Day two of this year's Newport Folk Fesival left behind the weather miseries of the day before. It dawned clear, bright and warm and made the wet and cold endurance test of the previous day feel like another lifetime.
Kicking the day off at the Harbor tent stage, Sarah Jarosz’s soft voice coaxed early visitors and long time devotees alike to hush first and listen second. She alternated between banjo, acoustic guitar and octave mandolin and was accompanied by a cellist and a violinist. Her selections alternated from her own creations, including cuts from the new album, to covers of artists like Tim O’Brien and Joanna Newsome. She ended her set with a fabulous cover of Tom Waits’ “Come Up to the House,” asking everyone to join in.
Shovels & Rope, a husband/wife team, Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst from South Carolina, turned the volume up in the middle of the day. Cary Ann wore a wonderful gingham blue dress, but said she hadn’t counted on the wind. “If it blows up, don’t take pictures.” she asked the audience, “It’s not that kind of show!” The couple frequently traded instruments and rapid-fire lyrics to create a raucous sound that got the crowd in the Quad tent to jump up and dance. “Hail Hail” rang out with distortion and bass, a perfect foot-stomper for the crowd.
Jason Isbell hit the Harbor stage with a six-piece band, including his wife Amanda Shires on violin. Delivering a set full of intense, passionate stories of meanness, abuse and redemption culled from his most recent work, Southeastern, all the way back to his time with Drive-By Truckers, it turned out to be one of the more endearing sets of the festival. Before launching into the song “Codeine” Isbell commented “I wrote that a long time ago after drinking a lot of alcohol and coffee and shooting out my window at my neighbor's truck. I don't think I hit anything” brought a chuckle, and when the singer added “I’m sober now” (Isbell recently completed an aggressive rehab program) the crowd roared in approval.
Rock N’ Roll superhero Jim James and “ladies man” Father John Misty” both delivered expectantly thrilling sets, leaving it to the Avett Brothers to close out the day at Fort Stage to a packed crowd. Fans spread from the lawn all the way to the ocean (and even a few on boats further out) joined in for a massive sing-a-long on “Live and Die” from 2012’s The Carpenter. Switching from an Eagles’ like jam in one moment to a gospel-like revival in “Just A Closer Walk With Thee,” the next, the brothers from North Carolina had something for everyone. With everyone in the crowd sunburned, tired and happy, a perfect ending to the second day of this year’s Newport Folk Festival.