The final day of Newport Folk Festival – Sunday – always carries a different vibe from the rest of the weekend. It’s quieter and moves at a slower pace. This could just be subjective, as typically the majority of acts I prioritize are coincidentally packed tightly between Friday and Saturday. Sundays are when I take a little longer on my walks between stages, stop to chat with friendly festival-goers and feel more relaxed when I have to leave a set early to catch another one.
Where Friday found me spending most of the day at the Fort Stage, and Saturday at the Quad Stage, Sunday had me gravitating toward the smaller Harbor Stage from morning through early evening. Usually packed to the brim and overflowing with people, the Harbor Stage and tent served as host for everything from loud punk rock to soft, traditional folk music. Here are the highlights:
The Aussie rocker was joined by fellow Aussie Folk Fest performer Courtney Barnett, who plays guitar in Cloher’s band, for a positively electric set. Cloher brought a taste of punk rock to the Harbor Stage with her commanding vocals and head-banging guitar melodies. One of those sets that keeps you on your toes, Cloher’s performance didn’t waste a single minute. It was a live wire from the moment she stepped on stage and greeted the crowd with a warm smile. There may have been a few plugged ears from festival-goers not prepared for the sheer volume of Cloher and her band, but it was their loss. That was a set worth hearing – loud and pulsating.
The Weather Station
Tamara Lindeman has likely been on many a Folk Fest wishlist for the last few years, and 2018 finally found her at the fort. Offering up her densely written, but softly sung songs about climate change and the flawed human condition, her performance gave serious Joni Mitchell vibes. Maybe one of the few artists on the bill this year that could be called “folk music”, it was special to see her captivating a tent full of people with songs that make you think a little deeper and listen a little closer.
Langhorne Slim and the Lost At Last Band
The Folk Festival favorite delivered the set of his life as he closed things down for the day at this small stage. Slim has come a long way since his first appearance at Newport, and his smart storytelling and uninhibited stage presence likely garnered him plenty of new fans. Slim even brought his mother out on stage to pay tribute to her and sing a duet, before jumping out into the crowd, climbing on chairs and encouraging the audience to get out of their seats and sing along. It was easily one of the most memorable sets of the whole festival. We laughed, we cried, we clapped our hands and dance and sang.
Other memorable moments of Sunday came from husband and wife duo The War and Treaty, who took an early bird crowd to church with their powerful, high octane gospel and soul rock. They were an unexpected treat for those who thought they would just wander over to the Quad Stage and see what was up. Gary Clark, Jr. brought the heat with his sultry blues rock and hypnotizing guitar playing at the Fort Stage. The supergroup Bermuda Triangle, made up of Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes), Becca Mancari and Jesse Lafser produced stunning harmonies with a hip-shaking backbeat at the Quad Stage, and attracted an impressive turnout.
The finale was like Sundays often are: slow and relaxed. Led by Jon Batiste with the Dap Kings, we were treated to special appearances from Mavis Staples, Chris Thile on mandolin, Leon Bridges, and Lake Street Dive’s Rachael Price. Performing a mix of covers and old traditional folk songs that fit in snugly with the theme: A Change is Gonna Come, new and familiar faces continued to pour out on to the stage for the celebratory conclusion to a weekend jam-packed with some of the finest live music. Repeat performances from other festival acts like Brandi Carlile and Maggie Rogers, Gary Clark, Jr., Valerie June, and Brittany Howard rounded things out and sent us away with a little more wind in our sails and plenty of positive energy to grasp onto until next summer.
Photos by Andrew Benedict