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Posted Jul 27th, 2015 (1:38 pm) by Theresa Flanagan
Newport Folk Festival 2015 - The Decemberists
Image by Theresa Flanagan

It's no easy feat to follow up on a first day full of unforgettable moments, but Newport Folk Festival managed it handily. Giving Day Two a stunner of a start, The Suffers lit up the Fort Stage. The ten-piece soul collective out of Houston, TX made their Newport debut in style, playing the four tracks off their debut EP Make Some Room, plus a couple more. We had a chance to chat with trumpet player Jon Durbin, who commented on how much audience energy there is for even the first set of the day here at the festival. The Suffers arrived late on Friday night, so getting up on the main stage with a view of the sailboats in the harbor beyond the gathered crowd was their introduction to Newport Folk Festival. Not a bad first impression at all. The response to The Suffers has unsurprisingly been very positive following their debut, with a boost following their appearance on The David Letterman Show. Up until now they have been entirely self-funded, but Jon let us know that they'll be starting up a Kickstarter in the very near future to get some help with recording and producing their debut full length. Check out the Letterman performance below to see why it'll absolutely be a worthy cause.

Next up was a new collaboration of old Newport alums. Jonny Fritz, Robert Ellis, and Cory Chisel have gotten together as Traveller - they named the project after Robert. E. Lee's horse. We stuck around at the Quad Stage to catch a soul shaking set from Langhorne Slim & The Law. They got the crowd up on their feet with their rollicking tunes, but the show stopping moment was when Langhorne Slim took it down to bare bones for "Song for Sid." The gathered crowd was fell all but silent for the tribute to his grandfathers.

Next up was Jason Isbell on the Fort Stage. We just reviewed his latest release Something More Than Free. He played quite a few tunes off the new album but finished things off with one from his days with the Drive-By Truckers, "Decoration Day." In the mean time, we headed back to the Quad Stage to catch Melbourne rocker Courtney Barnett. We've heard nothing but good things, and there's no question why after seeing her live. She released her first full-length this past March, called Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit.

The next set on the main stage was unannounced, but as with My Morning Jacket on Day One, the featured performer was all but confirmed before he walked on stage. James Taylor was back at the Fort. The last time he played at Newport in 1959, he had just finished up "Fire and Rain" when his set was abruptly interrupted for the announcement of the moon landing. Word is that festival producer Jay Sweet's goal is to have more of these unannounced sets in the future, possibly to the point where the entire festival is unannounced. While the surprise factor was definitely fun this year, we're not entirely sure we'd be down for a totally unannounced lineup. To be fair, the festival sells out long before all the artists are announced as it is. A lot of speculation and tour mapping precedes the slow rollout of artist announcements and that continued through the festival itself this year for these two fully unannounced set times, as well as for the '65 Revisited closing set on Sunday. This festival will always draw amazing artists, and having tickets sell for the festival as a whole rather than for specific acts is definitely in the spirit of its creation.

We popped over to the Quad Stage briefly to catch some of Sturgill Simpson's set. The Nashville-based artist released his second full-length Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Simpson has a sound that tracks back to the roots of country music, but there's no question that he's a current artist. For a far better description than we can give here, check out this interview he did with Rolling Stone following the album release last year.

Next up on our agenda was Sufjan Stevens on the main stage, but in a rare occurrence for Newport Folk things were running behind. So, we headed over to the Harbor Stage to catch Jose Gonzalez. The Swedish singer-songwriter released his first new album since 2007 this past February, Vestiges & Claws. We were running all around the festival at this point, but still managed to stop back by just in time to hear him play "Crosses." Thirteen years later, that song still hits as hard.

Sufjan Stevens released the fantastic Carrie & Lowell earlier this year. There's no doubt that Sufjan know how to move a crowd. He played some of the gorgeous and deeply personal tracks off the new album, but closed out with obvious favorite "Chicago."

The final set of the night was The Decemberists. A completely different feel from Roger Waters' set the night before, but still definitely a great one. The stellar What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World came out this January, and they played a handful of tracks off of it. We would have never thought that the best description of The Decemberists would be adorable, but damned if it doesn't fit. They were just having a ball up on stage, especially as they closed out their set with "Their Mariner's Revenge" complete with a giant paper mache whale swallowing up the band one by one.To close out the second night of the festival the band played "This Land Is Your Land" as a tribute to Pete Seeger, bringing a whole crew including Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius, Hozier, Bela Fleck, Brandi Carlile and more on stage with them.

Check out our photos of the day below, and keep an eye out for our Day Three coverage coming your way soon!

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