Summer is just around the corner, which means a few things to me: twin lobster rolls from Easton's Beach, Del's lemonade, and the Newport Folk Festival. The albums this week are from bands that have had memorable performances at the folk festival in recent years. The Newport Festivals Foundation is still rolling out the 2014 line up. When it's complete, I’d like to do a post highlighting albums from some of the bands that will perform this year. Clockwise, from left:
The Head and The Heart – Self-titled, 2011 One of the nice things about the Newport Folk Festival (NFF) is the inevitable "discovery" of a new band. The Head And The Heart was that for me in 2011. They were relative newcomers to most in attendance (they signed with Sub Pop in November 2010) and those who witnessed their performance were treated to a powerful, energetic set. They were slotted at the same time as Middle Brother and Elvis Costello, but they kept the tent packed and people were dancing the entire time. The next day, I went straight to the record store and bought their self-titled release.
Cat Power – Jukebox, 2008 All I’ve ever read about Cat Power's live shows are that they tend to be hit or miss. Stories of Chan Marshall melting down during sets or walking off stage after a song and a half had me wondering what I'd be in for during her set at the 2008 NFF. To say it was brilliant would be selling it short. She absolutely blew the roof off the tent. Her backing band was tight and her voice was perfect. She slithered through the crowd serenading men and women alike and even handed out roses to a few lucky audience members. I remember saying "wow!" over and over again after the set was over. I knew I had witnessed something special.
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002 The 2012 NFF was, in my opinion, the best line up they have ever put together. Every year since Jay Sweet has taken the reigns as producer, the line ups have gotten better and better. 2012 was phenomenal: My Morning Jacket, Iron and Wine, Conor Oberst, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, New Multitudes, Charles Bradley, Jackson Browne, The Head and The Heart, to name a few. But the most exciting band for me that year was Wilco. I've been a Jeff Tweedy fan since the first Uncle Tupelo album No Depression. I was fortunate enough to have seen Uncle Tupelo play live, but hadn't yet seen Wilco. They headlined a Friday night show at Fort Adams and absolutely killed it. They played songs from their whole catalog. The highlight was their cover of Woody Guthrie's "California Stars," which included backing vocals from Guthrie's granddaughter, Sarah Lee Guthrie.
My Morning Jacket – It Makes No Difference EP, 2012 This limited edition EP for Record Store Day November 2012 was recorded at the 2012 NFF. I bought two copies of it when it came out; one for listening and one to hang on the wall in my office. In some weird way, I have a special connection to the record because it was my generators that powered the festival, and in turn, powered the recording equipment that made the record possible. I've done hundreds of events in the temporary power world – Super Bowls, the 2002 Olympics, Bonnaroo Festivals, and the 2004 World Series (reverse the curse!). No memento tops this record, not even the platinum album I got for being on the road crew for the *NSYNC Pop Odyssey tour.
Do you have a favorite Folk Festival performance? Tell us about it! We'd love to hear your memories.