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Published: 2014/07/26

Ryan Adams, Robert Hunter Highlight Day One of Newport Folk

Ryan Adams treated fans to a couple of new tunes, a few Cardinals songs, a cover and some top notch banter during yesterday’s headlining set at the Newport Folk Festival. The singer-songwriter was joined by his new backing band, which includes bassist Charlie Stavish, drummer Freddy Bokkenheuser, keyboardist Daniel Clarke and guitarist Mike Viola, for his Fort Stage performance. The show featured a number of songs from Adam’s forthcoming self-titled album—“Gimme Something Good,” “Stay With Me,” “Shadows” and “My Wrecking Ball,”—as well as some of his Cardinals material like “Magick,” “Fix It,” “Let It Ride,” “Peaceful Valley” and “Beautiful Sorta.” The show wrapped up with a low-key cover of Danzig’s “‘Mother” that was followed by the Heartbreaker track “Come Pick Me Up.”

While excessive banter can seem like a crutch for many performers, Adams’ goofy, sarcastic sense of humor was a hit with the crowd at Newport Folk. Throughout his set, the singer-songwriter repeatedly praised bassist Charlie Stavish, who was playing his third-ever show that day (Stavish is best known as an audio engineer), even persuading the crowd to chant “Charlie” on a number of occasions. At one point Adams, who was playing his first outdoor show in many years, complained that the he couldn’t see the lights on his guitar pedals because of the sun. He also took some time for an admittedly terrible rendition of The Beatles’ “Let It Be,” and later imitated Michael McDonald after declaring that the Doobie Brothers singer had to be out on of the boats in the nearby harbor.

The first day of this year’s Newport Folk Festival also featured a rare performance by Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, who put a solo acoustic spin on Grateful Dead classics like “Friend of the Devil,” “Brown Eyed Women,” “Brokedown Palace” and “Ripple” over at the Harbor Stage. Notable arrangements included a combined “Dire Wolf” and “Peggy-O,” as well as the Grateful Dead’s version of “Touch of Grey” (Hunter has played a different rendition of the song at past shows, though he debuted his take on the Dead arrangement last week at City Winery). “Sylvio,” a tune that Hunter co-penned with Bob Dylan, also made an appearance at Newport Folk, a festival that has considerable history with Dylan. Before going into “Bertha,” Hunter told the crowd that, because this was a folk festival, he would be playing folk songs, even if they were written by him. Hunter’s Harbor Stage set was followed by a show from Sun Kil Moon, who joked that he was nervous to be performing in front of so many white people.

Sunday headliner Mavis Staples took the stage two days early when she joined Lake Street Dive for “Bad Self Portraits” during their set on the Quad Stage. The band was followed by reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, who worked through hits like “The Harder They Come,” his rendition of “I Can See Clearly Now” and “Afghanistan,” a modern reworking of his protest song “Vietnam.” The Quad Stage also featured a more rock-oriented set from Reignwolf, who paid tribute to Johnny Winter and John Lee Hooker.

Other noteworthy occurrences included a surprise Langhorne Slim set at the Kids Stage, as well as a Communion curated lineup over at the Museum Stage, which was packed throughout the day. The festival also gave some artists a chance to enjoy each others work, with Adams taking some time to watch Jenny Lewis’ set from side stage. Original Cardinals bassist Catherine Popper, who was at the festival with Puss N Boots, was also seen side stage during Adams’ headlining set.

The Newport Folk Festival will continue today with sets from Jack White, Kurt Vile & The Violators, Nickel Creek, The Milk Carton Kid, Houndmouth, Deer Tick and many more.

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