Festivals, Newport Folk Festival, The Revue — July 29, 2017 at 1:00 am

Newport Folk Festival 2017: Saturday Guide

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Just like Day 1, the second day of Newpork Folk Festival is filled with conflicts, as is expected. The first half of the day features several international artists, some of whom occupied many of our “Favorites of 2016” lists. The mid-afternoon to evening portions are littered with some of the biggest names in indie, folk, Americana, and alt-country. Oh, there are a few special collaborations on the docket – official collaborations that is, as there will be plenty of surprises on tap.

To assist with your planning, we’ve drafted our annual Newport Folk Festival 2017 Guide, offering quick snapshots on the artists and bands in one tidy package. More detailed descriptions can be found on the Festival’s app (download options here).

Follow the Festival online to get updates on special guests, surprise collaborations, and latest news (like who is playing at the cave or cancellations):
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Newport Folk Festival 2017: Saturday Guide

As is always the case, the Festival kicks off with Open Mic (10:00 AM, Museum). Bring your guitar, bongos, banjo, or whatever instrument you play, warm up your vocal chords, and build up the courage to share your tunes in front of curious passersby. Plus, you never know if Jay Sweet will be walking by…

… like he’ll be doing to catch the Berklee Instant Strings (11:00 AM, Museum). Extending their long-time partnership with a creative little event, NFF and the Berklee School of Music have invited four students to perform a selection of music. Knowing what we do of the School, the audience will likely be treated to creative renditions of familiar songs. Don’t be surprised to see the quartet around the grounds and collaborating with artists throughout day, which would make them the Festival’s house band for the day…

…while alt-folk quintet Mt. Joy (11:00 AM, Harbor) may become your favorite discovery of the day (they’re already a favorite of ours). They’re not the typical alt-folk band as they dabble in some classic soul and R&B, like their song “Sheep”, which is a candidate for one of the best songs of the year. This band is on the verge of a major, major breakthrough…

…like what Julia Jacklin (11:10 AM, Quad) experienced a year ago. The singer-songwriter from the beautiful Blue Mountains region of Australia won over audiences around the world with her Patsy Cline-like grace, vivid and imaginative storytelling, and a debut album (Don’t Let The Kids Win) that was one of the best of the year. She’s one of our favorites, and she’ll likely leave audiences in awe…

…which goes without saying when Chicano Batman (11:25 AM, Fort) take to the stage. For those needing a wake-up call or a shot of energy after a long night out, the Los Angeles-based band are the perfect tonic. Their Latin-infused funk-blues will have everyone hanging out by the water dancing and joyous. A quick visit to the Fort should be made just to see if the quartet will be decked out in their customary brown suits on what is expected to be a warm day…

… and a visit to the Museum Stage to hear Lyla June (11:45 AM, Museum) is also a must. The multi-talented artist – she’s a singer, poet, educator, anthropologist, public speaker, and activist – tells stories from the perspective of not just Native Americans but all those who have been victimized, coerced, or discriminated. In other words, she’s like a new generation Patti Smith…

…while Jalen N’Gonda (12:05 PM, Harbor) is, in our eyes, the next Sam Cooke. Despite his young age, N’Gonda’s history is fascinating. His parents immigrated to the US from Zambia, setting up roots in Maryland. N’Gonda has since moved to Liverpool, where he’s developed a cult following in the UK (although it also extends to us) with his classic approach to soul and R&B. He’s a throwback…

…like Marlon Williams (12:25 PM, Quad) unquestionably is. The New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based singer-songwriter has been compared to everyone from Elvis Presley to Neil Youngand Roy Orbison. His 2016 self-titled album was an expansive concept album akin to a Tarantino movie, and its brilliance and creativity resulted in Marlon Williams being named to numerous year-end lists (including our own). The man is simply a genius…

…which is the word people may use after hearing Casey Neill (12:30 PM, Museum) perform early in the afternoon. The Portland-based Americana artist will be performing solo (his backing band The Norway Rats may still be around), so how Neill will transform the dark, cinematic nature of his full-band’s sound will be an interesting experience. One thing is certain: his show will be intimate and engrossing, where a few dozen audience members will get to be fully consumed by his masterful stories…

…while captivating storytelling will also be on order during Grandma’s Hands‘ set (12:35 PM, Fort). The sextet from Oxford, England, are great bets to be among the Festival’s biggest surprises, as they’re one of the least known performers, not only at Newport but within the entire indie scene. Despite being a band living in obscurity at home and abroad, the fact they’re gracing NFF’s biggest stage is a testament to their sonic talents and expansive approach that mixes folk, alt-pop, and cinematic indie…

…but over on the Harbor Stage, local legend J.P. Harris and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Chance McCoy (1:15 PM, Harbor) will team up to give us some some old-school, knee-slapping, toe-tapping, get-on-your-feet honky tonk. Get to the stage early, because it is sure to be overflowing with patrons looking to have a good time in the summer heat. This gig should also be a photographer’s dream, as we fully expect a very engaged duo and an energetic audience. …

…although during Christopher Paul Stelling‘s performance (1:20 PM, Museum), expect to see people fully hypnotized. With one of the great voices within the Americana and indie-folk genres, uplifting stories that will rival those written by José González, and finger-plucking skills on par with The Tallest Man on Earth, Stelling is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by the masses. His performance at NFF could lead to his much-deserved breakthrough…

