Archives For of monsters and men

A Brand New Tradition

LarryKloess —  March 2, 2012 — 1 Comment

One of my goals, if you will, of 2011 was to travel to a city I had never been to before. Naturally, my inclinations were to go to a place that had a killer music scene so Austin, Boston and Seattle all made the list of possible destinations. Turns out that I didn’t end up in any of those wonderful cities, but accomplished my goal in a way that I hadn’t anticipated at the start of the year, by going to Newport, Rhode Island, to experience the legendary Newport Folk Festival.

Originally conceived as a trip with my dad to head up to Newport (we’re both quite smitten with Emmylou Harris, after all) for the festival and then a couple days in Boston to see the Red Sox at Fenway, my sister and I ended up making it a bro-sis road trip to experience two days of every variation of folk music under the sun. It was an experience like no other, getting to see the aforementioned Emmylou, Gillian Welch, The Decemberists, The Civil Wars, The Head and the Heart, Typhoon, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Freelance Whales and many, many more.

Newport Folk Fest 2011 was my first festival experience despite living within two hours of Bonnaroo and there were several times over the course of that July weekend where I thought to myself “I’m coming back here every year if I can.” From the gorgeous port city of Newport to the water taxi ride each morning to get to the festival at Fort Adams State Park, from the super laid back, perfectly friendly crowd to the dozens of boats pulled up to the harbor to catch the music for themselves, it was hard not to fall completely in love with George Wein and Pete Seeger’s brainchild.

So now it’s 2012 and just yesterday the lineup was released for the festival, taking place July 28 and 29, and the folks in Newport have made it waaaay too easy to honor my words from last summer and make this an annual pilgrimage. Headlining the festival are My Morning Jacket and Jackson Browne, who are both playing NFF for the first time ever. Conor Oberst, Iron & Wine, Patty Griffin and Guthrie Family Reunion (Arlo Guthrie, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Johnny Irion, etc.) also received top billing for the festival, but that’s just scratching the surface.

Highlights for me are The Head and the Heart playing for the second year in a row (the only band returning this year, I think), and a plethora of bands on my “Bucket List” that I will be writing more about in the coming weeks. 2012 buzz bands, Of Monsters and Men and Alabama Shakes will be performing, along with Blind Pilot, Preservation Jazz Hall Band, Gary Clark Jr, Deep Dark Woods, New Multitudes (Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker and Yim Yames), and The Tallest Man on Earth, who I’ve been dying(!) to see perform for years. It’s going to be an absolute pleasure getting to cross them all of my list. And I’d be remiss to share how ecstatic I am to see Nashville’s own The Apache Relay take to the Newport stage.┬áThere’s honestly not enough space in this post to do justice to all the wonderful acts playing at the festival this year.

So, dear readers, what’s your festival experience been like? Anyone else been to Newport before? Who wants to join in on this brand new tradition of mine?

One of my vices as someone who finds great joy in discovering new bands is that I often fail to spend much time with any given artist before moving on to another one. And then out of nowhere, I will be completely blindsided by a band who forces everything else to the fringes and demands my complete, uninterrupted attention. Well, ladies and gents, that band in recent months has been none other than the latest Icelandic sensation, Of Monsters And Men.

If I were to come up with a checklist of ways for a band to assure that I would fall head over heels in love with their sound, it would probably go something like this: boy-and-girl call-and-response singing? check. excellent horn section? check. three- and four-part harmonies? check and check. beards. duh, check. All of that aside, these precocious lads from (almost) across the pond, seem to have created a sound all their own that leans heavy on the new folk movement coming out of the UK that seems to incorporate the beautiful landscape of Iceland all too well with some occasionally post-rockish drum swells for good measure. In short, I listen to them and feel that same sense of giddiness that I did for the first time with Fleet Foxes in 2007 and The Head and The Heart in 2010. But that’s not really their sound at all. If anything, I would compare them with an Arcade Fire or maybe even Fanfarlo.

They released their debut album “My Head Is An Animal” in their native country toward the end of 2011 and recently announced an April 3 release in the US and Canada. If you happen to be at South By this March or hear of this band coming through any city you live near, you should be in attendance. For anyone that loves music, you know the feeling of seeing a band live right when they are on the verge of blowing up. Sheer exuberance. I can guarantee that feeling for anyone lucky enough to catch them when they come to the US soon.