And then there was one. Sunday was such a bittersweet day at the Newport Folk Festival. There were so many great acts on the bill, yet they marked the end of another unforgettable weekend at Fort Adams.
The special thing about the Newport Folk Festival isn't the lineup, or the location; it's the people. Not just the audience, which I'm convinced is the most laid-back in festival history, but behind the scenes, too. The coordinators are passionate in a way you won't often find. They actually care about the music, the people, and everything this festival has grown to represent.
Then there are the bands. They're not just hired guns, here... they're a family. This was most evident during the finale of this year's festival, but could be seen throughout the entire weekend; Jack White walking around the crowd as if it were his own backyard; Mavis Staples sitting in on several sets throughout the three days; last year's Sunday hanging out backstage, catching a few sets on Friday; or newcomers like Shakey Graves ranting and raving about their experience through social media in the days after.
No matter who you ask, whether it be the bands, audiences or Jay Sweet himself, Newport Folk Festival is the best weekend of the year; every year. Now it's just time to wait for the next one.
But before the waiting officially begins, here are my five favorite acts from Sunday... along with a little bonus, naturally.
1. Mavis Staples
Not only did she have the warmest set of the weekend, she was the best overall performer of the weekend, period. She sounded great, strutted around as if she owned the place (which she did), was extremely funny, and brought out the perfect guests for the perfect collaborations.
2. Rodrigo y Gabriella
If there were any truly hired guns this weekend, they'd be Rodrigo y Gabriella (I would've said Jack White, too, but that changed after seeing his set.). Maybe I'm wrong, but they just felt colder than most other acts, even with Gabriella's address to the audience early on in the set. But still, they melted my face and left me begging for more. These two are machines; extremely talented and outrageously entertaining machines.
I love these guys. I'm a new fan, I'll admit. But that doesn't make my love any less real. Their set was full of the perfect songs for this festival/audience, and "When My Time Comes" into "A Little Bit of Everything" will make you believe in Music. (Whatever that means.)
4. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down
Wow... Thao was insane! All that energy and talent coming out of her? This was an endlessly entertaining set, and Thao really needs to change the name of this act to Thao & the Get Up and Rock the F Out!
5. Valerie June
After Valerie June was announced as part of this festival, I listened to her album. After I listened to the first two tracks of her album, I was officially in love with her voice. She sounds even better live.
Bonus: George Wein
Wein, who founded the Newport Folk Festival 55 years ago, came out to introduce Mavis Staples. Without him, none of the great moments this festival has produced over the years would have ever been possible. He is the father of the Newport Folk family, and it was a special moment to have him introduce the final act of the weekend, especially this act.