Ahhhhh…summer in the Northeast. The amazing weather and music during these three months are what keep us here. With Central Park Summer Stage and Celebrate Brooklyn in full force, and the Newport Folk Festival less than two weeks away, it’s really hard to stay focused at work. I’m just always afraid I’m going to miss something. And I’m not alone.
In the decade of summers I’ve spent here in New York, I can’t remember an outdoor concert schedule so packed with high profile Americana acts. Even pushing all of the “Woody at 100” tributes aside (including this amazing and first recording of Woody’s “My New York City” by Mike + Ruthy), Central Park shows in early August alone include a lineup of Old Crow Medicine Show, The Lumineers, The Milk Carton Kids, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Buckwheat Zydeco and Abigail Washburn. Meanwhile in Brooklyn, the next few weeks include shows by Wilco, The Head and The Heart, Lost in Trees, Spirit Family Reunion, Del McCoury, M. Ward, Lyle Lovett and Aoife O’Donovan. The hunger for Americana is palpable here in New York.
Many of these acts will perform at the historic Newport Folk Festival later this month.
The festival, which I believe sets the tone of popular Americana for the year following it, sold out this year faster than ever before. With a number of national (and West Coast) acts on the bill, it’s the smaller regional acts that we get the most excited about. It’s those performances, with the Northeast’s biggest music snobs hanging on every note, that can change a band’s profile in the music landscape overnight. Among those acts this year, is Brooklyn’s Spirit Family Reunion. The band will perform at Virginia’s FloydFest and in Newport in the same week. Its high energy bluegrass with Guthrie-style lyrics has gained steam grassroots style (unsigned and unmanaged) through scrappy shows around the city and a few tours around the US. The Family just released is album No Separation last month plays an infectious set that will woo festivarians and NPR listeners alike. Rhode Island’s nicest and most tatted up folk duo Brown Bird, will perform at the festival for the second year in a row, solidifying its place in the region and continuing to build its national base.
But Oh! let’s not forget Canada. This year, our continent’s least confrontational nation will export both minimalist Americana band Deep Dark Woods from the West, as well as the East’s progressive Americana band City and Colour (they spell it like that there). The two bands only hint at the great diversity of the festival, which also includes New Jersey pre-teen old time bluegrass band Sleepy Man Banjo Boys and Spider John Koerner. Koerner, who is poor health, last played Newport in 1964 and it’s his last wish to do it again.
As Newport producer Jay Sweet says, ‘It’s the combination of homage to the old tradition and the deep authenticity of modern folk that make the event so special.’ Stay tuned for more coverage from the coast throughout the summer… right here at The Sitch.