The forecast was questionable on Sunday, but the Berklee College of Music Gospel Choir just might have cleared things up for us, delivering a stunning arrangement of the old gospel number “It is Well,” to kick off the final day at Fort Adams in Newport.
Over on Quad Stage, “doom soul” singer songwriter Cold Specks quieted hundreds of festivarians with a set of minimalist tunes. Tift Merritt made multiple appearances throughout the day – first performing her own songs on the Fort stage and latter accompanying Andrew Bird for an incredible set on the Quad stage. Also joined by Alan Hampton and Eric Heywood, the crowd roared with praise for Bird’s set that included multiple whistle solos and his now famed cover of the Townes Van Zandt song “When I Needed You.”
Our friends, Spirit Family Reunion, were welcomed back to the festival with standing ovations to open and close their set. The band’s performance included a few new songs including a number called “Wake up Rounder,” which carried the foot-stomping feel of “When the Night Replaced the Day.”
At the age of 81, Folk legend Rambilin Jack Elliott played multiple songs that were reminiscent of his former music partner, Woody Guthrie. At the other end of the spectrum, Lord Huron wooed a crowd made up of young hipsters and other folkers old enough to parent the young hipsters. The fandom was intense, full of dancing and one of our favorites, but the band’s Caribbean sound was also a calming vibe for disposal of a few Newport Storm Amber Ales backstage.
The Lumineers, the poppiest of the acts on the bill, drew the largest crowd of the festival this year (and possibly of any other act in the four years I’ve been attending the festival). Midway through the band’s set, they walked off the stage and towards the harbor to another raised platform where they performed a brief intimate set surrounded by thousands as security guards fought to keep the crowd back.
Beck – the man that brought us “Loser” and Two Turntables and a Microphone – closed the festival in true Newport fashion. Unlike Phosphorescent and Lord Huron who did their usual thing, Beck came out donning a black suit and cowboy hat. He played more acoustic versions of his hits while also working in old time songs from the Carter Family and others.
Even with all kinds of weathermen calling for rain, not a drop fell between ferry rides across the harbor or as the sun set on the close of a damn fine Sunday in Newport.