So a couple of weeks ago I was sat poised at my computer waiting for the clocks to switch to 3pm. My hands moist through anticipation to click on the link fast enough to reserve tickets to one of the most soul worthy festivals I have ever experienced. I frantically type the digits of my credit card incorrectly twice and felt my heart beat rapidly. I received messages from friends over the pond who had purchased their own within the 10-minute window. Once my heart stopped pumping and I saw that reservation number it struck me… I never did tell you all about Newport Folk Festival.
I think I found my spiritual home and in spiritual I mean that place that just gets you. Sun, Sea, like-minded people, tons of fresh seafood and more importantly. Folk music.
Newport is known for its yacht crazed millionaires, fresh lobster rolls and Taylor Swift 4th of July parties. It had never been on my “To do list” but when suggested to me as a folks lover heaven, I would have been stupid not to join my Bestie @missemmalawson on this trip. She goes annually and is drawn back by the good music, reunions with her transatlantic friends and what appears to be homegrown pickles and sour Krut.
Now as most of my friends know and maybe some don’t, I grew up a bit of a country music fan. On a side note, I spent most of the late teens wearing cowboy hats, boots and ponchos. Staying up late to watch the country music awards and generally wishing I owned spurs to complete my look before you ask yes I was very single most of my late teens. I am only glad these years later there doesn’t seem to be any physical evidence available to share. Thank god I grew up pre-facebook. Through the years that obsession with hard-core country died down and thus Folk was introduced to my world.
I had been listening to all these wonderful bands over the last year. The Joseph Sisters have physically kept me smiling on dark days, Head and the Heart have had me dancing around my room at midnight. The memories of the last year make me feel warm inside like a fun montage played to music, and that music is Folk. I knew about the festival but didn’t quite understand how many amazing musicians would be drawn together into this magical place. Surrounded by equally enthusiastic people. Arhhhhh even writing about it makes me want to return.
It was my first trip to Newport and the most north I have ever been on the east coast of America. Before I even researched I knew that being Rhode Island it was probably going to be full of mansions and rich American. It was likely to feel like some assassin creed game level of colonial pirates paradise.
DAY 1: – So let me begin…with the flight.
We opted for an early flight into Newark. The plan was to fly in, hire a car and take a slow drive up the coastline to Newport arriving in time to have a few drinks with friends. In theory, this all sounded rather pleasant. In reality, I had not taken into account Emma’s fear of flying, the annoyance of car rentals and our bodies reaction to NO SLEEP.
I will admit it (which I certainly wouldn’t at the time.) this flight was the worst turbulence I had experienced. For most of the flight, I had Emma’s ridged body tightly squeezed in my shoulder as her tears dripping down my neck. Her hands were squeezed around by failed excuse for a bicep. Not even 2 glasses of wines calmed nerve. I tried to keep my cool, politely catching the eye of a lady sat opposite, who had noticed the limit I had sat on my lap. In a failed attempt to calm the situation, I reminded Emma that planes are made for this, just as dinner plates flew from a fellow passengers table and hit the roof. It was HORRIFIC. Eventually, it calmed down we rebalanced our stomachs and stared greenly at the screens in front of us.
So when our feet hit the ground we were to put it frankly “fucked”. We jumped a taxi to collect the convertible Emma had rented for the week. A side note to all those hiring a car in America, REMEMBER YOUR CREDIT CARD. What started as a good idea ended in 4 hours of negotiations to hire the car we wanted? During this time we did manage to explore Newark and eat some incredible sushi. Eventually, Emma won her argument and we were off. 4 hours drive up the coast. Next time I will be thinking of an alternative route.
We arrived to be greeted by our friends at 10pm NY time like two zombies. I can only imagine the horror they must have felt seeing our faces.
The accommodation for this epic adventure was a perfectly situated well decorated, townhouse. 5 modern bedrooms all reasonably sized, huge kitchen and living room/diner area, outdoor space, hammock and equipped BBQ. There was enough room not to be stamping on each other but the right room to host evenings of silly drinking and board games,
There were 8 other people joining us at the accommodation, which may have sounded intense but worked perfectly.
I woke with the feeling of impending doom wait, no no that’s just Jet Lag. As we waiting for the rest of the house party to wake up, we fueled up on caffeine and chilled out, it was 18 degrees before 8am this is a good sign. We listened to the deep droll accents of yummy mummies speed walking up and down the sidewalk.
Once all awake and properly acquainted we didn’t waste much time getting our bags sorted and heading over to Matunuck beach.
Suddenly the 4-hour conflict with the car hire company for a convertible seemed to make sense. The beach was relatively busy but stretched some miles. At one end was a house that resembled the house from eternal sunshine of a spotless mind. The ocean was amazing and a refreshing surprise after the long flight. This was the perfect way to recover from jet lag.
Once we had all outdone ourselves on the beach and slightly pink, we headed for a restaurant by the same name, famous for its lobster rolls and oysters. Here I ate my first Rhode Island Lobster. I DIDN’T feel at all remorseful.
The evening was spent over a BBQ discussing the coming festival and getting to know each other properly.
