Newport Folk Fest Day 2: Red’s Recap

I figure I need to get these feelings off of my chest before I am starting to book my hotel for next year and 2015 just becomes a giant blob of MBs on my external hard drive that I neglect to properly sort through and edit. So here goes Day 2 of NFF 2015 through my eyes…

My list of must see’s for Saturday morning was fairly light. I really wanted to catch the Suffers, Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson and for the most part the rest of my day was a “where the wind takes me” sort of a feeling and so I let that play out.

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I swooped into the Martin Guitar Open Mic in the Museum and my bud Bryan Minto was not in command of the stage, but rather Mr. Chris Funk had swooped in on duties that AM. But I ain’t one for complaints and I took a seat to catch some friends gracing the stage. Julie Rhodes kicked it off, crushing it as always.

10308072_869633719739596_117905205945633459_nFrom here I meandered my way back to the Fort stage for The Suffers. Of all the folks playing this weekend, Kam Franklin’s voice was by far the most impressive at Fort Adams all weekend. I mean, when you talk about “soul”, no no no, this girl is on a whole other playing field. She has got SOOOOOOOOOUL. The band was killing it, she was moving and grooving…and I found out later that they were missing their keys player to a broken arm incident the night before. I tell you, I couldn’t tell and they made the very best of it. What a great start to the day.

I caught a bit of Andy Shauf, who I would have much preferred catching at Lizard or Passim in Cambridge rather than a big stage. The quiet nature of the set didn’t translate all that well for me which sucks, because I really think I would have loved his set if it was say, in the museum. From here I ran up to catch the tail end of Spirit Family Reunion, who are always a treat, and saw my good buddy James Maple sitting on stage playing slide. A big thing about NFF that is just so incredible is those moments where something happens that you don’t expect and you look up to see a familiar face on stage.

11051757_869633663072935_1562918353632666181_nI had a few interviews and portrait sessions sprinkled in there somewhere and got to chat with Jon and Kam of The Suffers and Devin and Calin of The Ballroom Thieves. Wonderful people, and these little interview/portrait sessions were a bit of a step forward from what I had done at festivals past. I truly enjoyed just hanging with some great folks for a bit and talking music.

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Then it was like rapid fire….the Barr Brothers, I dug them a lot. I caught myself a grilled cheese and tucked in for the banjo mystifying nature of Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn. Beautiful and diverse textures they create with two banjos. When my delicious and wonderful (thanks Fancheezical, I love you guys!) I hit up the Quad to catch Langhorne Slim doing what he does best and making the world smile as he sweat joy out of every single pour on his body. Which brought us to the first of the two biggest sets for me of the day.

11140348_870421696327465_535442142707535004_nJason Isbell’s ‘Southeastern’ was a gamechanger for me as a music creator and music lover. There just is not much that compares to the songwriting he unleashed on this record…until Something More Than Free was recently released. I will just say this, you have to see this guy live. You have to buy his records. He is always on fire.

Despite multiple sound issues, James Taylor’s set was a nice homage to the nostalgic side of things. He poised himself with grace as multiple giant ‘pops’ sprung forth through the PA during his set, never missing a beat. That was the first time in 5 years I thik I have witnessed a big sound issue at Newport…though it didn’t seem to bother Taylor much, he was just beaming to be back on that stage and the folks in the audience returned the sentiment.

This was my first time catching Sturgill Simpson live, and man I was not let down. “We got 10 minutes, let’s burn this bitch down” I believe were the words he shouted before their final song. Pure and raw energy and talent. The sound was great here too…especially by comparison to the last set I caught. Somehow, with the dynamic and range that this guy sings with, there wasn’t an ounce of feedback or overdrive in the speakers. Kudos to the sound guys, or gals…or Sturgill’s depth from the mic ability. Regardless, this was probably my top set from the entire weekend as far as pure enjoyment and energy. So damn good.

Sufjan Stevens, I lasted about a song and a half. I can appreciate his great voice and some of the more “creative” stuff he does in his music, but it just wasn’t for me at that point in the day.

Brandi Carlisle was another treat for me. She has country tinged roots, but roots rock is kind of where the set fell. The trio dynamic was great, but still maintained a heightened excitement level and vigor.

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Whew…day 2 down, one to go.

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