The 2012 Newport Folk Festival, Saturday Edition

Some of the loveliest Newport Folk Festival moments happen just before a band starts a set, when the musician up front professes sincere gratitude for being a part of the day. Performers, famous or new to the scene, seem to step back, admire the crowd and bask in the idea that they’re part of history in the making.

Local duo MorganEve Swain and David Lamb of Brown Bird were no different. Swain told the crowd how excited she was to be performing on the main stage at Fort Adams, and said she was mildly distracted by the stage’s views of the sparkling Newport Harbor.

Brown Bird set the right tone for a day filled with gracious musical hosts, comedic crowd interaction and once-in-a-lifetime performances. The duo played stomping favorites off their 2011 release, Salt for Salt, as well as brand new tunes with distinguishable gypsy and Indian influences.

During the performance, Lamb encouraged the crowd to get up and dance, but endearingly feared for festival-goers’ sandwiches at the same time. “If they get stepped on, we’ll buy you a new one, because we prefer you dance,” he said, and chuckled through the first few haunting chords of a new track. Much of the crowd heeded his request, and got up to move to the music.

For more on Brown Bird, check out our exclusive Newport Folk Festival Q-and-A with the band here.

Later in the day, Rhody bad boys Deer Tick drew an impressive crowd with front man John McCauley sounding especially gruff on the microphone. The band tweaked fan favorite “Ashamed” to the point that it was tough to sing along to, but the masses didn’t seem to care. Hundreds of people were on their feet and dancing for the entirety of the hour-long set.

Perhaps the most rollicking performance of the day came from Folk Festival newcomers, the Alabama Shakes. The band served up a soulful, energetic and unmistakably danceable set with songs from their first full-length album, Boys and Girls.

Even Samuel Beam of Iron and Wine couldn’t help but comment on Alabama Shakes’ sound. “Man, she’s got pipes,” he said of lead singer Brittany Howard. Beam and his backup band also gave a powerful performance. The set was distinguishably mellower than others of the day, but Beam’s tender vocals and thoughtful lyrics kept a crowd of thousands engaged.

An Iron and Wine fan hailing from New Zealand carried with him a small sign requesting the song, “Belated Promise Ring,” along with follow-up sheets of paper with “Please” and “Thank You” typed in boldface. But he was so mesmerized by the music he forgot to raise them up. Instead, he took several minutes of video, a valuable memento to get him through his travels back home.

As I was heading toward the gate and homeward bound, echoes of a familiar, quivering voice floated through the air. I followed the sound and discovered that Sunday performer Conor Oberst, of Bright Eyes fame, was treating a crowd to an intimate performance in the Kids’ Zone.

Only at the Newport Folk Festival.

Be sure to check back on ridaily for Adam Braver’s coverage of Sunday’s festival, with performances by Oberst, Of Monsters and Men, Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons and more. 

newportfolkfestival.net

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