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Interview – Paleface

Photo by Sooz White

Photo by Sooz White

In a world where musical authenticity is constantly being called to question, anti-folk icon, Paleface, is as real as they get. After nearly three decades of writing and performing music, Paleface remains true to his craft and continues to create art that is raw, fresh, and inspired.

Paleface’s music career is much like a collection of short stories, woven together with unpredictable highs and lows—each chapter marked with different shades of joy, sorrow, chaos and control. Throughout it all Paleface has managed to come out on the other side with tales to tell.

Paleface got his start playing music at NYC clubs in the late 80s, rubbing shoulders with creative minds like Daniel Johnston and Beck. While being managed by the legendary Danny Fields, Paleface signed a major-label record deal, began putting out albums, and touring with bands like Crash Test Dummies and The Breeders. Everything appeared to be falling into place, but by the late 90s Paleface’s partying lifestyle caught up with him, nearly taking his life and forcing him to reevaluate his direction.

By 2000, a sober Paleface found himself among a new crop of imaginative musicians in NYC, many calling themselves “anti-folk.” Artists like Kimya Dawson, Regina Spektor, and Langhorne Slim shared the stage with Paleface, and he soon became an integral part of the anti-folk scene.

“Anti-folk didn’t stand for anything,” Paleface said. “It was whatever you can do to make art you should share it, get on stage, do it. If people like it, great, if they don’t, that’s OK, too. Nobody was gonna crucify you ‘cause you were bad or not what they wanted. In that anti-folk scene nobody would care ‘cause anything goes.”

It was during this period in his career when Paleface struck up a friendship with Scott and Seth Avett (The Avett Brothers). This instant artistic connection ultimately drew him, and girlfriend/drummer Monica “Mo” Samalot, away from New York in 2008 to start a new life in Concord.

After moving to North Carolina, Paleface and Samalot hit the road, touring as a high-energy folk-rock duo throughout the United States and Europe. Paleface continued to record and release albums like the self-released “A Different Story” as well as “The Show Is On The Road” and “One Big Party” on Ramseur Records. Studio and on-stage collaborations with The Avett Brothers exposed a whole new audience to Paleface’s music and it appeared that his momentum had shifted up again.

However, a health scare and setback in Europe while promoting “One Big Party” forced the pair to take time off to regroup, yet again. Unable to tour, Paleface spent time focusing on getting healthy and painting — a talent he had discovered while living in NYC.

“Painting is very meditative and relaxing in a way that music is not,” Paleface said. “It’s like a puzzle that you figure out as you go which at any moment can change or be wrecked by your next move. Music, if you change something you can immediately go back to how you had it if you don’t like the change.”

Paleface creates bright, bold, music-inspired folk-art. His canvas and drum head paintings often carry uplifting themes, much like his music, and he sells them as special one-of-a-kind merchandise at shows.

“I think of my paintings as rock-n-roll folk art, and my music, too,” Paleface said. “I like the fact that people can get this special thing that’s much better than a CD or T-shirt or even a print … 250 sold paintings later I’m still making them and getting more and more interested in it all the time.”

In reality the paintings help to supplement the often stretched-thin income of a touring independent artist. Life on the road is difficult, but Paleface has managed to stay positive after all of these years.

“[Touring] is harder work than people know,” Paleface said. “It sounds romantic and I wouldn’t trade it, but you can get tired with the miles. Great shows can always help build you up and bad shows remind you nothing is certain, but I love seeing all the friends we’ve made out there on the road and checking on the progress they’ve made in their own lives.”

Paleface has been touring through Greenville for several years, a stop that he may have missed had it not been for his connection with the Avetts.

“The first time we ever came was back in the day playing with the band Oh What a Nightmare, which at the time was The Avett Brothers’ other project, kind of a hard rock trio with Seth on drums and Scott on electric,” Paleface said. “I like Greenville a lot. The Spazzatorium was a great scene and Jeff [Blinder] who used to book there had really good taste so it was always fun to go there and play. After it closed we just kept coming back because we liked playing here.”

