Entries tagged with: Sara Watkins
words and photos by Klaus Kinski
Roger Waters @ Newport Folk Festival 7/24/2015
The 2015 Newport Folk Festival was definitely one for the history books. For example, this year's festival marked the 50th anniversary of when some man named Bob Dylan (in)famously decided to go electric. This move totally flipped the wigs of many of his deadbeat hippie/beat fans and created a deep chasm among his many devotees. As a matter of fact, on Saturday July 25, exactly 50 years to the day that Bob went electric at the Festival, the very Fender Stratocaster that Dylan used back 1965 to go electric made an appearance at the festival. The guitar, which Dylan left on an airplane like a doofus back in 1965, ended up in the hands of the plane's pilot until 2012. In 2013 the pilot's daughter put it up for auction where it fetched almost a million US dollars and ended up in the hands of Indianapolis Colts football team owner Jim Irsay.
Cool story bro. However, for me, the festival was all about the highly anticipated and very surprising headlining set by former Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters. The Newport Folk Festival is notorious for selling out before the line-up is even announced. So when the Fest announced that Waters would be headlining opening day of the festival (Friday July 24), a lot of people in possession of Friday tickets were extremely stoked, while millions of Roger Waters/Pink Floyd fans without tickets were extremely bummed out. I was one of the bummed out legion until fate intervened on my behalf and I miraculously found myself in attendance.
When Roger announced on facebook on May 21, 2015 that he would be participating in the 2015 Newport Folk Festival and promised "an intimate appearance specifically crafted for Newport Folk," the ambiguity of his declaration had Floyd-heads reeling at the possibilities. Would he be doing a full scale performance of "Dark Side" or "The Wall"? Or even stripped-down versions? Would he be performing his seminal 1992 album Amused to Death in full? After all, Friday July 24 also happened to be the day "Amused to Death" would see a large-scale, multi-format re-release.
What the Festival audience ended up getting from Waters was better than any of the above, in my opinion. For rather than use his headlining slot as an opportunity to remind us of his immense back catalog, both as a solo artist and as Pink Floyd's primary creative force, Waters took the opportunity to deliver a diverse setlist that not only gave a hearty nod to his work with Pink Floyd and as a solo artist, but he used the opportunity to pay homage to the festival's history, the legacy of folk music, and to hit us with the ultimate double-whammy; performing a brand new, never-before-heard song while playing piano in front of a crowd, according to Waters, "for the first time ever."
Waters was preceded by a scorching eight-song set by My Morning Jacket. As the dust settled from their 8th song, MMJ remained on stage as Roger Waters sauntered out with Amy Helm (daughter of the late Levon Helm), G.E. Smith as well as Lucius and Sara Watkins. These folks, combined with My Morning Jacket, banded together and served as Roger's explosive and unbelievable back-up band.
Roger kicked things off by performing that new, powerful, and no doubt provocative, song called "Crystal Clear Brooks," which has its origins as a poem penned by Waters that he brought to light back in 2014. He followed that with the Pink Floyd classic "Mother" which segued into one of my personal favorites from Amused to Death, "The Bravery of Being Out of Range." At this point in the set, he switched gears and performed a really great cover of John Prine's "Hello in There" which is a sad reflection on aging and the fact that life is basically one long casting off. Sort of a cross between "Death of a Salesman" and Hanson Towne's "Around The Corner." Ugh, get me a pistol. Anyhow, from there they moved into Floyd territory and unleashed another song about loss and longing; the classic "Wish You Were Here."
At this point, the rain was REALLY coming down and besides being soaked to the bone and shivering like an orphaned dog, I was also officially coming to terms with how well-crafted and totally unpredictable this set was. He followed "Wish You Were Here" with Buddy Miller's "Wide River to Cross," a song completely foreign to me but played beautifully by the assembled musicians and expressed superbly through Waters' vocals. The next three songs were completely Waters territory; the band tore into the title track from "Amused to Death" with staggering results and then headed into "Dark Side" territory with flawless renditions of "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse." They company closed out the set appropriately and paid tribute to The Newport Folk Festival in general and Bob Dylan in particular with a version of Planet Waves' "Forever Young."
