August 12, 2008

Notes from Newport (Day 1)

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Hiya. It’s me, Jared, again, reporting about the second stop on my whirlwind Summer Music Festival Tour ’08. This time, I drove over to the tiniest state in the union, Rhode Island, to catch all three days of the Newport Folk Festival.
Though the last two days of the Festival on Fort Adams State Park contain the bulk of the performances take place, Friday night technically started things off with a show by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Warming up the crowd were home-grown acts Willy Mason and Kate Taylor (James’ sister).
This first evening was an experiment for me, as it was the first time I’d been to a concert armed with a serious camera and a photo pass, ready to take pictures. I learned two things right away. First, it is apparently standard procedure at these sort of events for photographers to take shots right next to the stage for the first three songs before they are summarily removed and sent back to their seats. In the course of frantically trying to take a clear photo, I quickly discovered that it’s difficult to get good shots in the scrum of eager photographers and still listen to the songs being played. Since the first two acts only played three songs, I barely remember what they played, except that I liked Willy Mason a lot and that Kate Taylor was louder than I expected.
For Brian Wilson, however, I was able to take copious notes (albeit with my cellphone), since Brian will only allow photographers to take pictures up front for 90 seconds. His lack of ——- was to my advantage, since it let me actually listen rather than try to figure out what an f-stop was.
At any rate, it was a tremendous set, and though Brian may not sing like he used to, songs like “Little Surfer Girl”, “In My Room” and “Heroes and Villains” are so solid that it takes a lot to undercut them. Around the hour mark, the band launched into a miniature set of Pet Sounds songs, including “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “God Only Knows” and “Sloop John B”, as unimpeachable a bunch of songs as you’ll be liable to find.
Finally, seven hours after I left for Newport, I was on the bus back to beautiful Barrington, Rhode Island, exhausted but ready for the next day of music.