While the Avetts may have brought Paleface to Greenville, Samalot keeps the duo coming back. She is the driving force when it comes to the business side of things — mapping out tour routes, booking venues, handling all social media—in addition to rocking the drums and singing harmonies. Paleface and Samalot are partners in every sense of the word. On and off stage their mutual respect and love is unmistakable and they are constantly pushing each other to improve.

“(Samalot) really loves harmony so we’ve been doing a bit of that of late,” Paleface said. “She also remembers songs that I forget and if she likes it enough pushes me to bring it back and make it something. I must confess that I’ve only recorded a fraction of the songs I’ve written so it is good to have someone who remembers them.”

When it comes to songwriting, Paleface’s talent is off the charts. He is a true storyteller, creating a unique auditory experience that reaches all ages. Paleface’s ability to write songs with traditional acoustic instrumentation that ends up feeling charged and electric is unmatched and magical.

“[It’s an] obsession,” Paleface said. “I don’t need to bottle it. It just is an inextinguishable flame that burns inside.”

As he begins another new chapter in his career, Paleface is approaching his newest material from a more informed and introspective place. Though it has been challenging, he is confident that his approach will yield some of his best music to date.

“For a while, because I’ve had a rough time in the music (business), I just wanted to stand on stage and sing happy songs and I didn’t really care if it was cool or not,” Paleface said. “Lately I’ve felt a little restless with that. I’m taking my time with it so I don’t know when it will be finished, hopefully soon.”

Until then, fans can catch Paleface touring across the country. This month, Paleface will once again make a stop in Greenville to close out Spazz Fest VI at Christy’s Europub on March 22 from 7-11 p.m. Fans can expect Paleface to deliver another fun and lively performance, full of some of his best old tunes, a few new ones and plenty of audience interaction.

“I want [the audience] to feel the energy and give it back so we can both bug out to the sound vibrations,” Paleface said.

This piece originally ran in Mixer Magazine.

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2013 in review – Thank You Readers!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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2013…The Year of the Fan!

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With 2013 coming to a close, it’s time to reflect on another spectacular year of music.  Live music pulled me to many different corners of our beautiful United States.  From Rhode Island’s Newport Harbor to Colorado’s Red Rocks and everywhere in between, I’ve been lifted up by the music and the many friends and fans I’ve met along the way.

I know 2014 will bring many new musical experiences–already have 5 concerts on the books so far–however, I’d like to take this opportunity to share my 2013 Top 10 EOAF Moments:

10. Watching Jay-Z and JT somehow get a sold-out Fenway Park to sing along to “Empire State of Mind” with little to no resistance, might I add.  Perhaps all it takes is these two powerhouse performers to dissolve decades of hatred between Bostonians and New Yorkers.  Not too sure New Yorkers would have done the same if roles were reversed!

9. Filling our home with the imperfect but impeccable sounds of vinyl, and the constant chase to find my next favorite record at the thrift shop…oh and my first Record Store Day, too!

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8. Being one of 200 people at MerleFest who got to listen to Wayne Henderson tell the story about the first guitar he ever made.  That sweet, humble man seriously blew my mind.

7. Experiencing my first live Bob Dylan performance.  Even though I could barely understand him, I knew I was in the presence of folk greatness!

6. Being a part of this wonderful “Thank You” project…

5. Stumbling upon the surprise songwriters session at Newport Folk Festival and spending the morning listening to Langhorne Slim and Scott and Seth Avett play and answer questions from a small audience (capped off by a Jim James eyes closed staring contest).

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4. Experiencing The Avett Brothers’ performance of “Complainte D’Un Matelot Mourant” at Red Rocks Night 1 — to try to describe the ghostly wind that blew down through the rock amphitheater to the stage would be impossible.  Even the video doesn’t do it justice.

3. Being one day late from experiencing The Milk Carton Kids at Newport Folk Festival, but falling in love with them through the NPR podcast anyway.  They are by far the best musical discovery of the year!

2. Experiencing Neutral Milk Hotel live at The National in Richmond, VA.  The musical saw performance alone was worth the trip.

1. Being involved in the recording process from start to finish, and then hearing the absolutely amazing final product.  Thanks to Rebekah Todd for having me along for the ride! (“Roots Bury Deep” out in early 2014)

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Thank you all for coming back time and time again to pay EOAF a visit.  Next year we hope to bring you more exciting music news, reviews, guest bloggers, and more.  Merry music cheers and happy ears in 2014!