At some point towards the tail end of this magnificent set, the rain tapered off, the clouds began to part, and the sun finally began to reappear again. Roger Waters had assembled an amazing crew of musicians and pulled off a truly amazing, unpredictable, and fulfilling performance that lacked ego and pretension.
Unfortunately, Roger doesn't have many live dates coming up in the near future. However, he will be performing at Dar, Constitution Hall, in Washington DC on Friday October 16, 2015. Billed as "Music Heals" the concert will feature Roger Waters, the musicians of MusiCorps, and will feature special guests Bill Corgan, Sheryl Crow and Tom Morello. More info:
Music Heals: an exceptional one night only concert where some of the world's biggest recording artists will join forces to raise money for MusiCorps - a charity supporting injured service men and women and their families. The MusiCorps Band is made up of injured service members who have learned, and in some cases relearned, how to play instruments through the charity. MusiCorps is a non-profit charitable organization which helps wounded veterans play music and recover their lives. Praised by the Wall Street Journal as "revolutionary," the conservatory-level program enables the wounded to learn, relearn, and perform music as a core part of their rehabilitation.Tickets for this show are on sale now.
In honor of the re-release of Roger Waters' 1992 solo album Amused to Death, we are giving away a limited edition 2xLP picture disc to one lucky person. Details on how to win are below.
Pics, videos, and setlist below.
As rumored, Roger Waters used My Morning Jacket as his backing band at a Newport Folk Fest on Friday night (7/24). We'll talk more about that in more detail later, but as you can see in the setlist above and below, My Roger Jacket played Pink Floyd songs, Waters solo songs, and some covers too. MMJ played their own set too. Amy Helm (Levon's daughter), G.E. Smith, Lucius and Sara Watkins also joined for some songs. MMJ, Roger, and G.E. Smith previously teamed up for a Levon Helm related benefit in 2012.
Though it was gorgeous all day, the clouds really started rolling in during MMJ, and the skies opened up during Roger's set. The sun was back out by the end of his set though.
A few Instagrams below...
The Newport Festivals Foundation continues to celebrate the festival's historic past by featuring emerging young artists alongside some of folk music's most venerable names. This year's festival features: My Morning Jacket, Jackson Browne, Conor Oberst, Iron & Wine, Patty Griffin, Guthrie Family Reunion, Dawes, The Head & The Heart, Deer Tick, Punch Brothers, City & Colour, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Tallest Man on Earth, tUnE-yArDs, Tom Morello, Trampled by Turtles, Gary Clark, Jr., Alabama Shakes, Blind Pilot, Of Monsters and Men, original music from: Jay Farrar; Will Johnson; Anders Parker; & Yim Yames set to the lyrics of Woody Guthrie, Sharon Van Etten, First Aid Kit, Sara Watkins, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Brown Bird, Jonny Corndawg, Jonathan Wilson, Spirit Family Reunion, Deep Dark Woods, Carl Broemel, Ben Sollee, Robert Ellis, Frank Fairfield, The Apache Relay, Spider John Koerner & His Rag Tag Boys, Joel Rafael, Joe Fletcher & The Wrong Reasons, Elizabeth Mitchell, honeyhoney, Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, The Kossoy Sisters, The Berklee City Music Choir and very special guests to be announced.The 2012 Newport Folk Festival lineup has been announced.
Wilco at Sasquatch (more by Josh Darr)
The Autumn Defense (John Stirratt and Pat Sansone of Wilco) have announced a NYC show before they play WIlco's Solid Sound Festival later this month. The band will play The Living Room on June 18 at 9 PM, before Joseph Arthur, who Sansone collaborated with in Holding the Void, plays one of his ten shows at the same venue.
John Stirratt and Jeff Tweedy's ex-Uncle Tupelo bandmate Jay Farrar also has a few shows coming up. Those include October 14 and 15 at City Winery in NYC. Tickets are on sale.