The morning was close to perfect. We woke and drank our coffee again all huddled around a computer looking at real estate in the area and dreaming what it would be like to own here,
Our very own Wonder Woman Dani and I opted to head to the beach before crowds and partake in a spot of Yoga while overlooking the bright green swirl.
When we returned Emma and I headed to Newport to discover what it has to offer. As it goes, there is quite allot in Newport. It is mostly a holiday town with the majority of people here from there boats or traveled up for the weekend.
We wandered through the antique market, shopped in the perfume shop. Bumped into the group and eventually settled for lunch at the Midtown oyster bar. The 10 of us discussed trips past while downing wine and eating seafood.
Emma and I then stumbled to a dive bar on the other side of town and drank terrible Martinis while playing pool.
I imagine in the evening this bar is rather exciting and fun. In the daytime, it had a strange smell of bleach which made your eyes water and odd looking redneck’s sat at the bar. Eventually, Dani and John joined for a drink and some games before we headed off to find the rest of our team. The evening was spent playing music and drunkenly singing along… aka The Birth of the Newport 10. Today was a perfect drunken holiday day.
ITS FESTIVAL DAYYYYYYY
We drove from the luxury of Newport townhouse to the festival around the rugged coastline of Castle on the Hill.
I remember being shocked at the size of the mansions mixed with the putrid smell of rotting fish. A very odd combination.
The festival is like no other I had ever experienced. Set in the grounds of an old fort, It is exceptionally planned. It starts at a reasonable time and finishes before the sunset. The party then continues in the bars of Newport. They have created a handy festival app, which allows you to plan your schedule so you never have to miss any artists. It is not a drinkers paradise festival which removes all the drunken riff-raff. It is planned perfectly with Two drinking pens situated near the big stages. There are tons of food stalls selling everything from stodgey heavy meals to lobster and oyster bars. Local artists, Store owners, Musicians set up shops selling their goods. There are water fountains all over the festival and the use of recyclables is encouraged. This festival is all about music and little else.
There are four main stages, each Stage had unassigned seating area at the front. If there is an artist you were keen to see just arrive 5 minutes before and grab a seat for a great view. The best part of this festival is seeing so many amazing folk musicians walking around the event. A few times we found ourselves watching some of the artists playing intermate gigs in archways of the fort or the family tents. There were some great collaborations between different bands who were not even on the bill.
My biggest “first world problem issue” with this event was the number of fantastic artists playing on different stages it was hard to decide who to see. We all went our own way until the odd quiet moment when we all found ourselves in the fort bar seeking beers.
Blessed with amazing weather we watched Matt the Electrician, Joshua Headley, The Wild Reeds, L.A Salami, Hurray for the Riff Raff,
We drank at the pier watching Shovels and Rope, missed The Head and the Heart for Nancy and Beth and I lay on the grass listening to Regina Spektor the sound of my early twenties. We missed Fleet Foxes, opting instead to head home and get washed up ready for dinner.
Today we decided to get the boat to the festival. Emma had never done this before. For all future purpose, this was by far the best way of getting in and out of the festival. The evening cues are less than to be desired but the luxury of all being able to have a drink was worth it.
We left the house walking with purpose towards nowhere. It did take us rather a while to realize we had no idea of where we were headed too other than towards the water.
Today the weather was not as good. The winds had picked up and I definitely regretted wearing a flowing dress which lifted with the wind so easily. I must have flashed the crowds so many times. Its a wonder I wasn’t given a nickname.
Today was the same as yesterday really but the artists had all changed. For me, one of the highlights was seeing The Joseph sisters perform. It is needless to say if you have read any of my previous blogs 2017 was quite a tricky year for me. Joseph, in particular, was a source of escape. “White flag” was high on the charts in England. I certainly had a gulp moment while watching them.
The Avett Brothers took over the main stage followed by Wilco closing the day.By the Time Wilco was playing I was head down in a massage chair being battered by an overly eager American.
We all headed straight to the long queue for the boat getting back to meet our team at The Landing restaurant. Where we all drank Oyster shots and ate fresh lobster.
The End of the Festival
This is the final day at Newport, The weather had improved, the festival was quieter. Tons of small Boats had made floating rafts just off the shoreline able to listen to the great artists without tickets. We mostly stayed in the spot that we had set up near a lemonade stand. It really does shock me that this is such a trustworthy festival. You can set yourself a camp and leave it for the day. We never had any problems, everyone is super respectful.
We ate our last helping of Oysters, drank our final beers. Listened to Pinegrove, Whitney, Rhiannon Giddens, and John Prine. Well, I guess we all knew that this epic week had to come to an end.
We all met in the evening to celebrate the end of a wonderful week with BBQ, laughter, Music and messing about while finishing off the house booze. It was perfect.
And thus our trip was done. With heavy hearts, we set off headed back to NY to get our flights. I never expected to love New England just as much as I did but there you go America does have its glory moments, and although bogged down by the negativity of media and political happenings Newport is most certainly on my returns list.
FOLK ON! See you soon!!!
Watch below for the video of our shenanigans….