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Another Day Another Time – An Epic Evening of Folk

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It was a packed house at New York City’s Town Hall Sunday night. In honor of the upcoming release of the Coen Brothers’ latest film, musicians and actors gathered together to celebrate folk music at Another Day, Another Time, a concert to benefit the National Recording Preservation Foundation. Coming to theaters on December 20, 2013, the film, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” follows fictional character, Llewyn Davis, a struggling folk musician in New York City in the 1960s and is loosely based on the life of Dave Van Ronk. The concert was filmed for an upcoming Showtime documentary to be released on December 13th.

Just around the corner from Times Square is New York City’s historic Town Hall. At Another Day, Another Time, every seat of the 1,495-seat venue sold out in seconds. Lovers of folk music filled the old theater that first opened its doors in 1921. Light from a hanging chandelier lit a sea of red chairs and the stage sat lined with oriental rugs, microphones, and a drum kit. Stars of the movie, John Goodman and Carrie Mulligan, hosted the concert.  Serving as musical director, T. Bone Burnett called upon artists such as Jack White, Patti Smith, The Avett Brothers, Marcus Mumford, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Conor Oberst, Collin Meloy, Punch Brothers, and the folk revivalist herself, Joan Baez, to create such a momentous event.

Joined by my friends in the last row of the balcony of the small theater, I looked down at the stage in anticipation of what would happen in the next few hours. Kicking off the show was Brooklyn-based band, Punch Brothers. Led by Chris Thile on mandolin, they started off the night with a cover of “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” by Sons of the Pioneers and then switched over to a song of their own, “Rye Whiskey.” This would not be the last time we saw Punch Brothers on stage, they joined several acts throughout the night. Mumford joked, calling them the “house band” for the evening. The crowd swayed and sang along with Willie Watson, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, to “This Land is Your Land” and there would be a number of collaborations throughout the night.

My excitement grew with each announcement. Decked out in a tan blazer, blue jeans, and a cowboy hat, John Goodman stood at the podium cracking jokes and introducing acts. Next on stage would come three new and upcoming groups, The Secret Sisters, Lake Street Dive, and The Milk Carton Kids. Although these groups are lesser-known acts, they captivated the audience just the same. The Milk Carton Kids’ Kenneth Pattengale teased that they were not famous enough to have someone else adjust the height of their microphones.

Goodman returned to the podium and informed the audience that due to a scheduling conflict, his costar in the film, Justin Timberlake, could not make the show, however his understudy would be filling in. Much to everyone’s surprise, Elvis Costello walked out on stage and performed “Please Mr. Kennedy,” Timberlake’s song off the film’s soundtrack. He was joined by actors Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac, also in the film. Isaac, plays the lead roll of Llewyn Davis and took the stage to sing his songs from the film as well, wowing the crowd with his raw talent and skillful guitar playing.

Keb’ Mo’ and The Avett Brothers would take the stage before breaking for an intermission. For the first time of the night, we saw a band perform three songs. The Avett Brothers–Scott and Seth Avett, Bob Crawford, and Joe Kwon–walked on stage with instruments in tow. Scott Avett began to strum his banjo and much to my surprise, played the song “All My Mistakes” from their 2007 album Emotionalism–a song that doesn’t often draw laughter from a familiar crowd, but did that night for those who had never seen Scott Avett put “quotations around the word friends.” The Avetts would play “That’s How I Got to Memphis,” a Tom T. Hall cover, and their song “Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise.” Unlike its studio version on the 2009 album I and Love and You, “Head Full of Doubt” was played acoustically. Lyrics that were typically sung loud, turned much more subdued. It was seamlessly beautiful and showcased The Avett Brothers’ genuine talent. The crowded remained quiet with an occasional holler from the audience, fueled by excitement.  It was clear that many people had attended the concert particularly looking forward to The Avett Brothers’ performance.

