Sunday’s always the worst day at the Newport Folk Festival. Not because of the lineup, or performances, but because you know it’s all coming to an end. In fact, when it comes to the music, quite the opposite is true. Among all of the artists and fans, there’s an “it’s all coming to an end, so let’s party” vibe in the air. With the vibe comes more dancing, singing, and screaming along with the artists, turning each set into the best set of the day for at least a few people.
For me, these were the best sets of the day…
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1. ’65 Revisited
Rumors were spreading around the fort all weekend as to who would be showing up for this set, a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Bob Dylan going electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Many huge artists’ names were dropped; Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen (that one was mine), and even Bob himself. In the end, the set wasn’t full of legends, but still exceeded any expectation. Boasting names like David Rawlings, Gillian Welch, Willie Watson, Dawes, Hozier, Blake Mills and many, many more, ’65 Revisited became the type of set that can only happen at the fort. This was a celebration of an artist and his legacy, and will live on just as loudly.
2. The Ballroom Thieves
The Ballroom Thieves blew me away at Boston Calling back in May. Here, they almost killed me. The audience loved it and so did they, hanging out greeting fans and friends by the side of the stage after the show with ear-to-ear smiles.
3. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats
I went in knowing a few songs (his debut album hits stores next month) and left replacing my jaw to its upright position. Rateliff is a wild man, and his music (and set) were reminiscent of last year’s J. Roddy Walston set. Both were crazy bearded works of brilliance.
4. Jon Batiste & Stay Human
I’ve known the name Jon Batiste for a while, but I didn’t know that he was going to be the biggest surprise of the weekend. This was a contagious, crazy, boatload of fun onstage antics and face-melting musicianship.
While he’s not the most interesting or exciting stage presence, Hozier’s music shines through and sounds better live than it ever could on an album. And it sounds downright beautiful on the album.
Bonus: First Aid Kit
If only Johanna hadn’t lost her voice, they might have won the day. But without it, we were robbed of the magical harmonies these sisters are known for. Still, it was a very good, if extremely disappointing, set.