Hipsters, Floods and “Fallafel”: Newport Folk 2012

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**One of the consequences of neglecting your blog is that you find half-finished drafts of posts regarding events that happened months ago, which makes it hard to finish them. Serves me right.**

That title would have been cooler if I could have thought of a third thing starting with “f,” but look folks, there were a ton of hipsters in attendance. It was hard to miss them.

My mom and I headed up to Newport on Friday morning, a drive that was surprisingly long–turns out it takes longer to get through Connecticut than it looks like it should.  Finally, we drove across a really beautiful bridge and into Newport. After the inevitable hemming and hawing and searching via Urban Spoon for food options, we headed downtown, and ended up at a great little hole in the wall bar called Pour Judgement. Those who know me will confirm that I get…difficult…when I get too hungry. I don’t want choices. I don’t want you to ask me questions. I don’t want to make decisions. I just want to eat something, and eat it soon. Apparently the universe noticed this, and sent me a sign:

Indeed, universe. Indeed.

My mom went to a concert Friday night, but I stayed in and watched the Olympic Opening Ceremonies and ran Italian text instead. Good choices all around, I feel.

Saturday started out gorgeous, sunny with big fluffy clouds and a nice breeze in off the water. We took a somewhat dubiously-navigated shuttle ride from the hotel, crammed into a van with 8 of the douchiest guys I’ve ever spent time that close to, but it did get us where we were going. We grabbed the water taxi across to the island, and set about claiming a little patch of grass on the giant lawn in front of the main stage. We got a pretty good spot, in view of the stage, though quite a ways back. The place was packed, the mood festive. We got to see the Alabama Shakes which was amazing, and I got introduced to awesome groups like First Aid Kit.

I wandered around some to check out the vendors, and bought some delicious “fallafel” from a dude who really shouldhave spell-checked his sign.

As the day wore on, it got more an more cloudy, and everyone started checking the weather on their phones compulsively. Our main goal for the day was to see My Morning Jacket, the last act on the main stage in the evening, so we started moving up bit by bit. It’s quite the tactical exercise, wandering around trying to spot a patch of empty grass just big enough for two chairs, then using complicated hand signals to tell the other person to pack up and make a mad dash before someone else snagged the opening, or the groups around spread out. But the threat of a pretty big storm was upon us, and the casual attendees started abandoning the concert and heading to the water taxis. I walked around some more and got some pictures.

The “party barge.” They blared their own music the whole day, which was…confusing.

We inched our way forward as MMJ came on for their set, all the while watching the storm roll in. We had packed and piled our stuff up so that we could leave it and crush forward with the rest of the crowd.

They played an amazing set, Jim James his usual enigmatic self, floating around the stage with his cape over his head for reasons only he could know.

They brought on Alabama Shake’s Brittany Howard and her massively powerful voice for a couple of songs, and the crowd went nuts.

As you can see from the picture, we had moved quite close to the stage by now. My mom went up even further, while I stayed close to our little pile of stuff.

By now though, the rain was starting to fall, and the crowd was thinning out. We ignored it, put on our ponchos, and danced in the rain with the rest of the committed concert goers. Eventually the guys had to quit for lightning, but they nearly made it through the whole set. We gathered up our things, adjusted our ponchos, and made a beeline for the water taxis. We made it all the way through crush of people, the vendors…only to realize that the line started a bit further back. We followed the line back, back through the vendors, back across the field in front of the stage, back almost to the far side of the island. Whee!

On the concert field 20 somethings danced in the mud and played with beach balls happily. The rain was coming down in buckets, and soon the road on which we stood was a river. Our shoes and pant legs were soaked. We huddled under our ponchos as best we could and shuffled slowly forward.

We stood in line for two hours, as cars tried to inch their way through the crowd, as the henna lady’s tent was blown over into the puddles and she struggled to right it again (with the help of bystanders). It got dark, and cold, and everyone was pretty much soaked through to the bone. But spirits remained pretty high, overall.

By the time we got to the end of the line, the rain had slowed to a drizzle.  Eventually we were on a taxi and headed back to the mainland. I called the hotel to find out about getting a shuttle ride back, and was told that we had to meet the driver back on the other end of the main drag, where we had been dropped off in the morning. We hiked up our wet jeans and started walking. We got there, our spirits beginning to falter as we watched happy, dry people eating dinner through restaurant windows. But we knew we wanted to get changed before we got dinner, so we shook out or ponchos, and folded them up, and waited for the shuttle. Surely, we thought, they should be there in 20 minutes or so.

PSYCH! It was another hour and a half before the shuttle showed up. We were less than sympathetic, until the driver mentioned the flooding. Apparently, the whole area had seen massive flooding, and there were roads closed everywhere. In fact, our hotel had flooded, to the dismay of one of the other passengers. The whole lobby and first floor had been under water. We were silently grateful to be on the second floor as we rode back through the damp streets. We ordered a pizza, since there was no way we were going to get back out of the hotel, and settled in for the night. I was reminded, painfully, that I need to put sunscreen on my legs, too.

The next day dawned damp and still very cloudy. We headed to Walmart to buy a tarp, and discovered that every other concert-goer had already been there. We were successful, though, and we made it over to the island while it was still relatively quiet, and staked out a great grassy spot in front of the smaller stage where the Punch Brothers would be appearing in the afternoon.

Once again, we saw some really awesome groups like Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons, Gary Clark Jr, and New Multitudes, and we discovered that the benefit of having a tarp is that it creates a distinct boundary which other concert goers are likely to honor, even if you go to get food or walk around. By the time the Punch Brothers came to the stage, we had packed up our stuff again, and made a run for chairs within the pavilion–just in time, since the rain cut loose again halfway through their set–which was of course, totally awesome.

After the festival we made the still surprisingly long return trip  to PA, I packed for a month in Colorado, and we both flew out the next morning. But Colorado is a story for another long-overdue blog post.

As for the Newport Folk Festival, despite the rain and the flood it was a wonderful weekend–I hope we can go back next year! In fact, I sorta fell in love with Newport, and found myself figuring out how we might relocate there. I chalk it up to the Cleveland effect:

30 Rock: Cleveland

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