The lights grew brighter and the audience scattered for a brief intermission. Some celebrities blended into the crowd, equally as excited to witness this once in a lifetime concert. Famous faces such as Paul Rudd, Taran Killam, Glenn Close, Jesse Eisenburg, and John Slattery were spotted. Actor Rudd, has confessed his love for music from bands like The Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons in interviews. It was very exciting for me to be in the same room with some of Hollywood’s elite. To sit in the same in the same room as Susan Sarandon and Frances McDormand was quite surreal.

Next on stage was, the one and only, Jack White. Dressed in his signature black suit and blue tie, he performed two old folk songs and topped his set off with a White Stripes classic, “We Are Going to Be Friends.” Following White’s remarkable performance was the stand out performer of the night, Rhiannon Giddens. Giddens stood in a long red lace gown in front of the audience. Typically, her band mates, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, would surround Giddens. It was on this night, that Giddens showed off her phenomenal voice on her own. She sang Odetta’s “The Waterboy” and two Gaelic songs that brought the audience to their feet with applause.

Patti Smith engaged the audience with a cover of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You,” that she learned from friend, Joan Baez. Smith then welcomed The Avett Brothers, Punch Brothers, and Lake Street Dive to help her sing “People Have the Power.” Mid song, Baez herself walked out to join Smith in the chorus. Baez went on to take the stage all to herself with her rendition of “The House of the Rising Sun.” Mumford, frontman of the band Mumford and Sons, joined her in singing “Give Me Cornbread When I’m Hungry,” a song made famous by John Fahey. Mumford later took the stage unaccompanied.

As the night grew to a close and after nearly four hours of music, the star of the “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Isaac reemerged with Punch Brothers and Mumford. They sang “Fare Thee Will” and “Farewell” from the film’s soundtrack. It was a fitting ending for an unbelievable evening. Another Day, Another Time was a once in a lifetime opportunity I feel very fortunate have attended at what The Huffington Post called “the concert of the year.” I look forward to reliving the experience through the Showtime documentary that will air in December. It was a historic night for folk music, and I’m excited for the world to see it.

Karrisa Sevensky strikes again!  Thank you Karissa for capturing the essence of such a historical and wonderful evening of folk music

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Fortune Favors the Bold – The Avett Brothers @ McKittrick Hotel

Scott Avett sang, “I will rearrange my plans and change for you,” during the song “If It’s the Beaches” on Wednesday night, at the McKittrick Hotel in New York City. However, I was the one who found myself changing my plans on September 25, 2013 in order to attend a private Avett Brothers concert in The Heath room of the fictional hotel and home of the off-Broadway play, Sleep No More. The band played an eighteen-song set that was taped for the PBS program, Front and Center. The concert is to be aired in early 2014 in support of their upcoming album, Magpie and the Dandelion, being released on October 15th.

After reading a tweet from The McKittrick Hotel, a routine weekday morning at work quickly ended when I made the decision to board a train to New York City. The hotel was giving away a handful of tickets to Avett Brothers’ fans for a secret event at 8:00pm. The details were minimal, but I had made it to Penn Station and I was determined to win. Constant refreshing of my twitter news feed and a mild addiction to social media paid off–I was in.

At the entrance doors of a warehouse in Chelsea, a host read my name on the guest list and invited me in. I was escorted to a dark and eerie elevator and taken to the fifth floor where the show was to be held. The home of the play, Sleep No More, is a 100,000 square foot building that is modeled to look like a 1930’s hotel, known as The McKittrick Hotel. This special occasion was a rarity for the band, as well as for the hotel. While a show is held at the hotel every night, this concert was much different than what usually happens at Sleep No More. Typically, guests are given white masks and instructed not to speak. They wander the rooms of the haunted hotel and follow actors.  Guests experience the play, based on the story Macbeth, in a much different way. They are told, “Fortune favors the bold,” and are encouraged to stand out from the crowd or they just may be taken into a hidden room or given privy information. Those who have seen the play, return again and again because it’s a different experience every time.

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The Heath room, was decorated like a haunted hotel bar–dark, cozy, and a little bit spooky. The walls of the small room were lined with booths and the floor was full of tables set for two. Drinks were being poured at the bar and large HD television cameras were resting on their tripods. The stage sat crowded with instruments as guests made their way to their seats. A Sleep No More mask lay at the foot of the drum kit. The room held 200 people, but it was not full. I took my seat in the front row, ordered a drink, and admired the elegant décor while I waited for the show to begin.

