Newport Folk Festival Day 1
I walked up to the Harbor Stage at the 2008 Newport Folk Festival right as a soloist from the Young @ Heart chorus began singing Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees." Her 80 years allowed her more passion and earnestness than Thom Yorke could ever possibly get away with, which made it a much more powerful song. Right after she finished, I found my Paste co-hort and Newport programmer Jay Sweet standing next to WFUV's Rita Houston, and both said tears had streamed down their cheeks during the song. I found the hair on my arms standing on end several times myself during the show—particularly during Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark." I'd known about Young @ Heart and thought it sounded very cool, but I was unprepared by how affecting it would be. And how funny.
Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" was the first one that made me laugh out
loud. It was done as a male/female lead, and I got to interview the male half of the duet, Len Fontaine, later in the day. I also got to interview Stan
Goldman, a wheelchair bound singer who stunned me with his angelic
"ahhhs" before standing up with great difficulty to dance to "Take a
Walk on the Wild Side." They were all such fun interviews and will be
up on the website soon. I haven't seen the film yet, but it'll be at the top of my Netflix queue when it comes out this fall.
Saturday's main Fort Stage lineup wasn't as exciting to me as the secondary stage, but it drew nearly 100 boats out in the harbor, from kayaks to full-fledged yachts. The harbor provided a beautiful backdrop while it was sunny, but that didn't last real long today.
I caught bits of Jakob Dylan and Jesca Hoop before a torrential downpour pinned me in our tent and kept me from seeing the second half of She & Him as planned. The rain slowed just a bit for Jim "I bring the thunder" James, whose last several festival performances have been marked by the weather. But the fine folks at NPR and WFUV were kind enough to let me huddle in their tent and watch the beginning. All of Newport lost power, but the generators kept the stages alive, and Jim just went on 20 minutes late.
His solo acoustic set was haunting. Matt Ward joined him onstage after a few songs to play "Golden" and "Look at You." For anyone who worried what acts like Jim James and Cat Power said about the direction of the festival, this was folk at it's finest. Two of America's best singer-songwriters harmonizing on a duet. And James' version may be electric, but there's nothing more folky than an Autoharp.
The rest of the day included biths of Cat Power, The Black Crowes and two of Bob Marley's sons singing "Could You Be Loved."