Since 2012, my wife and I have made the annual trek to the Newport Folkfest – the historic and terrific 3-day music gathering held at Fort Adams State Park and one of the few truly green festivals around the world (it operates on solar panel, resulting in the final performance finishing at 7:30). Approximately 10,000 people from around North America make their way to Newport, Rhode Island in order to see artists – big and small – in a laid-back, intimate setting. This communal atmosphere isn’t only restricted to festival goers but also applies to the musicians, as you never know who might be collaborating with whom at any moment and who might be walking next to you.
The 2014 edition marks the 65th year of the Newport Folkfest, and the lineup is outstanding. There are conflicts galore for folk and indie fans, so choosing three each day will be difficult. To help whittle the list, I’ve opted not to choose any headlining acts. Honestly, do people really need to be encouraged to see Ryan Adams, Jack White, and Mavis Staples? (Then again, I do wonder if someone will yell “Play Summer of ’69” during Ryan Adams’ set.)
With this in mind, here are my three recommendations for Friday’s Newport lineup in chronological order (starting with the earliest). I guess we’ll be hanging out on one stage for most of the day, so see you there.
PHOX – 1:50 to 2:35 on the Quad Stage
The six friends from outside Madison, Wisconsin are making their Newport Folkfest debut. With their self-titled debut recently released (and one of our favourites of this year), this festival appearance should help them accelerate them to indie stardom. The album is enthralling and beautiful indie-folk-pop, starting with the intoxicating voice of Monica Martin to the melodies and rhythms of Matt Holmen, J. Sean Krunnfusz, Dave Roberts, Matteo Roberts, and Zach Johnston.
Reignwolf – 2:55 to 3:45 on the Quad Stage
Last year, Gary Clark, Jr. blew away the audience with his scintillating blues rock. This year, it’s Jordan Cook’s – a.k.a. Reignwolf – turn. I first saw him at the Ottawa Bluesfest in 2013, and his show was mindblowing, from the blues-southern-rock inspired solos to his pure energy on stage. This is the one show during the three days that could literally and figuratively blow the tent off, as the Saskatchewan native takes to the intimate Quad Stage. After this show, the festival organizers may have wished they would have put him on the Fort Stage, where at least Cook can release his boundless energy towards the harbor.
Lake Street Dive – 4:05 to 5:00 on the Quad Stage
Lake Street Dive are making the festival rounds, and this is the third time we’ve profiled them, including an earlier review by Rich Moses. There is good reason for the attention. The foursome’s music is soulful with gorgeous harmonies, and they illuminate an energy that is infectious and endearing. At the end of their show, they’ll have the audience singing their tunes well into the night.
Lake Street Dive are composed of singer Rachel Price from Tennessee, guitarist Michael “McDuck” Olson from Minneapolis, bassist Bridged Kearney from Iowa, and drummer Mike Calabrese from Philadelphia. The four individuals originally met in Boston and formed the band there before moving to Brooklyn a couple of years ago.
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