The band took the stage at 9:00pm. As he plugged in his Martin D35 guitar, Seth Avett whispered into the microphone, “It’s so quiet,” and let out a laugh. They thanked the audience for attending and kicked off the set with the song “Live and Die,” from their 2012 album, The Carpenter. As I sat in my chair, I fought the urge to get up and dance. I assumed the PBS cameraman behind me would not want me blocking his shot.

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The band played crowd favorites, such as “Murder and the City,” “I and Love and You,” and “Laundry Room.” Among the set were also new songs, “Another is Waiting,” “Vanity,” “Morning Song,” and “Apart from Me,” all to be featured on the new album. Having attended several Avett Brothers concerts, I had been waiting to hear “Morning Song” performed live. Although I have not listened to the new album in its entirety, I can already tell this song will be a favorite of mine. The show was intimate and unlike any other I’ve seen. The band told stories and joked with one another throughout the set. Between songs, Scott reminisced about visiting New York City for the first time at age 26. He said he was intimidated by the fast paced city life, but has since grown a love for the city, and was happy to be back. “This is very exciting for us, to be playing a place like this,” he confessed to the audience. The band had created a setlist prior to taking the stage, but changed a number of songs on it to better suit the mood of the room. Scott and Seth would have short debates on what to play next in between many of the songs.

The final song of the encore was “If It’s the Beaches.” A passionate love song, played quietly to a room of attentive ears. The audience rose to their feet and applauded the band whole-heartedly, exchanging ear to ear smiles with the band. It had been a special experience for all of us. I joked with a friend, telling her my face hurt because of the permanent grin I had worn for two straight hours.

In groups of ten, we boarded the elevator and made our way to the exit. Once outside, we saw the band hustle into a van to be whisked away. Fortune favors the bold and fortune certainly favored me when I made the bold move to leave work early on a Wednesday morning. I’m thankful for this experience and look forward to reliving it through the PBS broadcast of Front and Center early next year.

The Avett Brothers will stay in New York for the next few days. They are scheduled to appear at New York’s Town Hall for Another Day, Another Time on Sunday, September 29th. This concert event is celebrating folk music of the 1960s. Several other musicians will be joining, such as Jack White, Marcus Mumford, Joan Baez, Punch Brothers, Collin Meloy, Milk Carton Kids, Patti Smith, Conor Oberst, and more. On Monday, September 30th, The Avett Brothers will return to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon for a television performance on NBC.

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The Setlist 9/25/13:

Live and Die

Laundry Room

Old Joe Clark

Down With the Shine

Another Is Waiting

Morning Song

Go to Sleep

The Prettiest Thing (David Childers cover)

Life

Ballad of Love and Hate

Just a Closer Walk With Thee

Apart From Me

A Father’s First Spring

Vanity

I and Love and You

Encore

Murder in the City

Shady Grove

If It’s the Beaches

For the first time in Evolution of a Fan history, we welcome our first guest blogger, Karissa Sevensky.  Karissa was fortunate enough to share a very special evening with The Avett Brothers at McKittrick Hotel this past week, and kind enough to share her experience and photos with us!  Thank you Karissa.

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Summer Festival Spotlight – Newport Folk Festival

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Imagine yourself meandering through the rustic barracks of an 18th century waterfront U.S. military fort.  Sounds pretty cool, right?  Now imagine that the sun is shining, the beer is flowing, the harbor is dotted with white sails and white caps, and every single one of your favorite bands is playing.  Luckily, you don’t have to just imagine this perfect scenario–you can experience it!

Now in its 54th year, the Newport Folk Festival continues to carry the torch when it comes to stacked lineups with all of the best festival trimmings.  Over the July 26-28 weekend, the industry’s most talented musicians will land at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, RI and play to a–more than likely–sold-out crowd.

