In less than 24 hours' time, the fine folks at Newport will open the gates at Fort Adams, kicking off the 2014 edition of The Newport Folk Festival
...the greatest, most relaxed, and surprisingly intimate gathering of bands on the summer festival calendar. Unlike a lot of other major summer fests, Newport has the refreshing habit of gambling on their bookings, extending early invites to musicians they fully intend to nurture over the years by moving them up the stage hierarchy, year after year. Two years back I discovered a tenacious little outfit dubbed Spirit Family Reunion at Newport, scrappy and seriously plucked right out of the subways of New York City where they were filling their guitar cases with pocket change. When the band returned last year it was with a hero's welcome. The Avett Brothers were also once a young and enterprising outfit at the festival. Last year they were headlining on the main stage, bringing down the house with their frenetic, closing set on Saturday evening. Then of course there's Deer Tick; hometown favs I imagine have played every stage there is at Newport, serving as the unofficial house band for other artists, and keeping fans up all hours of the night with their boozy and blurry after-parties.
This year Newport offers an impressive slate of household names (Ryan Adams, Jeff Tweedy, Jimmy Cliff, and uh...Jack freakin' White), but the point of this list is to highlight one of Newport's most redeeming qualities. The festival always seems to provide the opportunity to see the future stars well before their names are in big bold letters at the top of the festival poster...call this list a super-preview of Newport Folk, if you will.
Tall Tall Trees - Friday - 12:45 - The Harbor Stage
We've encountered Mike Savino before, plucking, scratching, even howling into his banjo as an accomplice for pop-mystic, Kishi Bashi
. Savino also does his own thing, however, under the charming, Tall Tall Trees' moniker. Equal parts folk, classic rock, and pop whimsy, Tall Tall Trees kick things off early on Friday at the Harbor Stage. We know you're eager to get to the Fort...make this one of the first, and most memorable sets of the weekend.
Phox - Friday - 1:50 - The Quad Stage
We've profiled Baraboo Wisconsin outfit Phox on the site as well
. Quite simply, the band could be bonkers big, and their whistley, indie-pop-perfect tunes will be just the thing you'll need with those cool, New England breezes blowing off the harbor, an ice cold Del's in your hand, and some warm summer rays on the back of your neck. Also, singer Monica Martin just might stir some feelings in your heart you just didn't know were there.
Lake Street Dive - Friday - 4:05 - The Quad Stage
Ok, so folks are kind of flipping out over Lake Street Dive. Having formed at Boston's New England Conservatory, the band originally got together with more avant-garde intentions. Things don't always go as planned, however, and the quartet quickly paired singer Rachael Price's pitch-perfect, classic croons with the kind of refreshing, jazzy pop-rock that tends to light up the NPR dial.
Benjamin Booker - Saturday - 1:35 - The Quad Stage
Want to hear the sound of lightening in a bottle? Check out New Orleans-based singer-songwriter, Benjamin Booker's set early Saturday afternoon. Singles and such are slim-picking...there are currently two on Spotify. Booker's got an ATO-endorsed debut coming out on August 19th though and we're expecting quite the cacophony of blues, old time rock and roll, and rockabilly when he showcases his freaky fuzz at Newport. Oh, another fun fact. Booker's also been hand-picked by Saturday's headliner, Jack White, to open up a slew of dates on his Lazeretto
tour. No big deal...
Shakey Graves - Saturday - 2:25 - The Harbor Stage
A fiery, one man band we first encountered via our friends over at the The Good Music Club
, Shakey Graves is the mighty moniker of Austin TX's own, Alejandro Rose-Garcia. Sets we've seen find Shakey ferociously finger pickin' away on an old hollow body, pounding his heel on a homemade suitcase kick drum, and growling like some wild-eyed, evangelist busker. Sweat will pour during this set on Saturday.
The Milk Carton Kids - Saturday - 4:10 - The Quad Stage
If memory serves me correctly, The Milk Carton Kids were one of the first bands to take the stage at last year's festival. I, unfortunately, only discovered them listening to an NPR recording of their set on the drive home. Pairing some of the sweetest acoustic music you'll ever hear with brilliant, dead-pan comedy banter, the two Californian musicians have been described as Simon and Garfunkel meets The Smothers Brothers. In addition to playing the main festival on Saturday, the duo will be hosting The Milk Carton Kids Revue at the Jane Pickens Theater on Friday night. Hope you have your tickets. It is very, very
Ages and Ages - Sunday - 11:30 - The Fort Stage
We challenge you to find a catchier song than "Divisionary (Do The Right Thing)"; the feel good, live-life-by-this-one-and-only-code-and-you'll-be-fine anthem that closes out their album of the same name. Seriously, go for it! Scour the internet! You won't find a better, more addictive indie-pop offering (hand claps! Stomping feet! Sing-along choruses!) than the one this Portland OR band will serve up during their set. Skip brunch, have breakfast with Ages and Ages on Sunday.
Gregory Alan Isakov - Sunday - 1:25 - The Quad Stage
We've been enchanted by the sweet, acoustic ease of this Colorado-based folkie since he released his stellar collection, The Weatherman
, last year. The product of a lifetime of wandering - born in South Africa, a stint in Philadelphia, and now in his new found home in the Rockies - these grass-stained, prairie songs come packed with wonder, love, and an appreciation for the outside world.
Hozier - Sunday - 2:35 - The Harbor Stage
When criminally young (he was born in the 90s), Irish songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne declares, "Take me to church", on his break out single of the same name, he means it. The supremely powerful sermon of a song absolutely pours from the speakers with dramatic plumes of piano, desperate melodic pleas, and a gospel-sized chorus. Hozier could very well become one of the biggest pop singers in the world. Amen to that.
Hurray For The Riff Raff - Sunday - 2:50 - The Quad Stage
New Orleans' Hurray For The Riff Raff are another band making their triumphant return to the festival this year. Lead by smoky-voiced troubadour Alynda Lee, the outfit play an easy-going, everything-AND-the-kitchen-sink blend of folk, country, cajun, and the blues, with perfect, ramshackle results. Welcome back the band to the Fort on Sunday afternoon.
Spencer Tweedy - Sunday - 4:45 - The Fort Stage
OK, I'm only presuming Jeff Tweedy's son Spencer will be joining the legendary Wilco frontman on the drums at some point during Sunday's set with this one. But the father-son duo have been touring together and teasing the release of their joint-album Sukierae
with a handful of singles. Our favorite so far is "Summer Noon"; a bouncy pairing of Spencer's disjointed, slightly avant-garde percussive chops and Jeff's mellow guitar crunch. Will this be the first of many appearances at Newport for young Tweedy? If he shares any of his father's fondness for the fest, then...probably? Maybe? Hopefully!