Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Some Top Moments (for me) from the 2014 Newport Folk Festival

It's hard for me to pick out my absolute Top 5 or 10 favorite sets from this year's Newport Folk Festival since my plan for this year was to keep mobile and seeing as many acts as I can see even if it meant leaving a set early or showing up late to another.  But what I can share is some moments from the festival that will stick with me for awhile.

-I didn't get to see Lucius's whole set.  I really wanted to but Deer Tick is one of my my favorite bands.  I showed up late to Deer Tick to see as much of Houndmouth as I could so leaving them early wasn't an option for me.  But as soon as they were done I, for the only time all weekend, legit ran over to the Harbor Stage and was able to catch the last few songs of Lucius.  They closed with Two of Us On The Run which was one of the best moments of the festival for me.

-My friend and I were at the bathrooms at the Quad Stage when Jack White walked by.  There was a group of three women who just said hello (in a non-intrusive way, to their credit).  Jack White said hello back without breaking stride.  He then turns around and takes a Polaroid camera out and takes a selfie with the three women and gives it to them.  I hung around to see how the picture came out.  It made those three women's festival.  The one person whose festival wasn't made was the 4th friend who just came out of the Port-A-Potty to the sound of her three friends waving the picture over their head yelling "You'll never believe what just happened!"

-With all the collaborations that happen at the Newport Folk Festival you are going to see alot of unique versions of songs played.  As a big Deer Tick fan getting to see Lis Isenberg come out for Friday XIII was a treat.  Seeing Deer Tick be on the main stage for the first time playing such a live rarity was something I'll never forget.

-I've been in to Ryan Adams since roughly 2003.  I was 25 years old and was really taken with the song playing over the opening sequence for the movie Old School.  I stayed around for the credits and found out that it was To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High) by Ryan Adams and that's when it started for me.  Musically I was a fan.  I bought up all his albums as they came out but everything I ever read about him made him seem like I dude whose music I could enjoy but not someone I would not want to hang out with.  This year's festival was the first time I've ever seen him live and he obviously won me over musically but the best thing for me about hit set is that we saw a guy who was funny and with a personality.  The moment for me was the Michael McDonald impression.  Out of all the sets I planned on watching at the Newport Folk Festival this year, the one I did not plan on laughing the most during was Ryan Adams.

-After Jenny Lewis, whose set list was "festival flawless1" by the way, the plan was to high tail it to the Quad Stage to see as many songs from Lake Street Dive as we could before heading back over for Band of Horses.  So in a hurry my friend and were hustling back to the Fort Stage.  We passed the Harbor Stage just as Robert Hunter started playing Ripple.  Stopped me in my tracks.  It was very moving to see and listen to.  I can comfortably say that it was my favorite moment of the festival.  Two minutes one way or another and I miss that.  I feel very lucky to have caught that.

1 Festival Flawless - playing a set list that is accessable to a crowd of people who might not be familiar with you're entire catalog. Opposite of a "Festival Clueless" set list. An example being The Black Crowes 2008 Newport Folk Festival set.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What The Newport Folk Festival Means To Me

This is now my third Newport Folk Festival post.  I guess it can now be considered my "2014 Newport Folk Festival Series."

Part 1(Navigating the Newport Folk Festival)
Part 2(10 Songs I Hope To Hear at NFF)

For me, the Newport Folk Festival is not just a three day weekend at the end of July.  These three days are just the culmination of an almost six month journey of music discovery.  This will only be my 5th time since 2008 but this festival has earned my trust and has become my main source of new(to me) music.  I may have come across them on my own one day but I can say that bands like Apache Relay, First Aid Kit, Kingsley Flood, The Last Bison, Hurray For The Riff Riff, Houndmouth, PHOX, The Oh Hello's, J. Roddy Walston & The Business, Lucius and Ages and Ages (to name a few) are now go-to albums for me and will be long after I see them at the Fort.  I give most, if not all the credit, to the Newport Folk Festival for that.

The first time I went to the NFF, I went with my future wife and some friends(the co-author of Exploding Slacks).  I now have a 4 year old and a 2 year old who have been to the festival three and two times respectively.  I love the idea of raising "festival kids."  My parents started going a few years ago too.  I'd be chasing my kids around while my parents hopped from stage to stage.  I'd get a text from them with a picture of them with Apache Relay or a picture of my dad and Jim James.  The NFF has gone beyond creating just musical memories, it's created family memories as well.