Here are some of the top reasons to get your hands on the oh-s0 coveted Newport Folk Festival ticket (or find a friend with a boat and post-up in the harbor), along with fan feedback from some new and slightly seasoned Newport Folk festivarians:

1. The Lineup:  Unlike other festivals, Newport doesn’t release their full lineup until well after tickets go on sale.  Savvy festivarians know to purchase tickets early, because year after year festival organizers book only the best acts.  Second-timer Karen, from Nashville, TN, didn’t need to know the lineup to know she would grace Fort Adams with her presence again this year.  “I bought my 3-day pass the day they went on sale, without a single act having been announced.  No need.  I knew it would be good–no, great,” she said.  And she was certainly correct.  Heavy-hitters include Feist, The Avett Brothers, Beck, The Lumineers, Jim James, Old Crow Medicine Show and Trombone Shorty, to name a few.  While these are certainly impressive headliners, Newport will also host one of the most impressive lineups of indie bands on the festival circuit this year.  Bands like Langhorne Slim and the Law, Shovels and Rope, The Lone Bellow, and The Milk Carton Kids, along with solo performances from Jason Isbell and Justin Townes Earle, are must-sees at this year’s NFF.  First-timer Blair, from Asheville, NC, is most looking forward to Langhorne Slim’s performance on Saturday, which is slated to be one of this year’s crowd favorites.  With such a stellar lineup, fans like Karen are going to have to think long and hard about where to be and when.  She added, “My only frustration is going to come from having to make some hard choices about who to see when every act is terrific.  Good problem to have, though, right?”

2. The Backdrop:  There’s nothing quite like watching the sun set over Newport Harbor as the headliner closes out the day with an inspirational performance.  The NFF has one of the most beautiful backdrops around–historic mansions nestled into vibrant, green rolling hills surrounding a sailor’s paradise.  From Fort Adams, this breathtaking scenery is sure to make any festival goer stop in his/her tracks and take in a panoramic view.  Repeat offender Karissa from Hackettstown, NJ shared her thoughts on the festival’s landscape.  “Last year was my first NFF, and I plan on going every year now.  It’s clean, it’s close, and the views are amazing.  When you’re at Fort Adams, you’re right on the water.  You can look out and see people on their sailboats dancing to Jackson Browne or My Morning Jacket.  You can see the famous Newport Mansions on your drive in and dream about spilling a few million out to live in one, one day.”  Sounds pretty magical to me!

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3.  The Nightlife: After the sun goes down and all of the lawn chairs get folded up, the festival still rages on.  On Friday and Saturday nights, Dawes and Friends will play shows at The Jane Pickens Theater  to benefit the Newport Festivals Foundation.  Just down the road at the Newport Blues Cafe, Deer Tick will close out Friday-Sunday nights with performances to benefit both the Newport Festivals Foundation and Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.  Though frontmen Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes) and John McCauley (Deer Tick) are friends, collaborators, and recently appointed Newport Folk Festival Board of Advisor members, you can bet that the vibe at each show will be span the spectrum.  A word to the wise, the rowdy bunch should fall in line with Newport’s golden(toothed) boy McCauley at Newport Blues Cafe, while the more laid back fans should kick it with L.A. rocker Goldsmith and pals.  Either way, the evening events offer festival goers a chance to keep the party going, while supporting great charities.

4. The Festivarians:  Music lovers travel from far and wide to get to Newport, and these aren’t just your run-of-the-mill festivarians.  Rather, they are fans that know a thing or two about music, and that’s why they are there–for the music.   After her first NFF, Karen noticed that the crowd was one of the things that made NFF so special.  “I have been calling it an adult festival, but that’s not really accurate.  It is very mellow and civilized.  I can compare it to MerleFest, actually, now that I’ve been there.”  Karissa added, “At NFF, everyone is on the same page.  Audiences are respectful.  I didn’t see a single person stumbling around drunk, trying to push their way to the front, which is kind of hard to believe for a three-day festival!  You can look to your left and right and on either side of you is a person wearing a t-shirt with your favorite band written across the front of it–pretty amazing.  I’m all for NFF.  Best festival, hands down.”

