Music, Podcasts

NPR’s Newport Folk Festival Coverage

When your Monkey first saw the lineup of bands for this year’s Newport Folk Festival, he nearly dropped his banana and fell straight out of his tree.

The Fleet Foxes, The Decemberists, Iron and Wine, The Avett Brothers and Gillian Welsh all on one stage? Are you kidding me?

It sounded like a great show, but tickets were expensive and your Monkey had a vacation already planned. So he had to pass on it.

Luckily NPR and the All Songs Considered Program was there to cover the event and has been providing your Monkey with enough live music podcasts from that day that he almost feels like he was there.

All he needs now is a pair of Birkenstocks, a sunburn, and a guilty white liberal conscience.

But seriously folks…

Let’s talk about the good, the bad and the surprising from that day.

The Good:

Oh Gilllian Welsh! Your talent as a singer and songwriter is matched only by your suprising knowledge of Red Sox folklore.

Sure your flight was delayed and you barely made it to Newport in time for your show, and sure you had to get a police escort to the festival grounds like a certain Red Sox catcher once needed to get to Fenway, but boy did you knock your performance out of the park.

Awesome job with your standard stuff (The Revelator, Look At Miss Ohio) and a great cover of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit.

Find her performance here.

The Bad:

OK, bad is a little harsh for this act. Maybe disappointing is a little bit better. Your Monkey has had a love/hate relationship with Iron and Wine’s music for a long time now. Sometimes it is great and sometimes it seems so soft and dull that it almost disappears.

Sam Beam (the singer and guitarist behind Iron and Wine) started off strong with a cover of the Postal Service song Such Great Heights, but his performance then seemed to fade away into less interesting stuff.

Your Monkey would have been much happier had he played “Boy With a Coin” from his previous album or his excellent new song “Belated Promise Ring.”

But alas, how much can the non-paying, non-attending customer complain?

Judge for yourself. Iron and Wine’s performance is here.

The Surprising:

The Low Anthem. There is a great do-it-yourself story behind this Rhode Island band’s appearance at this year’s festival that you can listen to on the NPR All Songs Considered Saturday Roundup podcast here.

But aside from the story, the band’s performance of “Oh My God Charlie Darwin” from their new album of the same name beat out material from the Fleet Foxes, the Decemberists, Billy Bragg and others for the honor of most memorable song of the day. (At least in the opinion of a Monkey who wasn’t there and has only heard highlights.)

Here is a song from the Low Anthem.

Also, your Monkey has only listened to day one of the festival coverage so far. Perhaps there will be another update for day 2. Stay tuned to find out more.

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Music, Podcasts, Shameless self indulgence, Writing

Random Thoughts Part II

It might be the insufferable heat and humidity here at Monkey central, but once again the inspiration just doesn’t seem to be coming. Therefore it’s time for yet another episode of random Monkey thoughts.

  1. The Adam Carolla podcast continues to deliver an amazing amount of free content each week. We’re talking an hour of solid programming each day, and apparently there is also a car-themed podcast that the guy is doing as well. Your Monkey is not a grease monkey and has no business with the car-themed podcast, but the regular podcast is really hitting the mark. Recently we’ve had good turns by Curb Your Enthusiasm Star Jeff Garlin and Rotten Tomatoes TV cohost Brett Erlich. Erlich in particular proves that you don’t have to be a name guest to make a good podcast. Click here for link to site.
  2. Everyone should read at least one article from the New York Times each day. Not because it is a pretentious thing to do, but because the Times is home to by far the best set of journalists anywhere. They have a marvelous talent for digging up interesting stories, finding unique angles to explore, and capturing the imagination without resorting to cheap sensationalism. Check out this piece that explores a series of bad omens leading up to a horrific car crash in Long Island over the weekend. It’s everything you want good journalism to be  (i.e. informative without being insensitive).
  3. It’s a wonder George Orwell wasn’t more of a pessimist. Listening to Dan Carlin outline the devastation that was caused during the war between Germany and Russia in World War II makes one realize that we are truly fortunate to live in a time and a place where copywriters pretending to be Monkeys can write long blog posts complaining about the unfairness of the world. We are so far removed from true suffering that it is all too easy to lose our perspective.  Check out Carlin’s Ghosts of the Ostfront series here, and then realize that Orwell started writing 1984 only a few years after this awful mess.
  4. Someone owes Iron and Wine an apology. A couple of days ago a certain Monkey may have praised the Great Lake Swimmers for doing mellow acoustic folk without being sleepy and dull. This same Monkey may have then suggested that Iron and Wine might be guilty of putting people to sleep with his “so soft you can barely hear it” mellow acoustic folk. But then Iron and Wine has to go and deliver a great new song called “Belated Promise Ring.”
  5. Your Monkey is usually against posting YouTube videos that are just one still shot of the album cover with the song playing underneath. Let’s face it, this practice is just one step below illegal file sharing. But since this song is available as a free download as part of the Current’s Song of the Day Podcast, a video is included here.