An Insiders Guide to the 2014 Newport Folk Festival

First and foremost, I would not consider myself an insider. But this will be my 6th NPFF so I'd like to think I've learned a thing or two. This year we will be attending the festival without kids (despite one of my 5 "tips") with some festival first timers and I hope to impart some of my wisdom on the neophytes. So, in no particular order check out 5 helpful tips to maximize your fun at the best fest on the planet.

1. If you've opted to go without children, next year, bring 'em. As I mentioned earlier, this is my first year going without kids since 2008 and I am very excited about the prospect. Attending beer gardens and maneuvering my way towards the front of the stage are now options that were previously off the table. That being said, this festival is great for families. Don't expect a Bonnaroo or Firefly kind of scene, the NPFF is a family friendly environment with plenty of kid options to keep them entertained. So enjoy your weekend, but next year, pack the kids. I have a feeling I will.

2. Pack two different forms of footwear. I'm not necessarily advocating for two pairs each day, but come prepared with 2 pairs for the weekend. The obvious reason is just in case it rains. But even if it doesn't, after 2 days of standing/walking on cheap flip flops, you may want to switch it up on Sunday.

3. Be mobile. This is harder with kids, but don't be content staying in one spot between sets just because you are comfortable. Bounce around to the rest of the grounds checking out artists that you may not be familiar with. Some of the best sets I have seen have come by stumbling on them as I walked around. This is the best way to truly get a feel for where the energy of the festival is at that moment.

4. Do not over pack your cooler. Although there aren't hundreds of choices, the food at the festival is SOLID. The falafel in years past has been some of the best I have ever had and every year new entrants come in and up the culinary game. Its good to have snacks packed, but don't limit yourself to whats in your fridge at home. You can eat well at the fest for under $20 a day, and it will also provide you some additional local flavor.

5. Water taxi it to/from the festival. Driving is for suckers. I have done both, and sometimes when I am on the water taxi line I curse myself for not driving. But consider the water taxi an extension of the festival with people bustling with excitement on the way in and deconstructing the days highlights on the way back. Throw in a couple of boat sodas (beer) and you can close your eyes and pretend you are one of Newport's yachting elite. Even just for a moment.

Friday, July 18, 2014

2014 Newport Folk Festival - Ten Songs I'd Love To Hear

Picking only 10 songs that I want to hear over the course of what promises to be a great full three days of music was a silly exercise.  A silly exercise I chose to do:

In no particular order:

Our Demons - Ages and Ages

I'm not going to lie.  I've only been listening to Ages and Ages since April 22nd at 10:13am which is about a minute after the Newport Folk Festival announced them.  Since that time, Divisionary is easily on my Top 5 most listened to albums.  They have a lot of good candidates for the song I most want to hear from them but I think this one will really have the audience clapping along...and it's going to be awesome.

Take Me To Church - Hozier

I've been singing this song to myself at least once a day ever since I heard it even on days where I don't hear it.  I have a feeling that if you want to see Hozier's full set at the Harbor Stage then you are going to have to get their early.  I anticipate a crowd to big for the Harbor Stage to handle with the way this song is taking off.

Slow Motion - PHOX

There are a few PHOX songs I'm really looking forward to hearing but how could I not be most looking forward to the one with a clarinet solo!  I used to hate the clarinet.  I wanted to play saxophone in elementary school but they didn't have any left so I got stuck with the clarinet, hated it and dropped it as soon as I could.  If only Slow Motion was around back then maybe I wouldn't have been so quick to dismiss the instrument.

Heavy Bells - J. Roddy Walston & The Business

I've only been going to the Newport Folk Festival since 2008 but I've never been able to hear anything from the Harbor Stage while standing over by the Fort Stage.  I'm pretty sure that Heavy Bells could be the loudest song ever played at the Harbor Stage and I bet those people waiting at the Fort Stage waiting for Shovels and Rope to come on are going to be able to hear this.

Casino(Bad Things) - Houndmouth

I love From The Hills Below The City.  There is not a skippable track on it but this is the songs I always turn up a little bit louder when I hear it in my car.  I couldn't be more excited for this set.

Two of Us on the Run - Lucius

Turn it Around and Hey Doreen might be the songs that will get the crowd up and moving around but I just think Two of Us on the Run will just be a pretty thing to hear at Fort Adams.

You Go Down Smooth - Lake Street Dive

I've told anyone who will listen to me that if can listen to this song and not  at least start tapping your foot, you're probably dead inside.  There is a lot to look forward to for this set but I can't in good conscience head over to Band of Horses without hearing this.

Big House - Deer Tick

I could pick a bunch of songs from these guys I can't wait to hear.  I went Big House because of the stage.  Maybe at the Quad Stage I pick something, else but there is something about this song that I just want to hear permeate out into Narragansett Bay.

