Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mic Check: Newport Folk Festival 2012, Day 2, 07/29/12


 Jonah Tolchin
Rocking that Vagrant Farmer Roustabout style

What luck to enter the grounds on Sunday and see Jonah Tolchin busking! We hung out for a couple of songs, and we were loving him and his crew. He had a pretty great day for himself, popping up with several other acts on stage and in the Paste ruins. Good on you, Jonah! We hope you get a stage slot in 2013!

Don't let anyone try to tell you that grilled cheese and Coke is not an acceptable breakfast.
Also, DAMN, FANCHEEZICAL! YOU MAKE GREAT GRILLED CHEESE!

Sunday morning was perfectly overcast, and though it threatened to rain for most of the day, it pretty well held off until the end, and it wasn't too bad. Having officially earned a membership in the Pale Girls Who Got Too Much Sun Club, I was happy to have my poor burnt shoulders covered for the day. We feasted on grilled cheese sandwiches by the Fort stage and listened to some Sleepy Man Banjo Boys. Good morning!

Of Monsters and Men in the Paste Ruins
See them there on that television? They were behind us on the other side of a wall, but we could still hear them, even without the headphones. We don't need no headphones to have a good time.

We wandered back to the Paste Ruins, hoping to catch Of Monsters and Men, and yay! There they were! Playing "Little Talks"! Yaaaaay! They were great, and they walked around the side when they were done, and they were graciously taking pictures with people, which I thought was nice. We didn't get to see their set in the Quad, but we had great reason to miss it, so in retrospect we were quite grateful to sneak an earful of their live sound.

Ben Sollee in the Paste Ruins
I feel it imperative to note that Ben Sollee rolled up on his bicycle, complete with attached cello case.
This man gives me feelings.


When everyone saw that Ben Sollee was coming up next, you better believe that a crowd formed. I will admit that it was difficult to hear him with the competing sounds of The Kossoy Sisters as they took to the Quad stage, but I CAN'T HANDLE THE THOUGHT OF STRANGERS' EAR SWEAT TOUCHING MY FACE VIA COMMUNAL HEADPHONES. 

We definitely had a discussion about the feasibility of convincing my parents to watch the kids just a few more days, maybe just another week or so, because it might be imperative that we stalk Ben Sollee along his bicycle tour from Newport to Maine. Of course, these dreams were short-lived, and we just counted ourselves lucky to have heard him at all. He had a busy weekend.

 Sara Watkins (and friends) 

Oh, hi Sara Watkins. Your set was a joy. We all but ran back to the Fort and made it just in time as she started to play. She is a powerhouse, both vocally and with her fiddle, and her sound fit in perfectly with the weekend. We were so excited when Charity Rose from The Head and The Heart came out to lend vocals to  a cover of  "You're the One I Love" by the Everly Brothers (The Head and The Heart, along with The Punch Brothers, is another band that we seem destined to miss year after year. But more on that later.). Happiness continued when a wild Jackson Browne appeared to help close out the set. 

Highlights:
cover of "Tomorrow Is A Long Time" 
"You and Me" with Jackson Browne

Joel Rafael
Stellar hat, sir.

Stumbling back to the Harbor stage, we noticed some open seats. We decided to take a break and sit down, and we were treated to the traditional folk stylings of Joel Rafael. I love the harmonica, okay? He made a funny joke about how controversial his set was, because he chose to go acoustic (hilar!). He told some great stories about Woody Guthrie, and performing at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival. I had no idea until later that this was his first time playing at Newport - we were honored to get to hear him.

Highlights:
"America Come Home"
"Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key"
harmonica 

Trampled By Turtles
Main stage action! YESSSSSSSSS!

So last year I made every attempt to get into the Quad to see these guys, and it did not pan out for me. I was so sad, because they were one of my "can't miss" bands. But there is plenty of room to watch at the Fort stage, so I was definitely in my happy place for their high-energy and seemingly impossible set. How do they play those instruments so fast??? The fiddle player, Ryan Young, is a particular mystery to me, and I was surprised that he didn't burst into flames from playing so intensely. Their set was jam packed with fun, and most of the crowd was dancing and singing along. Don't miss them live! They're the best!

Highlights:
"Wait So Long"
cover of "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" featuring honey honey

We loved this dude's tattoo, so I hope he doesn't mind that I snagged a pic. 


Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires

I am going to recommend that you click on this link right here. It will lead you to the page on NPR that has this set archived. Listen to it. Download it if you so desire. Charles Bradley is an unbelievably strong performer who exudes emotion and gratitude. We listened to his set while sitting by the water, and it was refreshing, funky, and just the right prelude to the rest of our day.  This is the definition of soul music.

Highlights:
"No Time for Dreaming"
"The World"


Jonathan Wilson

We passed by the Harbor stage and caught a couple of tunes by Jonathan Wilson, just as his set was coming to an end. The man wails on guitar, and was quite impressive to me, having never heard him before. We were only there for a few minutes before we started to make our way back to the Quad to make a plan of attack for the rest of the day. The Head and The Heart, Of Monsters and Men, Punch Brothers... 
But then...