Nels Cline of Wilco plays Le Poisson Rouge with Marc RIbot tonight (6/15). Tickets are still available. Nels also plays Blue Note on Friday (6/17) as part of the Spontaneous Construction series. The show is part of the Blue Note Jazz Festival. Tickets are on sale. He will also play with The Les Paul Trio at The Iridium on July 11 as part of their Les Paul Guitar Tribute Mondays. Nels plays Solid Sound with Thurston Moore under their Pillow Wand moniker.
Jeff Tweedy has no NYC dates but you can catch him at Winnipeg Folk Festival with Mountain Man, Dawes, Lucinda Williams and others on July 6-10.
All tour dates, Wilco included, below...
Canadian folk/alt-country band Blackie and the Rodeo Kings are set to release Kings and Queens today (6/14) in the US via Music/Dramatico/Universal. The album features a different female vocalist in each track, and the list is pretty impressive. It includes Lucinda Williams, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Exene Cervenka of X, Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek, Emmylou Harris, Rosanne Cash and others. Full tracklist below.
No special guests are announced, but we know at least one of the artists that appears on the album is probably in town. NYC resident Rosanne Cash, who spends much of the summer touring to promote her music and a book, has no dates scheduled before this Thursday (6/16) when she plays as part of Hal Wilner's 'Freedom Riders' show with Lou Reed, Tao Seeger, and others.
Exene Cervenka will be in NYC with X in September and October.
I don't know if Sara Watkins is on tour with the Decemberists (who play Prospect Park tonight), but she did play with them at the Beacon Theater in January.
All B&RK tour dates, album art, and tracklist below...
Playing before The Decemberists is no easy task, but Merge duo Wye Oak was up for the challenge.
"Good evening. We're a couple of kids from Baltimore, Maryland... hot dog!" declared vocalist/guitarist Jenn Wasner with cool excitement. In light of Wasner's endearing banter and sweet demeanor, the duo's rocking sound is a nice contrast. This is not the stuff of wispy, sugar-coated singer-songwriters. Wasner's voice is surprisingly full bodied, and for two people, there's a lot going on musically. Andy Stack's ability to manage both the keyboard and the drums simultaneously is no small feat.
Wye Oak showcased some new material, including a selection of songs from their upcoming album, which drops on 3/8. "I wrote this song in a sweaty attic in Baltimore," Jenn said at one point. "Now I get to play it in a Broadway theatre. Life is strange."
Following Wye Oak's brief set (and nearly the entirety of a Mumford and Sons album courtesy of the sound guy), the lights dimmed, and a mysterious but congenial disembodied voice boomed through the darkness. "Good evening. Welcome to the show." No, it wasn't The Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy. It was a scripted pre-recorded intro of sorts, allegedly from Sam Adams, the mayor of Portland. Robo-Adams led the crowd in introductions and then began to set the scene for what promised to be a picturesque evening. "I'd like you to imagine you're standing on a windswept coastal rainforest somewhere in the deep Pacific northwest.'" Cue the chirping birds and flowing water.
"OK here we go," said Meloy as the band readied to play. "Night number two." Befitting the strange introduction, the backdrop of the stage was decorated with the silhouettes of pine trees against the sky - much like the artwork on the cover of the band's latest album which just hit #1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.
For Monday night's show (night 1 or 3), the band had kicked off their set with a number of new songs, but at last night's show, they began with a ten-plus minute song from deep within their discography: "California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade."
It's hard to believe that nearly 9 years have passed since The Decemberists released Castaways and Cutouts. After the direction the band assumed for their last two albums, I was eager to hear what their latest would be like, and I didn't have to wait long.
"We have a new record out called The King is Dead, and we're going to play some songs off of that... among other things," Meloy stated after the chords of the first song had died out. "We have a long night together." What followed was a cascade of new songs, interrupted only briefly for the crowd-pleasing ballad "Red Right Ankle."
