PHOTOS BY JASON SPEAKMAN
Newport Folk is one of my personal favorite things to cover all summer, so when the festival organizers announced that, for the first time, they’d be doing a full lineup on the Friday (7.26) date, I was already thrilled. Then when they announced that Boston’s own (and friends of the Dig) Kingsley Flood would be opening on the main Fort Stage, I was practically giddy.
“This is a country song for people who do not like country music.” Ahhhh! Yes. @kingsleyflood
— Cady (@HELLA_DRELLA) July 26, 2013
And their set did not disappoint. I’ve seen Kingsley Flood performances in the past and they’re always stellar, but this was probably the strongest one I’ve ever seen (pretty cool that it coincided with one of their biggest gigs to date). Usually opening up a fest is a bummer because your crowd is just starting to wake up and get into the music, but for KF I saw more enthusiasm than I saw at a bunch of the much bigger acts. Tracks like “Wonderland” brought the ruckus, and I think they’d be pleased to know that their set was the one at which I heard the most enthusiastic clapping along and callbacks.
What? Hand-clapping is a good gauge of reception!
They closed with their 2011 single “I Don’t Wanna Go Home” and
when they left the stage I immediately missed them.
Hey Marseilles, meanwhile, were on the Harbor Stage and had drawn a helluva crowd themselves for such an early morning. They’re a big hometown favorite back in Seattle because of their joyous, string-fueled folk and vocalist Matt Bishop’s vocals, which evoke a mix of Frightened Rabbit and Beirut (I think it’s his peculiar yet pretty inflection). Bishop later told me backstage that he generally doesn’t like playing festivals, but that Newport was doing it nearly perfectly because of the lack of crowds and everybody’s positive attitude. D’aww!
California-based Blake Mills‘ minimalist, ethereal singer-songwriter songs were giving me some Elliott Smith acid flashbacks, which is a rather large compliment.
Also, all of Dawes played as his backup band, which was awesome since they aren’t on the official lineup but I consider them an integral Newport staple. I hadn’t heard much about Mills, but I’d love to see him again sometime in a smaller venue space, since lyrically his songs just lend themselves to a more intimate setting.
He’s considered an acoustic guitar virtuoso, and now I get it.
Milk Carton Kids brought it as usual, although I didn’t catch too much of their set because I was too busy checking out Mountain Goats, who are one of my favorite bands but who I never really thought of as folk until I saw their name on the lineup. I always pegged them as being kind of “anti-folk,” and John Darnielle was endearing but super weird onstage.
Then again, not sure I was expecting anything besides that. One of my favorite tracks of theirs, “Woke Up New,” was played right before Darnielle was left alone onstage to perform “You Were Cool,” which was so gorgeously sad that it almost (almost) didn’t work festival setting.
Then it started pouring and everyone else was tall, so I decided to go check out Feist on the Fort Stage. However, by the time she played “My Moon, My Man,” there was nowhere to seek shelter from the deluge that had brought itself over Fort Adams. Might I say, however, she was shredding super hard on her guitar and by the time she brought in her signature smoky vocals
it was a full audio assault (in a good way).
I felt kind of bad though because she was clearly trying to get people excited and utilize some callbacks and the response was just lukewarm. I sincerely hope she doesn’t take it personally; it was just raining really hard, and it wasn’t her; it was us.
Ok? We love you, Feist.
Phosphorescent played at the Quad Stage, and as I was walking over there my friend Mikey could have sworn they played a Chris Isaac cover, but we have yet to confirm this. Their latest album Muchacho was deemed a “mystical cowboy saga” by our writer Lauren Paredes, and that seems about right.
Let’s go with “mystical cowboy saga.”
Arguably the show I was the most excited about, John McCauley’s (of Deer Tick) solo set at the Quad Tent, was everything I’d hoped it would be. He played a mix of Deer Tick songs, relying primarily on tracks off of their incredible 2007 release War Elephant and their not-my-favorite-but-still-totally-okay 2011 release, Divine Providence. Plus, as is his modus operandi, McCauley (an Official Newport Artist Advisor) brought a whole slew of guests onstage to join him. Vanessa Carlton, who collaborated with the Deer Tick gang on their forthcoming album Negativity (out this September) joined him onstage to sing a duet, but the best moment of all of Friday was when his mom came out.
McCauley, alone onstage, made a joke about oral sex and then introduced her and the two of them sang the Jimmy Buffett classic, “Margaritaville.”
John McCauley doesn’t fuck around when selecting covers, and that performance specifically was my favorite thing that happened all day.
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