Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ain't Misbehavin': Newport Folk Fest Part I

Our photographer is a bit more traveled than we are; she tells us of the wonders of the Beale Street Music Festival: rain, mud, general ruckus. By which we mean copious booze (and various smokables), drunks, total craziness... in short, one heck of a wild party. But we wouldn't know. We've never been.
Friday was a rainy day, mud and grumpy weather. People kept wearing these:
Another beautiful day! Copyright Lauren Burke
but didn't wear their crazy-masks. Or Victorian makeup or viking helmets or things like that, just there was no (or very little) craziness. No drunks shouting "Free Bird." They were quite sober, we assure you.

Saturday we were chillin', catching Justin Townes Earle, chillin' next to a Bostonite who'd been to the festival for at least ten years (maybe more, memory gets foggy). We didn't get him at all - we mean, at all - but we, photographer and I, caught up on past festivals, current festival, construction in Boston (bleh!), things, we tell you, just things in general. It was something Kerouac might have shined upon. Could that kind of thing happen at a Beale Street? Could you just sit down with someone you've never met and shoot the sh-err, crap, have a good time set to music?

Sunday, before the Wheeler Bros. took stage, we watched a couple of 20-something guys play with a baby, maybe two at the most. Whatever was in her hands - a pair of sunglasses, a bead bracelet - she kept smiling to the two guys and gave it to them. They took it well and didn't ebay the items, giving them back to her mother, who gave them back to the baby, who gave them back to the guys (who couldn't help but crack up at all this), and all you have to do is step outside and ask yourself: who'd bring a baby to a music festival? And what kind of festivals are good for that? Newport is first and foremost a local festival - just ignore the fact that we get Calexico and Feist and My Morning Jacket, other national acts - and consider that for a second. Part of the lineup has always been local - Newport Homegrown, John McCauley, the Low Anthem - but moreso than that, the NFF is a neighborhood festival. "Hi Neighbor," one might say, "have a folk fest!"
(That's the Narragansette Beer slogan, for those not in the know.)

And the NFF is more than local, too, it's a neighborhood festival; it's neighbor-to-neighbor interaction, whether you've been going for ten years or you're a newcomer. Whether you're on stage, in front of the stage, or behind it. It's where you can tell one of the guitarists from Nicki Bluhm's set what a kick-arse job he did (and no, it wasn't us, we were too slow to catch him!) while he passes by the local crafts tents. It's a different kind of festival, it's where you can chat up the Lone Bellow and rattle off in your head a quick approximation of their one-night drive from Atlanta to Newport (which is just crazy, even in relation to touring); where you can find a musician busking a few dozen feet from the stage, after his set (this time he only drew four people or so); where there's a collective sigh of relief during the final act, when musicians and stage crew alike congratulate each other on another successful weekend. It's not savage and crazy, fun without restraint, and we're not going to say it's the only way, or even the best way to take in live music. But we will say it's the most communal, it's not the typical "us and them" of music creators vs. music consumers. We will say that it's our favorite way to take it in, to be part of the experience and not a hindrance to it. We will say we like our part in it, as a tiny little music blog that covers these two-and-a-half days of the year.

And we will say this: our thanks to the people who perform, publicize, and put it together. You know the first two, so here's a quick reminder of production and volunteers:
Techs, specs and mus-eck on Sunday. Copyright Me
And of course, thanks to the festival-goers, who are quite groovy to chill by during Justin Townes Earle, even if he is completely above our head. Hopefully you'll enjoy our coverage. Speaking of which, join us later this week to get all the highlights of the Fest! Later gators,
-Mgmt.

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