Three Best Things About the Whole Weekend At Newport Folk Festival
by Kim Ruehl, for FolkAlley.com
1. Spontaneous collaboration – Whether it was Neil Gaiman hopping onstage with his wife Amanda Palmer, members of Black Prairie jumping up with Colin Meloy, or Spirit Family Reunion hopping on stage with Iris DeMent and Hurray for the Riff Raff, the long tradition of folk music collaboration was alive and well at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival. At times, it served as an opportunity to get a taste of a band you might not otherwise have sought out. Other times, it simply augmented the entire set, as when Dawes jumped up to be the backing band for Blake Mills. The 25-minute staring contest between Jim James and Chris Funk could also loosely be considered a bit of spontaneous collaboration, though it was more a break from the music than it was a musicsplosion.
2. The Museum Stage – Whether it was the rain or the sun beating down on the festival crowd, the Museum Stage offered a welcome, dry and cool, reprieve. There, Chris Funk hosted a number of artists, as did Joe Fletcher. The latter ran an hours-long revue titled Nashville to Newport, which showcased some of Nashville’s finest, from Patrick Sweany to Amanda Shires and Bobby Bare, Jr. The Low Anthem hosted Newport Homegrown, and daily open mics shed light on great artists both new and old. While all the scheduled stuff took place on the stages, the impromptu, surprising moments mostly went down in the museum, where the audience was small and intimate, and “anything goes” seemed to be the motto.
3. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – Newport is great about setting some of the best up-and-coming artists alongside legends in their own time. This year’s token “legend” was Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, who showed up on the final day for a sunny, hot afternoon set of straight-up old-school folk story-songs. There was nothing particularly theatrical or visually riveting about his set – no jumping around or banging on anything. Instead, he showed us all what greatness could come from one guy, sitting on a stool, telling old stories and singing old songs. Naturally, there were other great songwriter sets throughout the weekend – Milk Carton Kids, Iris DeMent, and Jason Isbell, particularly. But, you simply cannot deny the talent of old Ramblin’ Jack.
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