“If You Sing From The Heart, You’ll Never Be Out Of Tune”: Newport Folk Fest Day 3 [REVIEW+PHOTOS] REVIEW+PHOTOS: Newport Folk Fest 2016 [Day 3: 7/24/16]
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The Newport Folk Festival is a folk-oriented music festival located in Newport, Rhode Island. Now in its 57th year, Blurred Culture was able to send our contributor, Cortney Armitage, to take in the sights and sounds of this year’s, long-running music festival. We told her to snap some snazzy pics, but most importantly to take the time to enjoy the music of those acts that she really connected with and to have fun, be adventurous and make some lasting memories.
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I show Son Little aka Aaron Livingston a portrait on my camera that I had just taken of Larken Poe. “We could go over there and use this spot again, it was pretty cool.” I look up at him. His eyes are fixed on the image. “How am I supposed to compete with two cute girls?!?” I paused a beat.
I’d been eyeing the spot all weekend. It was sectioned off by security but I figured a long lens would do the trick. “There is a giant American flag over there.” I suggested. Livingston didn’t miss a beat. “Let’s go.” As we walked over I see him approach the gate. Livingston is genuine and he carries something with him that we should all aspire to have. I don’t know if it is a learned ability or if it is just something he has always had, whatever or however it is extraordinary; a super power. He has an ability to look someone in the eye and make them know, he knows they are important. We were through the gate in no time and there we were standing in front of a three story american flag and I was beyond giddy that he was wearing a cowboy hat. This spot, this moment, was for him. It was the image that summed up the festival to me, an iconic festival of America showcasing emerging talent and I haven’t even gotten to how amazing Son Little’s set was yet.
It was another ninety degree plus day. The the lack of rain over night meant the dirt was kicking up from the ground. It was going to be a day of sweat, sun screen and dirt, oh and (arguably) the best music line up day of the festival.
It started for me with The Oh Hellos. Fun, Dynamic, passionate and high energy they really did kick off the festival day right. If there was a goal post in the water, they kicked the football from the stage and made a field goal. The band is fronted by siblings Tyler and Maggie Heath, and they are joined by an ensemble crew of about eight other musicians. They were flying around the stage, performing as if the music had possessed their bodies and instilled that energy in all of those who witnessed their musical possession. The harmonies were on point and the passion factor was on high.
The Oh Hellos Set List :
- Bitter Water
- Soldier, Poet, King
- This Will End
- Hello My Old Heart
- The Valley
- The Lament of Eustace Scrubb
- Dear Wormwood
- Thus Always to Tyrants
- Valley Reprise
It was time to meet Larkin Poe for a portrait. Showing up to the media tent, they weren’t hard to spot. The stunningly beautiful women were dressed all in black and in spite of the heat, the perfection of their makeup was enviable. On top of that, they were just lovely. Delightful, intelligent women who are possibly the sweetest gals I’ve met in a while.
They were excited to see the Alabama Shakes and were not only open to posing with a succulent that I’d spotted growing out of a wall near the caves but kinda excited by the idea. They were down for making art and I loved them for that. They were so easy to work with that we finished in no time, and I was able to catch Glen Hansard.
His guitar has been strum so many times, the wood has been worm through and you can see into the heart of the guitar. If I found that guitar unlabeled, I’d know it was his, because that guitar is a perfect reflection of Glen Hansard. Exposed, warn and with every experience of life, laughter and pain. The music that comes out of it is richer, and the emotion that it evokes is stronger.
It was just him and his guitar on the big stage yet he filled every inch. When asking the audience to sing along to “Way Back in the Way Back When” Hansard uttered one of the most important things about music:
“If you sing from the heart, you’ll never be out of tune.”
There really aren’t enough adjectives to describe the passion and heart of his set, and how inspiring, funny and wonderful that set made people feel. And it certainly didn’t hurt that Elvis Costello came out and played the tambourine on “Lowly Deserter”.
Glen Hansard Set List :
- Falling Slowly
- Winning Streak
- When Your Mind’s Made Up
- Didn’t He Ramble
- Astral Weeks (Van Morrison cover)
- Way Back in the Way Back When
- Lowly Deserter (Elvis Costello-Tamborine)
- Vigilant Man
- Her Mercy
- The Auld Triangle (Curtis Folks-Trombone)
I ran over to catch Son Little’s performance and he carried in his body all the cool and quiet sophistication that I had heard in his music. When I was leading the Philadelphia bluesman to the flag for a portrait, we couldn’t go more then five feet with out someone having to tell him how awesome the set was. (They were all correct.) His lyrics are heartbreaking and his voice carries with it the pain and passion of each song. He creates such an intimacy with his voice that it rises to the level of a confessional; where the outpouring of heart ache is so personally intense, by the time you leave, you are washed by them, carrying the emotion of the experience with you for a bit.
Elvis Costello WAS the festival this year. Seriously … he was the Pied-Piper, and everybody came calling. The memo must have read, “Please join Elvis on the Harbor Stage” and Larkin Poe (Rebecca & Megan Lovell), Middle Brother (Dawes, Deer Tick & Delta Spirit), Glen Hansard and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band all decided to come and jam.
Artists lending the assist to other artists for the sake of making good music is at the core of Newport Folk Festivals essence, and in this case each collaboration was like a fine wine … a very special vintage because they were playing songs from the Costello catalog. The “wine” lifted hearts, invoked joy and made people do things they might have not done sober. When Elvis played “Everyday I Write The Book”, couples were spotted dancing together on the green, the day seemed lighter and nostalgia mixed with an ear worm like that had people time travel back to the best of times.
Elvis Costello Set List:
- Pads, Paws and Claws
- Love Field
- Blame It On Cain
- Clown Strike
- Sulphur To Sugarcane
- Side By Side (Cliff Edwards covers)
- Face In The Browd
- Brilliant Mistake
- Everyday I Write The Book
- American Mirror
- (What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding
- The Scarlet Tide
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, we just need more music and more humans like that. They seem like they are from an era of day gone by, but what they are doing exactly what their name says, preserving jazz from a time way back when. They have such a good time playing it is infectious. What everyone needs to do soon is go see them and experience how easy it is to be lifted up by good people that are insanely talented, playing music that they love. You can catch trombone player Ronnell Johnson doing the cabbage patch with his trombone with a smile on his face so big when Charlie Gabriel does a clarinet solo, you’re gonna get up and dance too.
There are so few humans who can command a stage like Brittany Howard. She has a voice that transcends time, her guitar skills are outstanding and when she walks onto the stage there is a presence about her that y makes people feel like something extraordinary is going to happen.
“Alright here’s how it works, you give us a little, we give you a little,” said Brittany Howard.
Boy … was that an understatement. The fact is, The Alabama Shakes are the sum of their parts and each member brings something quietly fierce. It was the first time I’d seen them on a stage during daylight hours and the smiles on their faces were brighter than the sun. Their happiness added to the experience. We could see that they were all loving being on stage together. Having Dawes join them on stage at the end of the set was the perfect way to end the festival, and as the last notes were played and the sun once again started to set, the rough parts of the festival melted away and I know I’ll take with me all the good.
Alabama Shakes Set List :
- Future People
- Always Alright
- Rise To The Sun
- Guess Who
- This Feeling
- Miss You
- Gospel Song
- Gimme All Your Love
- I Don’t Want To Fight No More
- Sound and Color
- Over My Head
- You Ain’t Alone
- Night Moves (Bob Segar cover) with Dawes