Jennifer took a trip out to the legendary Newport Folk Festival and brought us back this two-part report.
The first night of the festival, one of the topics of dinner conversation was Why are you here? Not in a mean way, but rather: what inspired you to make this journey? The best answer I could come up with was: Well, I got a wild hair . . . which was met with bemused humming and ended in a tangent on regional usage of the phrase. It’s essentially true, however: I went to Rhode Island for about 24 hours largely because back in February I squinted at the calendar and decided I could and it was there and why not?, and oh yes, there are some bands playing that I kind of like! And possibly also because the Internet has permanently changed my idea of what qualifies as a “local show.” Rhode Island! I can get there on the train! (And the bus . . . ) That totally qualifies as “nearby”!
My voyage to the Newport Folk Festival began before dawn on Saturday and included a brief (and accidental) detour to New London, CT. I missed A.A. Bondy’s set at the festival as result, which was distressing, but I consoled myself with a walk around town. There is a surprising amount of street art in New London, and a good deal of it has nautical themes. Here’s one of a whale, which stretches almost the entire length of a block:
By WyLAND, 1993
My favorite one, though, is this one , because it is so delightfully bizarre. Anyway, after getting back on the train, I carried on to Providence, RI, where they were getting ready to set the canals on fire (aka WaterFire ; I’m tempted to go back in October and see it for myself) and then got down to Newport in time to catch a little bit of Calexico:
I got there in time to hear them power through a couple of songs, including Guero Canelo, which is one of my favorites. Between bands there was peoplewatching, and also punks with horns and drums:
Next up was Andrew Bird:
He played some bits and pieces of things that, he said, “might be songs someday” and that was when I wandered off to the beach:
I have to say, listening to Scythian Empires with my feet in the water and the sun on my face was a highlight of the afternoon. I came back up to the main area for John Prine, who brought the whole thing back around to a more old-fashioned country-folk place:
And then later I went for a guided tour of the town:
This statue on the main drag CREEPED ME OUT. Apparently they put socks on the feet in the winter.
The oldest sailors’ bar on the Newport waterfront and allegedly home of the best chowder in town. I had some, and it was delicious.
Buskers by the creepy statue; they were pretty good, so we stayed a few moments to listen to them.
Jazz on the way to the Coffee Grinder; there’s a public seating area at the end of the pier where one can sit and enjoy the breeze and watch the boats in the harbor.
Bridges and boats by night, from Bowen’s Wharf.
I finished off the day with some delicious ice cream, and then went back to the hostel and crashed.