It’s Sunday July 26th, what started to be a rainy morning and early afternoon has turned into a sunny Sunday evening. It’s the third and last day of the Newport Folk Festival, I am mid-stage waiting for Hozier to take the stage, while doing so I reflect on this year’s festival. I start thinking about Friday and all the amazing artists that performed. I started this year’s Newport Folk Festival by watching Converse Rubber Tracks’ contest winners, Ancient Cities. Ancient Cities is a great band that I think everyone should check out. Well done, Converse Rubber Tracks. I went on to see Angel Olsen, Hiss Golden Messenger, Leon Bridges, Iron & Wine, and Ben Bridwell. I ended the night at the Fort stage to see the unannounced act; to my surprise it was My Morning Jacket. My Morning Jacket would later welcome and perform with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. Just as Waters’ started to play it started to drizzle rain, which quickly turned into a downpour and at that point my wife turned to me and asked for the car keys. Normally I would have ran to the car, but this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a legend perform. I left the festival soaked, but it was well worth it to see Roger Waters live.
Day two of the fest included Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, Nikki Lane, The Suffers, Brandi Carlile, The Decemberists, and the unannounced act, James Taylor. The last time Taylor played the Newport Folk Fest was in July of 1969 and was interrupted by Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Taylor took to the stage and seemed to have some audio problems, but his performance was stellar and the crowd loved him.
Earlier in the day we were awarded tickets from Squarespace to see an intimate showcase with Jose Gonzalez, which was an amazing experience for everyone at the event. Gonzalez started to perform, but interrupted the set, because he didn’t want to compete with the audio from the other artist playing nearby. He arranged to play after the other band’s set was over, so we could truly enjoy his intimate affair. Jose Gonzalez’s actions show exactly what caliber of artists and musicians attend the Newport Folk Festival.
Sunday was the last day of the Newport Folk Festival. A little tired and complications with the weather made for a late start for me. However, I still went on to see Blake Mills and Jon Batiste & Stay Human. Hozier takes the stage at 5 o’clock, after a few quick songs; Hozier gave a reflection of his experiences with the Newport Folk Fest. He explains that just the year before he performed at a much smaller stage, the Harbor Stage, with hardly any recognition in the US. Hozier said he left his heart in Newport last year at the Folk Fest. The Newport Folk Fest was his first performance in America and he wasn’t sure that the Americans would take to his music. He could not imagine that he would have become so successful, he just wanted the people at the Folk Fest to like his music and if they did, that would be his greatest takeaway. Hozier said the festival goers of the Newport Folk Fest really know their music. Hozier’s story is not an uncommon story for musicians who have or will in the future play the Newport Folk Fest. I have seen many musicians and artists start at the smaller stages, only to end up at the larger Fort stage the next year.
I thought long and hard about Hozier’s words that he left his heart in Newport and I reflected on his words. I believe that musicians, artists, and festival goers all leave a little piece of their heart in Newport. The Newport Folk Festival leaves a magical feeling and fills a void that the avid music lover can’t get anywhere else.
The festival ended on a high note. J.P. Harris, Joseph Flecher, Taylor Goldsmith, and Dave Rawlings paid tribute to Bob Dylan by reinventing the set Dylan performed 50 years ago, which introduced Dylan from folk to rock. Even though Dylan was not present, his musical energy was definitely soaring, while Goldsmith brought the same guitar Dylan played back in 1965.
Jay Sweet and his team, as always, did an outstanding job and out did themselves once again. Sweet and his team are visionaries that really get it. I encourage Jay Sweet and his 2016 Folk Fest team to put on the first ever-unannounced Newport Folk Fest.