriend Allison Moore at the Museum Stage during a song swap session with Shovels & Rope. Their first number was an Everly Brothers cover and their warm down-home country vibes encouraged me to catch up with him on Sunday. Carll has been making music for at least fifteen years and his latest album Lovers and Leavers is his fifth. His twelve song set included somber and sometimes tongue in cheek songs like “Drunken Poet’s Dream” and “Jesus and Elvis” with Moore joining him again.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image