Last weekend marked the 53rd Annual Newport Folk Festival and the unofficial 100th birthday party for Woody Guthrie. Newport for me is like Summer Camp and I’m not referring to that other music festival in Chillicothe, IL. I mean those memories of campfire sing-alongs with familiar faces and laying out on the grass without a care in the world. Newport Folk has always been able to balance the relaxing and beautiful environment of Fort Adams with the dynamic, electric and fearless voices of folks greatest musicians. And Saturday brought a ton of favorite moments for me personally…
Best Cover: My Morning Jacket featuring Alabama Shake’s Brittany Howard singing The Bands “It Makes No Difference”
The moment Jim James said “this one’s for Levon,” you knew something special was going to happen. Levon Helm has clearly played an influential role in the development of the festival and to see Jim James and Brittany Howard honor his memory in such a way was absolutely perfect.
Busiest Man At Newport Folk: Ben Sollee
I don’t think anyone truly knows how many sets Ben Sollee sat in on, even Newport Folk themselves commented on their twitter “@bensollee without question Ben, you win the award for most sets played. we love you”. He made it very clear that he loves Newport and the artists that were billed to perform were his family. He had notable appearances with fellow Kentucky natives My Morning Jacket, sat in with up and comers Apache Relay, played a solo set, along with jamming out with Preservation Hall. Mind you this is only part of his schedule for Saturday!
Best House Party Band: Deer Tick
I was hesitant in going to Deer Ticks early afternoon set, especially knowing that they had a tiring schedule of doing three late night after-parties just miles down the road. But considering the fact that I would be missing those after parties I made my way to the Quad stage. The band did not disappoint; they were loud and had the crowd up on their feet from the first note. At one point they brought out Delta Spirits‘ own Matt Vasquez to hang out and dance onstage. The set was sloppy but also charming in that way that made me feel like I was in someone’s basement jamming out to a Nirvana cover while having beer spray around me.
Best Voice of The Day: Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes
Alabama Shakes took the main stage midway through the day, by the time Brittany Howard started the opening lyrics of her second song “Hold On” the crowd was hooked. Their blend of Janis Joplin 1960’s vocals and catchy guitar riffs makes Howards’ sound simplistic yet timeless, fully encompassing the power a single voice could have on an eager crowd.
Saturday ended on a sour note though, shortly after My Morning Jacket performed with Brittany Howard. Jim James called on the god of rain and thunder (metaphorically speaking of course) and summoned a torrential downpour. Not only did this cause My Morning Jacket to end their set early but also it caused major flooding on many roads, leaving a great portion of the festival attendees stranded and wet.