One of our newest contributors, Eric Tsurumoto, got some amazing stuff at this year’s Newport Folk Festival just a few weeks back. Here are his notes and his amazing set of photos from the two-day festival. –Justin
Newport Folk 2010: Day One (Saturday, July 31st)
I didn’t even make it into the festival grounds before I was greeted by a familiar voice. Just over a hill, was a bluegrass prodigy by the name of Sarah Jarosz performing one of Saturday’s opening sets. It was short but sweet, paying homage to the historic festival. She even covered “Ring Them Bells” by Bob Dylan. After her set, I caught a very familiar band by the name of Blitzen Trapper. Their set was just as good this time around as it was the first time I saw them at Bonnaroo.
Then after a short interview with Sarah Jarosz and bit of time looking around the festival grounds. I was drawn to a loud tent that at first didn’t seem fitting. But after further investigation I found myself in front of a enthusiastic crowd, dancing to the tune of a Celtic folk metal band (yeah I’m sure you never heard that musical description before) by the name of O’Death. O’ Death quickly reminded me of the historical relevance of Newport Folk. The festival didn’t gain their reputation for being traditional; they have continued to reinvent the genre year after year.
The next performance I saw was easily the one I anticipated the most. I first heard about Newport through the NPR Live Concert Series in 2008, where Yim Yames (also known as Jim James of My Morning Jacket) played a live set that was hauntingly beautiful. When I saw him on this year’s lineup, I only hoped he would bring half that intensity and brilliance. James’ voice continues to shock me in its versatility and raw power. His set featured material spanning his entire career everything from his George Harrison covers, to early My Morning Jacket and even a Monsters of Folk song. Amazing.
Andrew Bird was another artist I was eager to see, with this being one of his only performances of the summer, I was curious to see how he would go about his set. I was pleased to see him on point and having fun, his looped whistling and violin were perfect and his set was a great way to end my first day at Newport.
I didn’t stay for John Prine, but from what I heard from others it was a great set. It had a Yim Yames sit-in at the end of it.
Newport Folk 2010: Day Two (Sunday, August 1st)
Day Two was all about the control of the crowd. With the diva persona of Sharon Jones, the irish charm of Glen Hansard, the quirky stage movements of Alex Ebert ( of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros) and the soft spoken words of Richie Haven, it’s easy to see why some of the festival’s most memorable moments came from Sunday.
Highlights of the day included a soulful performance from Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. A plea from Glen Hansard to the festival security to allow people to stay in the photo pit. “F@#K that S!#t” “they want to see us they will stand up” he said to the security in reference to them kicking the dance crowd out of the front stage area.
Edward Sharpe’s performance was another highlight. The band seems to be rising faster than anyone would have expected. They were placed on the second stage, but this became a slight problem when the tent started to overflow from every angle and police were called in to oversee the safety of the set. But this didn’t stop Alex Ebert from having some fun. It seemed like he spent more time in the crowd than he did on stage. There was a secret second performance of the Avett Brothers, this time on top of a crane near the water.
Other Highlights included a great performance from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, a second performance by Yim Yames (this time as support for Ben Sollee). Also, regarding the young songstress that goes by the name of April Smith: She was originally entered in a contest to play Newport, but the festival organizers thought she was too good and took her out of the contest and handed a slot at the festival. Hot.