Alone In My Home - Jack White

Since the day it came out I have devoured this album.  Like most of the artists who have songs on this list I could have picked a ton of songs I'm looking forward to but I really enjoy this one.  I loved what he did with it on Conan and I'm looking forward to seeing it live for myself. 

La Cienega Just Smiled - Ryan Adams

The one problem I have about seeing a Ryan Adams show is that he has such a big catalog of songs to play that trying to pick one single song you want to hear is tough to do.  La Cienga Just Smiled has long been one of my favorite Ryan Adams songs.  Gold is now 13 years old(!!!) and many albums ago so I know the chances are slim I'll hear it, but my 22 year old self is still really hoping for it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Navigating the 2014 Newport Folk Festival

It's my third year doing my "Navigating the Newport Folk Festival" post (see 2012 and 2013 here).  So that's enough of a sample size for me to officially dub it my "Annual Navigating the Newport Folk Festival" post.

Like every Newport Folk Festival lineup it's very, very deep.  After reading my last two years of these posts(in which I realize that actually planning this is an exercise in futility), it looks like I'm going to be doing a lot more zigzagging around Fort Adams and splitting sets than in years past.

So I'll be getting new comfortable walking shoes and seeing if I can execute this plan:

I'm driving up from Long Island on Friday morning so my hope is that ferries and traffic all cooperate but assuming I'm there for the gates opening I think the move for me might be hitting up the Tretorn Backyard while taking in some Mandolin Orange.

The first band I'm excited to see is PHOX at 1:50.  Their iTunes Festival album joined me on a lot of bike rides the last few weeks and I've been listening to their first studio album a lot since it came out a few weeks ago.  If there is time I would like to hop over to the end of The Devil Makes Three. 

I've been in to Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley to Jenny and Johnny to her solo stuff.  But this is where it gets tough.  I'm looking forward to this set but I will probably bail towards the end to see Lake Street Dive.  You Go Down Smooth is a song I feel like I need to hear played live.  If I hear that before 4:45pm then I will probably high tail if from there over to Band of Horses. 

After Band of Horses the priority is obviously Ryan Adams but in that window of time between their sets I'm going to try for a few Jimmy Cliff songs over at the Quad Stage.

I'm thinking about starting Saturday at the Museum Stage before heading to the Quad Stage to see The Oh Hello's.  I'm always on board with seeing a band that has a lot of pieces on stage.

After The Oh Hello's it gets crazy.  I'm probably going to the Harbor Stage for J. Roddy Walston and The Business, leaving before the end of the set to check out the end of Benjamin Booker, watch a few songs from Shakey Graves before settling in for Houndmouth.

This brings me to the biggest conflict of the whole festival for me.  The Houndmouth/Deer Tick/Lucius trifecta is just brutal.  I really wanted to see as much of Houndmouth as possible which will probably have me showing up to Deer Tick a little late (which as my #2 favorite band on earth is shocking and annoying).  I'm seeing Deer Tick that night at the Newport Blues Cafe so I'm hoping that lessens the sting.  Finally, I've been listening to Wildewoman a ton so I'll high tail it over to the Harbor Stage and hopefully see enough songs to be satisfied. 

From there it's over to Nickel Creek for a bit and then to Puss N Boots before settling in for Jack White.

My early Sunday priority is Ages and Ages.  I'm been loving Divisionary these last few weeks.  Looking forward to them a lot and it looks like I'll be able to relax and catch their whole set without clock watching.  After them I'm open to Caitlin Rose or The Lonesome Trio so I'll make that a game time decision.

Since I probably will not have gone to the Fort Stage beer garden yet, maybe I'll take in the rest of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down from there and wait for Dawes to come on.

Now for my second biggest conflict of the festival.  Dawes into Hozier into Hurray For The Riff Raff.  I love Dawes live.  I've seen them a bunch of times now which today probably doesn't work in their favor.  I'm thinking as long as Dawes doesn't close with When My Time Comes and plays it at least a few songs from the end I can split Hurray For The Riff Raff and Hozier.  I'd really like to at least see Take Me To Church if I can swing it.  That song has been in my head non-stop.

From Hurray For The Riff Raff it's going to get back to zigzagging around the Fort.  Conor Oberst to Trampled By Turtles to Jeff Tweedy to Rodrigo y Gabriela.  Although there is a chance I'll get hung up at the Harbor Stage listening to Lucero so I'll end up splitting the two sets before going over to check out the last hour of Mavis.

If that doesn't sound like the best three days a person can have then I don't know what does.