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5. The Unexpected:  From Dylan’s 1965 plug-in to The Pixies unplugged in 2005, you just never know what kind of amazing musical treats will pop-up at NFF.  Over the years, fans have been delighted with surprise onstage collaborations, fort-top performances, and secret acoustic sessions.  It’s safe to say that NFF will deliver more unforgettable, unexpected moments this year, as well.   In 2010, The Avett Brothers, rode a scissor lift high above a line of port-a-johns and played a secret short set to those fans who able to sneak away from the other stages.  This is just one of many moments that will live on in the NFF history books:

6.  The Layout:  Due to tight capacity restrictions at Fort Adams, NFF has been forced to keep the festival numbers down, which is quite amazing considering the caliber of musicians that attend.  Having a festival with only 4 stages in a very close proximity to one another, but with ample space to keep sound separate, is a major plus for NFF.  “The beautiful thing about NFF is that it’s small. There are four stages and it only takes a minute to get from one to another.  I recently attended Firefly Music festival in Delaware and it was so crowded and the stages were so far apart, it took my friend and I forever to figure out where we were supposed to be.  We actually walked around Firefly reminiscing about how perfect NFF is,” shared Karissa.  The festival layout allows the experience to remain intimate and engaging, as if you were enjoying a private show with 10,000 of your closest friends.

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These are just a few of the many reasons to get to the Newport Folk Festival this year from July26-28th.  At the time of this entry, single-day tickets for Friday were still available.  You may have to resort to Stubhub or Craigslist for the Saturday and Sunday shows.  But, just remember that there’s always next year, so be sure to buy your tickets early.  See you in Newport!

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Spring Music Festival Spotlight – MerleFest 2013

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MerleFest, April 25-28, 2013 @ Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro NC

MerleFest is a family friendly music festival that was founded in 1988 in memory of Eddy Merle Watson — son of American music legend Doc Watson.  For over 25 years, the festival has maintained its original purpose–to raise funds for Wilkes Community College while celebrating “traditional plus” music. Today, MerleFest is considered one of the top music festivals in the country, drawing more than 75,000 festival goers and some of the biggest names in traditional bluegrass, country, Americana, folk, rock and more.  This year’s festival will feature over 90 musicians on 14 stages over the course of four days, so festival goers are encouraged to download the MerleFest app before they arrive to ensure the ultimate festival experience!

In true MerleFest fashion, festival organizers have gone above and beyond to congregate the best of the best at WCC.  This year’s lineup features rising musicians like The Black Lillies, Pokey LaFarge, and Delta Rae alongside industry vets like Jim Lauderdale, Jerry Douglas, and headliners The Charlie Daniels Band, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Warren Haynes & Gov’t Mule. Additionally, local favorites, The Avett Brothers, have signed-on to closeout the festival on Sunday afternoon, but not before their talented father, Jim Avett, takes the Creekside Stage to perform a special family gospel set.  In addition to this year’s stacked lineup, Sam Bush will host an all-star tribute jam on Saturday night to honor the life and music of the festival’s founding father Doc Watson, who sadly passed away last year.

While it is true that MerleFest mainly involves relaxing and enjoying the company of old and new friends while taking in amazing live performances, there are also several opportunities for fans to get involved and play some music themselves.  Musically inclined fans can join others to pick, sing, and learn at Jam Camp, Pickin’ Place, and The Songwriters’ Coffeehouse.  Young festival goers may enjoy spending some time in the Little Pickers Family Area, while fans of all ages can venture out into the WCC campus woods for a Nature Walk.  MerleFest also features a series of contests for musicians and songwriters, including The Merle Watson Bluegrass Banjo Championship, The Doc Watson Guitar Championship, and The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest.  The twelve finalists for the CASC will perform on the Austin Stage on Friday, April 26th at 2:00 PM, and will be judged by a panel of music industry professionals, including Jim Lauderdale.  The first place winner will receive a performance slot on the Cabin Stage that evening.  All proceeds from the CASC benefit the WCC Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship.  And, last but certainly not least is the Saturday night Midnight Jam — a fun and often rowdy festival tradition!

If you are looking for a music festival to kick off the spring season, MerleFest is for you!  Load up your car, head out to Wilkesboro, set up a tent at one of the many surrounding campsites, and be prepared to have your mind blown by some of the music industry’s best.  Multi- and single-day tickets are still available. For more information about MerleFest, musicians, and festival events, please visit  www.merlefest.org.

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