With The King is Dead, The Decemberists seem to have exchanged the slowly unfolding and meandering prog rock featured on their recent few albums, and turned back to tight songwriting in the more conventional 3-5 minute format. The new material is less frenzied and overblown than say, nearly anything on Hazards of Love. Absent are long-winded instrumental interludes and evidence of roll playing, strange characters, and period pieces. The King is Dead is far more immediate, which is good, considering just how much of the band's set was lifted from the album (only two of the new songs went unplayed). Much of the material may have been new, but it also felt somehow familiar - like a throwback to some of the band's earlier work. Fiddle player and vocalist Sara Watkins (of Nickel Creek) was a pleasant addition to the mix - especially as the widow in "The Chimbley Sweep."
Of course, we still got a taste of that gothic storybook rock. "Alright, we're going to go down the rabbit hole here a little," Meloy said by way of introducing the Crane Wife suite.
Spirits were high throughout the evening. Meloy and the band succeeded in engaging the audience with their dramatic antics and candid banter. At one point, Meloy turned the mic on the audience and pitted the orchestra against the balcony for what turned into an impressively compliant and enthusiastic sing-a-long for the 'la-di-da's' of "16 Military Wives."
The Decemberists followed up their regular set with quite an energetic and theatrical first encore. "The Chimbley Sweep" devolved into a play-off - Colin Meloy vs. Chris Funk. Then as the song continued, both men handed off their guitars to a random audience member, and Meloy proceeded to take a walk around the room, climbing over chairs and steadying himself by reaching out and grasping shoulders and heads as he made his way through the crowd. For the accordion-laden shanty "The Mariner's Revenge Song," the audience assumed an important role. At Funk's hand signal (no more prop whale), the whole room broke out in screams and laments as if being swallowed by a whale. Back onstage, the band fell to the ground and began to writhe around the floor. From their new position, they played with increased fervor until the song eventually spun out of control and ended.
Succumbing to the ravenous applause, The Decemberists concluded the evening with a brief second encore, this time favoring a song from their new album, "June Hymn."
After comparing the setlists from the last two nights, it definitely looks like the band is attempting to mix things up. I only wonder what they'll play to cap off their three-night run in the city tonight (1/26).
More pictures from last night (though none of Wye Oak unfortunately), the setlist and all of their upcoming tour dates below...
As previously mentioned, My Morning Jacket landed some opening slots on the current Tom Petty tour including August 24th in NJ (though not MSG). Tickets for the tour are currently on sale (some with no service fee).
My Morning Jacket now has new dates that include Canandaigua, NY (outside Rochester) on August 28th (tickets on sale Friday at noon) and Philly on August 29th. On those headlining dates "the guys will be donating $1 from each ticket to a local charity." All dates and the list of charities are below.
Before those, Jim James will be a part of the Appalachain Voices tour with Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore in July. That includes a July 30th show at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Tickets are on sale Friday.
You can also catch Yim Yames on May 26th performing with John Prine on Letterman. MMJ is among those who contributed to a new Prine tribute album entitled Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Gayngs, Deer Tick, Josh Ritter, Conor Oberst, Drive By Truckers, Those Darlins and others have tracks on the CD too.
The full tribute tracklist, a video of J Vernon covering Prine at the Haiti benefit @ MHOW, and all MMJ tour dates, below...
Pete Seeger @ Clearwater Festival 2009 (more by Chris La Putt)
Clearwater Festival, the annual benefit for the Hudson River environmental group of the same name, will be happening this year at Croton-on-Hudson's Croton Point Park on June 19th & 20th. Pete Seeger, the non-profit's founder, plays every year - joining him this year will be Steve Earle, Rhett Miller, Joan Osborne, Buckwheat Zydeco, Felice Bros and more. More of the initial lineup is below. Tickets to the fest are on sale (and currently almost half the door price). Pictures from last year's day one are HERE and day two are HERE.
A bit farther Upstate in Hunter, NY, the three-day Mountain Jam will be happening June 4th-6th. The lineup for that includes Gov't Mule, Levon Helm & Friends, Drive-By Truckers, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, The Avett Brothers, Dr. Dog, Les Claypool, Jay Farrar (of Son Volt), These United States, Justin Townes Earle (note dad, playing above) and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger Band (the same, except grandpa). The full current lineup is below, and tickets are on sale.
Later this summer (in July), Camp Bisco will be in Mariaville, NY.
Lineups so far for both fests are below...