FESTIVAL REVIEW: Newport Folk Fest ’15 Day 1

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Photo by Mery Cheung

Two trains, three buses, a cab, a shuttle, and a water taxi, amounting to a cool eleven hours of traveling later, we arrive at Newport Folk Fest to some bad news; the skies are flashing ill intent and there’s been an “official weather alert” sent out. We are asked to join in prayer.

Enter Tallest Man on Earth, clad in black and with the Devil in his eye. He croons out a few of what he describes as “breakup songs” and we rock in time to our own lost love. At the end of every song he tosses the pick like a bad dream, then at the fourth song or so something wonderful starts to happen. Hot rays poke through the mist; it seems the Tallest Man has a voice that coaxes the sun awake, woos away clouds. We too have fallen prey to his trademark charisma.

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Photo by Mery Cheung

To say that Kristian Matsson, the man behind the Tallest Man, and his frantic gyrations are hypnotizing would be no overstatement. He struts; he balks; his brows flick with each twang. I’ve never seen a man make a photo pit work so hard to keep up.

But for all his stage antics, the crowd keeps a steady calm, unwavering in their sway. I’m participating in what seems to be a meditation in the perverse art of chill, flailing dance heat for flailing heartbeats. I can tell already that this festival might not be for your average attention deficit disorder dudes and diet coke heads. No doubt that crowd would fail to hear the witch songs beckoning you to the furthest reaches of the ocean.

Matsson is this great wilderness embodied, gnawing savagely at his own paws. He sings through his teeth, “oh Lord, why am I not strong like the branch that keeps the hangmen hanging on.” I fear this monster might eat us up he loves us so.

Soon the skies make good on their promise, and the storm begins. Roger Waters still has to play, but I think it might be prophetic that he brought the rain, so perhaps we aught to head back to the water taxi? I’m feeling superstitious today. Either that, or I just really need the sleep.

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