…an experience Mandolin Orange (1:40 PM, Quad) could attest to after their 2014 appearance. At that time, the North Carolina duo of Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz were starting to carve out a niche within the competitive folk scene. Afterwards, they were one of the most-talked about bands at NFF, and they’ve since carried that momentum with slots at Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, and other festivals. Their long-awaited return is only matched…

…by the anticipation building for Offa Rex (1:45 PM, Fort). Comprised of The Decemberists and British singer Olivia Chaney, this collaboration will surprise everyone with their psychedelic-folk, which explains the band’s name (for younger audiences, it’s a play on influential psych-rockers T. Rex). As this is Newport Folk Festival and Colin Meloy and Chris Funk are in the house, there will likely be other entertaining surprises, or at least some long-winded yet amusing anecdotes from Meloy…

…but expect precision during Kitty Amaral & Cosmic Strings Coalition‘s performance (2:00 PM, Museum). Amaral is a 16-year-old fiddler from the Blue Ridge Mountains, and she’s already won several competitions across the country. Leave it to a teenager to bring old-school bluegrass and old-time blues to the Festival. Hopefully, the NFF staff will remove the chairs in the Museum so the audience can dance…

…however, a different kind of dancing – namely slow dancing with a loved one – is on the menu for Robert Ellis‘ set (2:30 PM, Harbor). The Houston native released his self-titled album a year ago, and it was a man revealing his heart and soul for all the world to hear. His set will be intimate and immensely personal, yet everyone in attendance will relate to his stories of love, loss, and redemption. If you’ll be there, bring a few tissues to wipe the tears from your eyes…

…but tissues will be needed for another purpose when Nikki Lane (2:55 PM, Quad) takes the stage – that is, to wipe the sweat from brow. Better yet, bring a towel because you’ll likely be drenched after dancing to Lane’s energetic Americana music. Her last album, the terrific Highway Queen, was a storyteller’s dream, while the gritty and honest music was straight out of the late ’70s and early ’80s. She’s one of the great singer-songwriters out there today…

… and maybe Lane will join Joe Pug (3:00 PM, Museum) in the afternoon when the venerable artist hosts a live, three-hour “Working Artist Songwriter Podcast.” This will be a great opportunity not just to cool down but to learn about the artists’ tricks, habits, and inspirations (and likely frustrations). Artists participating in the podcast likely will be announced just before the event, so check NFF’s social media and the schedule inside the Museum for updates. Any aspiring artist should definitely attend this event…

…although no one, whether it’s an aspiring singer-songwriter or a music fan, should miss Angel Olsen (3:10 PM, Fort). While she played solo at NFF two years ago, she’ll be supported by her talented band and bringing her wonderful blend of indie rock and folk rock. Her last album, My Woman, was one of the most critically acclaimed LPs of 2016, occupying nearly every “Best Of” or “Favorites” list around the globe, including NPR and, for what it’s worth, our own. She’s without hesitation one of the great singer-songwriters of her generation, and her live performance is something to behold…

…which can also be said for the band Joseph (3:45 PM, Harbor). If you are a fan of multi-part harmonies like we are, then the Oregon siblings are a must-see group. Their 2016 album, I’m Not Alone, No You’re Not, was a charming yet dynamic piece of harmonic artistry. Their concert will similarly be awe-inspiring, having people wanting to holler enthusiastically during the euphoric choruses, clapping their hands in time with the pummeling rhythms, and simply basking in the allure of the Closner sisters’ vocals…

…speaking of stupendous vocals, Jim James (4:20 PM, Quad) is beyond compare. The My Morning Jacket frontman last played solo at the Festival in 2013, although he performed with Roger Waters during the Pink Floyd legend’s 2015 concert. Fresh off his terrific 2016 album, Eternally Even, James’ set could be filled with surprises – from unexpected covers to a few guest collaborators. We wouldn’t be surprised, for instance, if members of Drive-by Truckers, Colin Meloy, Nikki Lane, or Kitty Amaral joined him on stage…

…but don’t expect too many collaborators to join The Avett Brothers (4:40 PM, Fort) only because the quartet need all the space they can get since they’re constantly moving. The Americana band’s live shows are legendary, which partially explains why they’re making their third appearance in five years at NFF. If you’re planning to stand and dance, you’d better get to the stage early to stake out your space…

…which also applies to the final session on the Harbor Stage when Billy Bragg & Joe Henry (5:00 PM, Harbor) hold court. This collaboration involving two of the most influential (not to mention diverse) singer-songwriters of the past 30 years should be an absolute treat. Their set should be filled with protest songs from their past and present, which should embolden a lively audience…

…in much the same way that Drive-by Truckers (5:40 PM, Quad) have been doing in their two-plus decades in the business. The southern-rock band have assumed the position that CCR and Rage Against The Machine once occupied – as the best protest band in music. Their latest album, American Band, is fueled by moral indignation and is an indictment against violence and hate. Not surprisingly, it graced dozens of “Best of” lists, including our own, putting the quintet in rare company – a band that electrifies musically and lyrically – and includes greats like U2 (in their prime), Radiohead…

…and a group called Wilco (6:15 PM, Fort). For the second time in six years, the Chicago legends will be headlining an evening at Newport Folk Festival. If you’ve seen them perform in other venues and festivals, you know Wilco generally adopt a workman-like approach. They’re here to do a job, and that is give the people the music they want. At NFF, though, the sextet are more relaxed and let their personalities shine. Jeff Tweedy, in particular, will likely share a few humorous stories during the evening. This is the power of the Festival, where even the musicians feel like they are home.

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