Monday, July 27, 2015

Newport Folk Fest: Friday feat. The Curmudgeon

Welcome back. We've missed you. This is eighth year of our Newport coverage, including our really fantastic article in the Newport Mercury in '08, and it's safe to say, the festival's been on an upward trend for us. It's also safe to say that we, at Ravings, are familiar with how exhausting and draining these kinds of festivals can be on us. It is safe to say, we are rather curmudgeonly.

We rain on all parades. (c) Dr. Seuss, and illus. by Chuck Jones, we think.
Here is what it boils down to: it's hard to enjoy a three-day, four-stage music-gasm knowing that we're still kinda working (and occasionally sleeping) for the 72-hour stretch. This year, we decided to Grinch our attitude and stay as often in one place as possible.

Seriously.

But think about it, isn't that what you'd do, too? Catch the acts you want to see, not have to hop around to EVERY act to catch up on photos and maybe a song or two ? (There were 18 acts on Friday alone, and that's not even counting the fourth stage). Maybe we should call it an experiment in being the average, sensible music-goer; "How the Other Half Listens"; but really, it's just our being lazy and Grinch-y and stubborn.

And still it was awesome.

The thing about being a curmudgeon, or really, about covering this festival for far more years than we've deserved, is this: habit. We want to break it a bit this year. We feel that we've earned it (not really) and that this particular year earned it - the 50th anniversary of Dylan's "plugging in." Breaking habit is something a curmudgeon does not often (or ever) do, but check out that first pic there. A break in routine already. You see, this time around, we've been thinking other things, thinking bigger thoughts; life, the universe, and everything. Those parts that relate to music and music blogging, anyway.

Here it is, habit biting our bum, the first act to open the Newport Folk Fest (all photos (c) Ravings):
Haunt the House haunts (and opens) the house at Alex and Ani Stage.
This time was a first for us: a real camera. Auto-focus, zoom lens, the whole 8.5 yards (we're still a bit stingy, yes). This gent on the left and his crew was floating about all three days (should we mention Haunt the House's music? They have an accordion. *cue accordion jokes*), and certainly had a great time of it. They probably had a better time than a grumpy old (though not that old) Mad Music Man. Or probably complained less about the good time they had. Yes, we can have a good time and still complain, because: talent. We're just not sure what kind of talent that is.

Though it's certainly not a marketable talent. Not even a parlor trick kind of talent. Not talent like this:

Joe Pug + guitarist Greg Tuohey.
This was our first act for us. Mr. Pug (who is our spirit animal, should you need to know) is one of those annoying acts who has "wit" and "congeniality" and "talent." Nuts to that. "This next song," to paraphrase/misquote Mr. Pug, "is pretty dark. You probably don't want to be eating your frozen yogurt during it, or at least eat the half without sprinkles." Lead into one of our many favorites, "The Great Despiser."

We brought an old band tee with us, that - yes - was signed already and washed out. Greg, in the background up there, was "kind" and "considerate" and "sweaty" and brought it around to the band to sign. Even got MorganEve Swain a la Brown Bird to sign it (who made a guest appearance on stage!). He is a really nice guy. But here's what we're going to do with the tee.
-Wrap it up
-Give it to a Who in Whoville
-Steal it on Christmas day

Yes, we're an evil one indeed.

This picture:
Leon Bridges, part dance, part sing.
...and this picture:

Music goers, all dance... not so much sing.
We think this sums it. Cool retro sound, 7-piece band.

The curmudgeonly part of us came out later in the day. We knew there would be a lot of great acts to cover, all kinds of new discoveries, but we went with an old standby.

John Convertino, aka the pulse of Calexico.
Followed by another old standby (see right).

Sam Beam, aka Iron and Wine. (minus Ben Bridwell)
And followed by My Morning Jacket (another old standby, bear below). We were not adventurous, no.

But the Calexico set was probably the best set of theirs we've caught these past few years. Perhaps the third time we've seen them? - and they caught the crowd right on the Quad / back stage. "Roka" was probably our favorite of theirs, just spine-tingling.

We don't have a lot to say about Sam Beam and Ben Bridwell, other than listening to the two of them do folk classics together is like tasting like a thick, smoky honey. We don't know if that sounds appetizing to y'all, but it does to us. We're going to hunt down their new album at some point.

And My Morning Jacket. Still good. Still rocking. The new album sounds awesome live.

Here is Jim James' bear. One of them. This one is called Ephesius.
(Okay, now we're just making sh#$ up.)

Jim James' "Rosebud." Perhaps.
We've got a lot more cool stuff to say, other cool pics, but we've wasted a lot of time on Grinches and sourpusses and bears, oh my! - and we still have to get to IT. You know. You've heard of the guy, the guy your old curly-haired soccer-playing college friend keeps bugging you to go see even though you went to one of his Phish concerts and couldn't breathe for the life of you.

This guy. Him. Maybe you've heard of Pink Floyd or something.

Roger Waters, aka Jim James' spirit animal.
And then the rains came. Blast. That's why the left side of (above) is all blurry.

Heart palpitations. Goose flesh. Nervous shaking. Waters was phenomenal. And then he started playing, too. "Wish You Were Here" was so anticipated, so enjoyed, that everywhere in the crowd people took out their iPhones to photograph the old man. Despite the rain. And occasional lightning. That's $500 for a photo, right there, but you can't explain these things to people. Not when you're being serenaded with "Wish You Were Here." Money just doesn't factor in. That's stubborn.

We did it. We caught all, and only all we really wanted to see on Friday. We're sure there were superb performances by acts we've never heard of, or at least never listened to, and we're going to say this: Bah humbug. Sometimes you just got to be stubborn. Sometimes you just want it your way (TM). Sometimes you just got to stick to your guns (not permitted on festival grounds, by the way).

But that's the fun of these things. Do what you want, go at your own pace. There's no wrong way to skin a cat; there's more than one way to eat a Reese's. Something like that.

Waters spoke, and thus died the Grinch.* We know you're probably shopping around NPR and various other sites for far, far better coverage than we're giving here, but thanks for stopping by anyway. At least we don't ramble on too much, right? Go catch us Wednesday for Part II, The Traveler (and Friday for Part III, "the good part"),

-Mgmt.

*cue face-melting scene from Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark, by the way

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