Photo by Jon Creamer
Jackson Browne brought Newport, RI’s annual Folk Fest to a close last night. In recent years, Browne served as a mentor to a new generation of Laurel Canyon musicians who have played Newport Folk with increased regularity.
Browne arrived in Newport on Friday night and spent most of the weekend checking out music. He got into the sit-in game too, kicking off Sunday’s festivities by joining fiddler Sara Watkins during her performance. Then, he sang and played guitar with LA guitarist Jonathan Wilson on “Gentle Spirit.” (Watkins joined Wilson and his band for a Irish number as well.)
For his festival-closing set, Browne invited out a number of the acts he enjoyed during the weekend. Wilson and the members of Dawes—who have toured with Browne in the past—emerged partway through Browne’s set for a stretch of songs that climaxed with the classic “These Days.” Sara and Sean Watkins then joined Browne, Wilson and Dawes for an all-star version of “Take It Easy.” Though most associate the song with The Eagles, Browne actually co-wrote the song with Glenn Frey. Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who was at the festival performing under his own name, then joined Browne, Dawes and Wilson on electric guitar for Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” It was a fitting finale for a festival with deep roots in the folk protest movement.
Though not technically on the festival’s bill Sunday, the members of Dawes were spotted throughout the festival watching music and mingling with a range of other artists. They also served as Conor Oberst’s backing band for a good portion of his show and moved through the Bright Eyes founder’s catalog with ease. Several guests sat in throughout the main stage performance: First Aid Kit—who welcomed Oberst during their set—emerged for “Lua,” Wilson played guitar on “Moab,” My Morning Jacket’s Jim James’ sang on “At the Bottom of Everything” and both the members of First Aid Kit and Wilson joined in on the finale, “Make War.”
Collaborations took place in other corners of the festival as well. Jim James, Jay Farrar, Will Johnson and Anders Parker revisited their Woody Guthrie tribute band, New Multitudes, and cello player Ben Sollee continued his sit-in streak with a cameo during The Head & the Heart’s packed performance. A different surprise took place at the end of Punch Brothers’ performance. It started to rain at the end of the modern string band’s set, so group leader Chris Thile and members of the band moved to the front of the ground for a bonus, unamplified encore.
While still firmly grounded in folk and Americana, the festival’s Sunday offerings included such diverse acts as afro-electro inspired indie rockers tUnE-yArDs, Daptone soul/funk ensemble Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr., high-energy indie folk collective Of Monsters And Men and My Morning Jacket guitarist Carl Broemel, among many others. Folk musician Rodriguez, who is enjoying resurgence in popularity, also performed in the festival’s museum space.
More than any other musician, Jackson Browne symbolized the festival’s current place in the modern musical landscape: rooted in a classic period and recently embraced by a new generation of folkies.