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“IT’S ABOUT WHAT’S GOOD”: THE 2011 NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL

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We went. We saw. We folked. Three days, two sunburns and one very, very busy, beautiful weekend later, we’re back in the office and writing up our each and every kind of mind-blowingly good moment from Fort Adams this year at the Newport Folk Festival. (Hodge on photo; Hughes on words.)

FAVORITE MOMENTS

Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Yodelbeatboxofjoy: Of all the bands playing Newport Folk this year, the Carolina Chocolate Drops were the one band I hadn’t seen that everyone and their mother told me I had to check out. I missed them at South By Southwest this year, which was a bummer. Even if I had checked them out in Austin, I doubt anything could’ve topped what the delivered Sunday, which involved juggling acoustic guitars and a good six straight minutes of beatboxing and yodeling. BEATBOXING. AND. YODELING. That is all.

Edit: Jess just reminded me that the name of the tune was “Diddlebox.” Dear Carolina Chocolate Drops: Can we date? Love, Hilary.

Matt Vasquez doing the twist to Middle Brother’s “Someday”: This is my favorite song from my favorite band and I will never, ever recover fully from Matt Vasquez doing the twist in striped shorts. My heart exploded all over the place and I don’t think I’ve danced harder in my life, as demonstrated by the fact that I can barely walk due to the muscle I pulled in my hip last night. (I’m 25, not 65. I swear.) Want to see (or, more accurately, hear) what I’m talking about? NPR is streaming their set. Fast forward to about 13 minutes in and you’ll get why I’m geeking out the way our parents did over The Beatles at Shea Stadium.

Brown Bird’s “Jackson” cover: This was one of the most enthusiastically received performances at Newport Folk and one so thoroughly enjoyed by the performers and audience in equal measure that you couldn’t help but just bust out an ear-to-ear grin. And a jig. Maybe both at the same time.

Catching up with David Wax Museum: David Wax and I first met back in 2009, when he was getting the David Wax Museum off the ground and when I was profiling local musicians for my blog at the time. It’s so surreal–in the best possible way!–to see one of my favorite Boston bands fucking explode and go from winning their way into the Newport Folk Festival one year to following it up with an invitation to play the mainstage the next. David and Suz were positively giddy throughout their set. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them smile that big. Congratulations, guys. We’re so proud!
Trampled By Turtles play “Where Is My Mind” for the biggest crowd to hit the Quad stage: “Wait So Long” is insatiable enough when it’s coming at you through your ear buds. To have all five members of this bluegrass-blasting sensation lined up in front of you and shredding their strings to pieces while closing out a set that drew nearly half of the festival’s 10,000-strong population on Sunday is another thing entirely. And that thing is incredible. After everyone leaped to their feet demanding an encore, TBT obliged and paid tribute to The Pixies, who themselves went acoustic at Newport Folk, and broke out a lovely cover of “Where Is My Mind.” #locallove

FAVORITE SURPRISES:

Mavis Staples and Colin Meloy sing a duet on “The Weight”: Three things that are jaw-droppingly great are as follows. One, Colin Meloy’s ability to play a full set in scorching heat in a black wool suit. Two, Mavis Staples and her voice that doesn’t belong to this world. The woman is a deity of flesh and blood, and with a fabulous head of hair to boot. And three, throwing The Decemberists’ frontman and Ms. Staples together for a classic cover that everyone loves to belt the chorus out to? Chills.

Mountain Man join Middle Brother for “Daydreaming”: The harmonies on “Daydreaming” are lovely enough. Take the three boys of Middle Brother out of the equation on the chorus and throw in the three Seraphim-esque voices of Mountain Man and you’ve got one hell of a collaboration on your hands.

SURPRISE! IT’S DAWES!: Remember when Dawes were rumored to be backing M. Ward? Well, the Middle Brother set decimated everyone on Sunday afternoon, so Jay Sweet himself ran up to the mic and dragged the Dawes boys back out for a two song quickie. “Fire Away ” and “When My Time Comes” were born to be anthems, and they were sung as such by the whole damn crowd.

WHAT WE WANTED TO SEE (BUT COULDN’T!):

The semi-annual Pete Seeger “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” sing-along: Two years ago, Pete led a sing-along onstage with everyone who played Folk Festival 50, including Elvis Perkins in Dearland, the Low Anthem, The Decemberists and more. This time, Emmylou Harris and Pete led it together with all of our favorites from the festival’s 52nd iteration — and we were dead on our feet, so we left before this happened. We made it ’til about two songs before this, though. Next year, we’ll hydrate more and wear better shoes.

Wanda Jackson’s Amy Winehouse tribute: Before breaking into “You Know I’m No Good,” the Queen of Rockabilly herself ruminated on the loss of Amy Winehouse. I’ve been pretty public about my feelings for Amy and her death. I really wish I had seen this, but alas I was bouncing in between the other stages at the time. Chalk one up for the Fujiyama Mama herself, and Ms. Winehouse.

WHAT WE WANTED TO SEE (AND DID!):

The Deer Tick and Friends show at the Newport Blues Cafe: After all that craziness — the surprise duets, the cameos, the covers, the flawless performances — we didn’t think we could top this weekend at Fort Adams. And then we went to the Deer Tick show at the Newport Blues Cafe after NFF ’11 wrapped and saw surprise Dawes and Middle Brother sets. I squealed. Jess snapped some Polaroids. We gave Jay Sweet a hug and thanked him for booking a spectacular bill. We went to bed exhausted, dehydrated and the most content we’ve been in a long, long time. And then we woke up at 5:45 to drive back to the city, but you know what? I’m exhausted and that last minute decision to go to the show last night was WORTH IT.

See you next year, Folks.

X H

About HILARY HUGHES

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3 Responses to “IT’S ABOUT WHAT’S GOOD”: THE 2011 NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL

  1. Caroline Caroline says:

    The Dawes boys actually asked Jay if they could play a few tunes, Griffin and Wiley told us. Those boys Do. Not. Stop.

  2. Shawn S Shawn S says:

    I got a few good shots of the Middle Brother set.

    You should have seen them at the Backstage Benefit BBQ on Saturday night…that was one of the best ‘concerts’ I’ve ever seen in my life. 3 solid hours of semi-planned sets and ad hoc jamming with just about every performer from Saturday’s schedule plus a few others like Low Anthem. It was unbelievable and I haven’t seen it covered much in all of the NFF press…

  3. HILARY HUGHES HILARY HUGHES says:

    Heard incredible things about it and wish we could’ve been there! We only had a couple of hours before the Kingsley Flood show (it was our evening plan) and needed to like, hydrate. Haha. Definitely next time!