Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Newport Folk Festival: Day 3

I have really been digesting July’s events at Newport over the past few weeks. Sunday was a day that surprised me 10 fold from what my expectations were and it’s taken me a bit of time to really get some words down around it all. Maybe I just wanted to try and keep the feeling deep in my chest that I was feeling all weekend long and therefore, postponing writing up my Day 3 review to keep it there. Maybe, maybe it’s just laziness and real life kicking back in…but alas, here it is, my day 3 at Newport Folk Festival 2013. Til next year...

I did quite a bit of wandering on Sunday, but kicked it off by running with our stuff to the Fort stage to set up camp (my wife and mom are big Lumineers fans – me, not so much- and wanted to get a good spot…and I have learned, you don’t disagree with the two most important ladies in your life). After that I hit up the open mic again, hoping to catch some untapped talent in the Museum and again, it didn’t let me down. I ran into my friends Ian Fitzgerald and Courtney Gallagher singing a tune which was especially welcome!

The Wheeler Brothers were a really pleasant surprise for me (and the lady fell in love with these guys). They played great indie rock n’ roll tunes, had an excellent stage presence and just genuinely seemed to enjoy playing and being on stage together. My lady stuck around for much of their set, while I ventured elsewhere. Heading back to the Fort stage I was greeted by the soulful sounds of gospel music pouring over the crowd like a wave heading back into the harbor waters beyond. I am not at all a religious person, but the way the Berklee gospel choir performs is hard not to be moved by their music in at least a visceral if not spiritual way. After a bit of zoning out and being completely taken up by their songs I headed to hang around the Paste Ruins and Fort Stage to await Spirit Family Reunion. Cold Specks was performing, and while I aim to not be negative in the blog, this was sadly one of the less inspiring performances that I caught all weekend. What could have potentially been a really great and soul-filled performance fell a bit flat for me.  I guess having a solo act on a larger stage environment may have had something to do with that as well, but I do look forward to catching her again and digging deeper into her music and gain better insight on what she is all about.

Luckily, I would not be disappointed long as I headed up to the photo pit for Spirit Family Reunion. These guys were last year’s sweethearts and ABSOLUTELY blew the crowd away on the Harbor stage (yes, I cried like a girl watching them do so…I have never been more proud of a group of independent musicians and folks I have seen perform at smaller spaces in the past). They did not disappoint, and played a slew of old favorites and great new tunes. Energy levels were at top notch, they had the crowd dancing, and the band was prime as always. No tears shed in 2013 during their set, but I have to say that it was really great to see them as a crowd favorite this year.

I cut through back stage to catch the legendary Ramblin’ Jack Elliot talking to a huge crowd and singing songs and was delighted. My pal Ian Fitzgerald (named 1 of my top 5 albums thus far on 2013...check that out and I hung around to enjoy the set. The acceptance from the crowd was just awe-inspiring to me. Thousands of people sitting and listening to Jack as he told stories of driving cross the country, throwing a song in, and then rambling on again. It really was a magical moment...Alynda from Hurray for the Riff Raff was even just hanging out next to us and enjoying as well. One of the more magic moments of the weekend for me where performing artists were mingling with the crowd and just as inspired by someone like Ramblin' Jack as I. Wonderful, wonderful stuff and what the true meaning of Newport is all about for me.

Michael Kiwanuka was up next on the fort stage and I was able to groove out to his excellent tunes for a while. That being said I had heard that I MUST SEE Bombino perform, so I took a break from MK at the big stage to check him out. I was completely thrilled to see my pal Avi Salloway up on stage smiling, dancing, singing, and blowing his harp. Always good to see truly good folks involved in this fest...and Bombino was pretty great as well!

That last set we caught (sorry we didn't stick around for Beck!) was the Lumineers.Whilst I may not have been a huge fan of The Lumineers music before the fest, I can definitely say I respected the band, their music, and sensibility to "make it" in the industry. However, after the band asked folks in the middle of their set to “put away their cell phones and cameras and just be there” I found a whole new respect for the band. As a photographer, I suppose I felt a little burn, but still…the point of being at a music event is really to experience it and "be there". Why watch someone pour their emotions out on stage through your 3x2 inch cell phone screen when so much is happening all around you in the moment. I have to say a big thanks to those guys for letting that be known to the crowd. Their set was high energy and they even made it into the crowd at one point…well played Lumineers, well played.

It may be over for 2013, but I will always have the memories and the music…and of course the sets to listen to over and over again up on NPR.

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