Day two at Newport had a lot of wind, a hint of rain, but glorious music. The weather didn’t stop anyone from having a great time or putting on a great set. Though it did try to knock a mic stand or two down, it wasn’t successful and the good vibes of those in attendance thankfully held the rain off, at least that’s what Jay Sweet said. The day started with Mt. Joy, who played a heartfelt set of music that was eaten up by the early crowd. One thing you can always count on is the audience giving every band a chance to wow them, and Mt. Joy did their job. Julia Jacklin played her wonderfully written songs to a wide-eyed crowd. Her backing band helped to flush out the songs, so they filled the entire tent. Chicano Batman, easily one of the best sets of the festival, tore through 45 minutes in a blink of an eye. They were jaw-droppingly good at a festival that had so many jaw-dropping moments. They are on an absolute tear right now and you would be doing yourself a disservice.
Jalen N’Gonda might have been the surprise of the fest this year. With just a guitar in hand, Jalen strode on the stage and began to sing. The voice that emerged was stunning. The young gun has a ton of talent and I’m sure will rise in the festival landscape much sooner than later. Taking him in on the smallest stage was a delight. Marlon Williams, who came all the way from New Zealand, was another young gun with a ton of talent. He and his band did a fantastic job and also showed a lot of promise. The first of the surprise sets came next with Grandma’s Hands Band, who performed an entire set of Bill Withers songs that had the crowd singing along through the set. They were well-rehearsed and nailed every tune. The band was comprised of Hiss Golden Messenger, Natalie Prass, Phil Cook, Alynda Segarra, Patterson Hood, and making his festival debut Justin Vernon. The set was absolutely stunning, and the added bonus of having so many musicians on stage showing their love for Bill Withers didn’t suck either.
Mandolin Orange played their beautiful bluegrass tunes next and was good as expected. They haven’t disappointed yet at any festival I have seen them at. They continue to play without abandonment or worry and it’s always fantastic to see some bluegrass. Offa Rex, the collaboration between The Decemberists and Olivia Chaney, played some amazing psychedelic folk rock, much to the happiness of the crowd. This collaboration sounded just as good in person as it does on record. Robert Ellis strode on stage in a cosmic tinged suit and proceeded to rock out as if he were part of the cosmos. It was an unexpected set to have loved, and that is only because I didn’t know who he was before-hand. The crowd definitely did though and showed him all of the love he deserved.
Nikki Lane, who is on her Highway Queen tour, and brought her brand of country to the Fort. She sounded great, as did her band, for their set, but it was off to Angel Olsen, who has been on a tear around the festival circuit this year. As expected Angel and her band annihilated their set, and even had Jim James guest with them on two songs. Joseph had one of the biggest crowds at the Harbor Stage all weekend and their voices and songs deserved it. They put on quite the set for the adoring crowd and brought out Zach Williams of the Lone Bellow for a song. Jim James, the patron saint of Newport Folk lately, performed an impressive set with just his voice and an acoustic guitar. Seeing someone of his stature just come on stage with stories and songs was amazing. It was a throwback set to a simpler time at Newport Folk where it was a performer doing what they do best. Unfortunately for Jim, The Avett Brothers were on at the same time and many left his set to check them out. An intimate show became even more intimate and special. Hopefully Jim takes some time to do even more of these shows.
Drive-By Truckers had a standing room only crowd for their entire set. They rocked out on stage harder than anyone else at that point had. These guys are always fantastic and didn’t let Newport down for a single second. The day two headliners were Wilco, who didn’t waste any time on stage by talking. Jeff came to the mic and said we don’t have much time, so let’s get in as much music as possible. They ended up fitting in 17 songs into their time slot and even had special guest Billy Bragg come out for “California Stars.” Wilco are an absolute machine right now and they could just go through the motions of a headline set, but this seemed special for the band.
Our coverage of Sunday is coming soon, be sure to look for it.
Article: Bryan Lasky