After a memorable first day, Newport Folk Festival continued their magical ways with a few more pop up sets that had a “you had to be there early or you missed it sets” feeling. When word gets out about one of these sets, the crowd swells to beyond capacity in that area of the fort. Yes these kind of things happen at many festivals, but the caliber of bands that do it seem to be of such a high stature at Newport. Jay and his team do such an amazing job of keeping these surprises under wraps, that walking in each day brings a new wow moment. You have to stay alert for these kind of things and if you miss it, you’ll be kicking yourself for the rest of the day, or at least until the next magical moment takes place.
The Cactus Blossoms had the honor of kicking off day two and did so with a lot of country twang. Their harmonies were perfect throughout the set and was a good way to ease in to another long day of music. It did not take long for the music to get heavy though as Banditos played a wild rock set inside the fort. The back and forth between the two singers overlaid on top of the tight instrumentation of the band blended together in pure musical joy. Their psychedelic blues got the crowd hooting and hollering for more the entire time they were on stage. Next came one of those moments, and it happened to be on the Museum Stage like the previous day. A very long line with most people being shut out signaled that there was something afoot. Luckily making friends with one of the production team as I waited to try and make my way in worked out and I had the pleasure of seeing a four song set by the team of Shovels & Rope and Holly and Jess from Lucius. The foursome played beautiful renditions of “We Are Not Two, We Are One,” a lullaby that Michael and Carry Ann sing to their children, a mic-less “Only Fools Fall in Love,” and “Peace, Love, and Understanding.” The harmonies that the four musicians showed off was stunning and just showed more magic that Newport seems to spin off constantly.
Ruby Amanfu, with three-fifths of Deer Tick in tow, displayed her amazing voice to a filled Harbor Stage tent. As her set continued she fed off the crowd and seemed to constantly get stronger. She could be one of the artists that you here about in a few months that blows up and never plays a stage that small at the festival again. A last minute set was announced for the Quad Stage titled Texas Gentlemen and Friends. The crowd did not really show up until the later part of the set, but the whole thing was great. The eight piece band started off with The Band’s “Ophelia” and after that were joined by one legend after another for short four song sets. Joe Ely was the first to come out and was followed by Terry Allen, who brought up JP Harris with him. Both Joe and Terry were wonderful and made the set heavy with a lot of Texas vibes, but as the set wore on the crowd swelled beyond the confines of the tent. Word got out about who the last friend would be. Striding on the stage to a standing ovation was once again Kris Kristofferson. For those who missed the Museum Stage set, this was their chance to see the legend play some of his biggest hits. The magical set ended with Margo Price coming up to duet with Kris on “Me and Bobby McGee” that started off a folk song and ended in a glorious Janis Joplin rock and roll haze. The look on people’s faces after it was over was what should happen at live music, utter joy that you cannot help by continue to hold.
Margo took the stage with her own band next and brought a lot of country heat to the already hot day. While she was doing her thing, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats played to one of the largest most energetic crowds of the day. He was very thankful to be back at Newport after last year’s performance on a smaller stage that helped in sky rocket to where he is today. Lady Lamb destroyed the harbor stage with a pure rock and roll performance that the tent could barely contain. The rock kept coming as Frightened Rabbit controlled their time slot perfectly. With it being called a folk fest, it almost felt wrong for a band to be playing as hard as they were, but it fit in. A great thing about the festival is that there is something for everyone. It is no longer just a bunch of folk artists, but a conglomeration of every style of music out in the world today.
As Frightened Rabbit were rocking out, Ryan Adams with The Infamous Stringdusters featuring Nicki Bluhm were displaying a beautiful acoustic jam on the Fort Stage. This was only the second time they had performed in this configuration, but it seemed as if they had always been in this group with one another. Ryan was his usual jokey self and since Frightened Rabbit were so loud, they bled over and Ryan was curious who was playing. Once he was told the name of the band, he made up a song on the spot titled “I’m Frightened, and I’m Rabid” that sounded as if it had always been in his catalog of music. Another great moment of his set was when two helicopters passed over and they stopped mid-song with Ryan screaming at the top of his lungs at them, and as soon as they were out of reach the band picked up on the exact note they had stopped at. Ryan joked that was their whole budget for theatrics. It was good to see him enjoying the festival and delivering such a ridiculous set of music to the adoring crowd.
From there it was on to a few legendary acts as the clouds started to come in to block the sun every now and then. It is stunning how great Graham Nash’s voice still sounds today. Though his set could have been longer, he hit every major part of his career and got slightly political in the process as well. The guitarist he had with him was tremendous and really completed the songs that Graham chose to play. As he continued his set, Del & Dawg started their set of bluegrass that goes all the way back to the 60’s. Neither of them had been back to Newport since then and were completely enjoying their time on stage together, cracking jokes and telling stories from their whole career. Seeing these acts still playing and enjoying themselves on stage still is such a pleasure.
Having had a semi-breakdown at the XPN Festival the day before, no one was sure how Father John Misty was going to act at Newport, but he was in a great mood and even joked about the previous day’s antics. Throughout his set the crowd was attentive to every note and word he said. It seemed as if he wanted to make up for what had happened the previous day and he definitely accomplished that with ease. Finally it was time for Patti Smith, the poet rock star, and although not every one of her hits was played, she brought her “A” game to the festival. Unfortunately much of the audience had started to leave after Father John Misty, and they missed witnessing one of the best front to back sets of the weekend. Beginning with an acoustic “Boots of Spanish Leather” by Bob Dylan and ending on The Who’s “My Generation” that saw her destroy the strings on the guitar, she ran the full gamut of Newport history. Her set contained a few newer songs, as well as tributes to many of the musicians who have passed away in recent years. With Patti Smith holding the strings of her guitar in her hand, day two was a wrap.
Article: Bryan Lasky