Top 10 Moments from the Newport Folk Festival

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(Photos and text by Jennifer Semler, a guest contributor to KCRW’s Music Blog. You can find photos of her musical adventures on Instagram at @girlattherockshow)

Roger Waters

Okay, I admit it — when he played Mother, I totally teared up.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The NightsweatsI loved everything about this Denver musician — his band, his ginger beard and all of it together. He has a new album, produced by Richard Swift, due August 21 on the legendary Stax Records.

Strand of Oaks’
Timothy Showalter harnessing his inner Viking.
When organizers had to interrupt their set to warn us that there may be an intense thunder and lighting storm coming, Timothy knew what to do.
He said “I’ll try to keep the thunder away for a little bit” and, whatever he did, it worked and the thunder and lighting missed us. The rain, did not.
Somehow I’ve missed him in LA, but I was very excited to see him.  Not as excited as the two girls right behind me – front and center in the audience — who spent the first song screaming at the top of their lungs, ” Hozier, I love you, please look at me.”I didn’t have the heart to tell them that his probably couldn’t hear them and it wasn’t that he didn’t love them back.
Jason Isbell
I love all the work he did with the Drive By Truckers and his 4th studio album Southeastern. I’m also a huge  fan of his new record.The joy he has while performing makes every room – or field – he plays in worth the trip.
Special Guest # 1 My Morning JacketWhen the rumblings that they were day one’s special guest hit the press pool, I knew we were in for a treat. Jim James never disappoints.
The Squarespace Studio
Across from the Quad Stage, this interior room holds just 45 people to watch intimate performances from artists who have played somewhere else over the course of the weekend.I got to watch Joe Fletcher wander the room and end his set with a Brown Bird cover that everyone sang along to. I also saw the Spirit Family Reunion rock the room with their banjo/fiddle playing/washboarding stomp alongs.
Special Guest #2 James TaylorWhen introduced he was introduced on stage, they said he was there to finish his set from 1969 that was cut short.

No matter what the reason, his six song set had everyone swaying.


Langhorne Slim and the Law
I adore this man and his band so much.  His moves gets everyone off their feet and the love for what he does makes everyone in the audience – even those of us who have to stand all the way in the back — feel like he couldn’t do it without us.
Christopher Paul Stelling
Admittedly I knew nothing of him when I wandered into his set at 11:10am on Sunday morning.The crowd was large and the hollering could be heard from the entrance.  By the time I got there, I was sold.Just a man and his guitar crushing it.At the end of his set he did something that has never been done at Newport before, he proposed to his girlfriend, Julia, on stage.  She said yes.  I don’t have a photo, but him playing folk guitar behind his back should be enough.
Things that were also amazing but I’m only allowed to pick 10:
Shakey Graves
Lord Huron
Berklee Gospel Choir
Nikki Lane and her short shorts
Sturgill Simpson, who was totally gonna be in my top 10 until Christopher proposed
The Decemberists
Sufjan Stevens
First Aid Kit
Iron and Wine & Ben Bridwell, you should listen to their cover of This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)
The Felice Brothers, who were totally gonna be in my top 10 until Christopher proposed 🙂
Heartless Bastards
65 Revisted with the special guest stars like Robyn Hitchcock, Deertick and Dawes singing some amazing Dylan covers.