Despite the fact that My Morning Jacket conjured up one hell of a downpour with some kind of melodic dark magic, the second day of the Newport Folk Festival doled out hearty portions of impromptu musical pairings, guitar O-faces and squashed rumors. This is the rundown of who we caught throughout our second day at Fort Adams. BOOM. Like a thunderclap.
Photos: Mike Basu.
We opted to ride our bikes to the fort to avoid the ridiculous traffic leading into it, which was a good call as we totally would’ve missed Apache Relay had we driven in. The Nashville rock quartet didn’t disappoint, plowing through a 10-song barrage of noise and bringing buddy Ben Sollee up to guest on “One Of Us Is Gone” and “Watering Hole.”
SPIRIT FAMILY REUNION
After bringing it on in for a huddle at the microphone, Brooklyn’s Spirit Family Reunion collectively exploded into a barrage of shredded banjos, stomped boots, furious washboarding (what the hell kind of verb do you use for playing a washboard besides “washboarding”) and close-knit refrains that soared out over the crowd gathered at the Harbor Stage. They picked up where Apache Relay left off as far as energy’s concerned, eliciting more dancing and knee-slappin’ than one’s accustomed to just after noon on a Saturday.
DEER TICK; JONNY CORNDAWG
Though these guys are separate bands and played separate sets, it’s worth noting that the Deer Tick/Dawes/Delta Spirit/Jonny Corndawg/Middle Brother posse has become the spirit animal of the Newport Folk Festival.
Middle Brother (comprised of Deer Tick’s John McCauley, Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez and on occasion Mr. Corndawg) had their last official show at Newport Folk last summer, and the bands have all had standout moments—debuts or otherwise—on the stages of the fort over the course of the past five years or so. Together, they encapsulate this perpetual balance of old and new that makes Newport Folk work so damn well: they’ve got the chops to hold their own against musical legends, and they’ve got the gusto, drive and balls to drop an F-bomb at a folk festival and rip out a punk cover if they feel so inclined. Yesterday signified a bump to the next level for these bands, with Dawes quite obviously graduating to a new tier as far as expectation’s concerned (more on that below). The same goes for Deer Tick, who not only forced a field of people onto their feet, but delivered nothing short of an enthralling, electric set despite the fact that they’d been up until 3am the night before at the Newport Blues Café. Vasquez helped out with the chorus of a few Deer Tick numbers, hopping on top of the piano at one point and further solidifying my opinion that the Delta Spirit frontman is, in fact, the Little Richard of indie rock. Jonny Corndawg’s playful croon and zydeco vibes charmed the figurative pants off everybody, and Goldsmith’s assist on guitar brought the whole bromance showmance to another level on the Quad Stage.
Also, Corndawg, can we talk about your drummer? ‘CAUSE DAMN THAT MAN’S FANTASTIC.
Upon their taking of the Fort Stage, the Muscle Shoals dynamos wasted absolutely no time: Brittany Howard vamped for all of a minute and a half on some other ditty before they cut into “Hold On,” corralling the crowd before them into a sing-along a thousand strong. Do excuse the terrible rhyming thing I’ve got going on, but I’ve got too many warm-n’-fuzzy feelings for these guys that they make me do cheesy things like wrong “strong” and “sing-along.” Brittany Howard’s a force to be reckoned with, and the rest of the Shakes are just as into the fantastic vibe they create together.
SHARON VAN ETTEN
Here’s the deal with Sharon Van Etten: she is so fucking good, and given how likeable and approachable her stage demeanor and crystal clear voice are, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is about her that gets under your skin so bad. Maybe her lyrics cut just deep enough, or maybe you can’t stop lusting after her Jazz Master, I don’t know. She’s practically meditative up there, losing herself in the throws of “Serpents” and “Give Out” and the rest of the songs that made their way into our hearts.
It’s kind of embarrassing, but we’re Dawes super fans (as evident by our backstage hang with them about a year ago and our superlative-ridden coverage of their shows at the past two Newport Folks). We were there when Taylor and Griffin were joined by their dad, Lenny Goldsmith, for a straight-up lovely encore their first year at Newport Folk, and we were there last year when they backed Matt Ward’s set. This year, Dawes hit the Fort Stage—aka the one for the big guys—and brought forth a set that showcased the ease with which they make their straightforward, no frills/no excuses rock with a classic twist. As Dawes spent some time backing Jackson Browne in Europe and elsewhere, we wouldn’t be surprised if they make an appearance later today. We’d put money on it, actually.
IRON & WINE
Story time! The first year I covered Newport Folk, I was standing backstage, shouldering up against the likes of Ben Kweller and the dudes in the Fleet Foxes and Elvis Perkins, and I felt cool as hell. So, one of the guys in Fleet Foxes comes up to me as Sam is beginning his cover of the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights.” It’s a beautiful moment, the sun’s setting in Newport, some chick in the front row is bawling her eyes out because Garden State spoke to her or some shit, and this guy from Fleet Foxes is all, like, “Hey.” And I’m like, “Hey.” And then he looks down at my arm, and goes, “Sooo … I think something got you….” And I turn and see that a seagull had taken one epic shit all down my arm, and into the outside pocket of my purse, and onto the bring of my straw fedora that I had taken off and was carrying in that unfortunate hand. That whole “Holy shit, I feel like I’m THE COOLEST PERSON HERE WITH ALL THESE MUSICIANS I LIKE”-thing disappeared in about 2.5 seconds and then I ran away and everything was terrible.
I didn’t get shat on by a seagull this year, so there’s that. Sam’s set was great as well.
First of all, our sources tell us that Patty Griffin and Robert Plant did in fact elope a week or two ago, even though she said that they didn’t run off and get married. Secondly, her guitar wasn’t plugged in for the first time, and her attempt at a maniacal laugh after she discovered that was one of the most adorable things to ever happen. Third, Patty, I need to know what hair products we use, ‘cause damn. And finally: Patty Griffin had thousands of people standing on tip-toes from the time she picked up her (unplugged) guitar to the time she left the Fort Stage, and that’s literally all she had, that carved body of wood and twine. She’s epic.
MY MORNING JACKET
As Jim James and the rest of the Kentucky crew of My Morning Jacket approached their mics in sick, sleek suits, a storm was a-brewin’. Seriously. The clouds were creeping towards the fort off of Narragansett Bay faster than a bro getting bounced from the Red Parrot on Thames Street and My Morning Jacket used this to their advantage, channeling the nervous energy of the crowd and capitalizing on their captivation at the mercy of the oncoming gale. We wound up bailing about an hour into the set because we didn’t want to get soaked riding on the way home (and hey, Mikey’s camera would’ve gotten DESTROYED), so unfortunately we missed a pretty epic pairing of Jim James and Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard before the end of the evening.