That Awkward Moment When My Inner 16-Year-Old Changed The Course of Our Day
SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

So we saw Tom Morello hanging out backstage as Jonathan Wilson was finishing up. And. Well. I kind of freaked out. 
Here's the thing: when we found out Tom Morello was playing, I was like, "Gee, that's cool."
A couple of weeks before the festival, when we were trying to get together a vague idea of who we wanted to see, I was like, "Tom Morello...I mean, I guess I won't be upset if we have to miss him."
I have spoken before of the Festival Juju. The one that softly spoke, "Here. Enjoy this band called David Wax Museum" in 2010. The one that cooed, "Sit down. Enjoy this fine female named Sallie Ford and her band, the Sound Outside" in 2011.
The Festival Juju will do things to you that you cannot immediately understand.
And the Festival Juju was demanding of me, "TURN. AROUND. IMMEDIATELY. YOU'RE WELCOME."

Tom Morello
 Hello, life-changer.

I don't even know what I can say about this experience. It was honestly life-changing. If you have never seen Tom Morello and the work he does as The Nightwatchman, you need to get out into the world and find him. Because that's where he is - in the real world, encouraging real people to fight for justice for others. From the moment he came onto the stage until the moment he had to leave, the entire crowd was mesmerized. His message of encouraging radical change in the world, for the better, surely touched everyone present.


After standing on the sidelines for the first couple of songs, we were able to snag seats. Nothing could have dragged me from this place and this moment. Tom alternated between acoustic traditional protest songs, and power-driven electric numbers. (I don't need to tell you about his hardcore electric guitar playing, do I? HE PLAYED THE DAMN THING WITH HIS TEETH YOU GUYS.) I kept looking over at the husband while gripping his knee, saying things like, "Is this really happening? Are we really experiencing this?" 
And then a wild Jackson Browne appeared to help lead the crowd in a few rounds of "This Land is Your Land." 


The entire experience culminated with Tom's invitation to the crowd to come and join him on stage, where he proceeded to teach everyone the lyrics to "World Wide Rebel Song," which we all sang together, jumping at his command. Eventually the Rhode Island Police showed up to kill the fun ("Sing with me, Officer!"), but it was a memorable and powerful experience all the same.

Highlights:
"One Man Revolution"
"Ease My Revolutionary Mind"
cover of "The Ghost of Old Tom Joad"
"This Land is Your Land" with Jackson Browne
"World Wide Rebel Song"

As he left the stage, the two seats in front of us opened up, and the two girls sitting next to us asked if we wouldn't mind moving up so that their two friends could sit next to them.
We moved up, and the rest of our plans for the afternoon drifted away on the wind, because there was no way we were leaving the Harbor.

tUnE-yArDs
 Merrill Garbus is my hero.

Have you ever seen tUnE-yArDs perform live?
If you said no, you're going to want to remedy that. Never have I ever witnessed anything like their non-stop set of exceptionally layered music. Merrill Garbus is a one-woman show on her own, and when backed up by her bandmates on bass guitar and saxophones (and the occasional tin pan and glass cola bottle) the result is electrifying. I need to know how it came about that she discovered she could produce such insane noises from within herself. Simply magical. 


Merrill uses a loop machine to record various sounds (drum beats, vocal riffs, crowd noise) and then layers them to create an overpowering background sound, to which she adds her live voice, the instruments of the band, and sometimes her own ukulele. It's one thing to hear their records and know their awesomeness, but it's another thing altogether to actually watch and hear it all come together before your eyes. tUnE-yArDs is officially on our "stalk their tour schedule" list until the end of days.

Highlights:
"Party Can (Do You Want to Live?)"
"Gangsta"
"Real Life Flesh"
"My Country"

Hey there, Newport Folk Festival. I hear that you like The Tallest Man on Earth.

The Tallest Man on Earth

I mean, the husband and I were pretty aware of how much we revered The Tallest Man on Earth years before the announcement that he was finally coming over to Newport. We circled his name on the schedule in red ink. We knew we had to be there, but we were afraid we would never get into the Harbor to see him. We had no idea that this many people felt the exact same way.

He came out with guns blazing, just a Swedish dude with his guitar, and from the get-go he must have realized that he had the entire crowd (which spanned every side of the tent and seemed to go on endlessly in every direction - seriously, was there anyone watching anything else???) in the palm of his hand. He is a man of few words between songs, but he had what is quite possibly one of the best random quotes I have ever heard:
"I listened a lot to the Fugees in the 90s."
BLESS.

His voice is gravelly and yet sweet, and his songs are pure poetry. I am so happy that we had the chance to hear him, as he rarely comes to the US. What a performer. 

Highlights:
"Love is All"
"1904"
"Where Do My Bluebird Fly"


We decided to leave the set early as the rain came in and then seemed to taper off a bit. I was worried about a repeat of a mass exit and a long parking lot wait, and we still had to eat something before the last night at the Blues Cafe. 
Our weekend ends tomorrow, and we were sad to see it end.

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