United Folk Fest
When: Saturday July 1st
Time: 12 noon – 9pm
Where: Wilcox Park, Westerly, RI
Why you should go: A free music festival with top national acts as well as up-and-coming local acts. Oh, did we mention it is FREE!?!
There is a new festival making it’s mark in Rhode Island, the “biggest little state” that’s bursting with creativity, culture, and a vacation worthy summer setting. In it’s second year, the United Folk Festival boasts the lineup of a seasoned fest. Last year, the event consisted of a few bands, and this year has expanded to twelve internationally recognized bands across two stages, set in Westerly, RI, a coastal town on the cusp of a creative boom.
“We hope to create a new musical tradition for the area — a free event unlike any other in the region, uniting the community through the arts,” Tony Nunes, United Theatre’s film and events programmer, said in a news release.
This year’s festival is curated by Sean Spellman, front man for Quiet Life, and includes folk fest veterans Langhorne Slim, The Low Anthem, Blitzen Trapper, Elvis Perkins and The Barr Brothers, as well as nationally and internationally established acts Woods and My Bubba, and Westerly’s own Wild Sun, among others.
In addition to staging this festival, the United Theatre is undergoing a transformation that will bring music, culture and arts education to the area. Plans are in place for artists and students to learn and display their work, building an authentic and creative community and tourist destination.
In case you need more of a nudge to join in the festivities, here is a rundown of the lineup:
Blitzen Trapper (8:00-9:00pm)
Headlining the Main Stage is this quintet from Portland, Oregon whose albums contain a mix of experimental country, folk and rock. Self-releasing their first three albums, their third, Wild Mountain Nation, received critical acclaim and led to the group signing with Sub Pop Records in the summer of 2007.
The release of Furr in 2008 made a big splash with their eclectic new songs, after which they were featured in Rolling Stone Magazine, among many other publications. The albums Destroyer of the Void and American Goldwing followed, to similarly high acclaim. In 2013 the band signed to Vagrant Records and released the album VII . They followed in 2014 with their first live album, Live In Portland.
More recently, they recorded the new song “Summer Rain” for the 2016 Amazon Songs of Summer playlist. With it’s nice groove, this is sure to have people dancing at United. Their music has a wide variety of style and makes for a highly-anticipated finale to the day.
Langhorne Slim (5:45-6:45pm)
We have never seen a Langhorne Slim set that hasn’t brought ALL. THE. FEELS. You will laugh, cry, scream, shout and stomp to Langhorne, hitting you in the heart. Currently working on his newest record, which was meant to be a solo record, but turned out a little different. From the man himself, “Most of what did happen sails an unsayable sea for the time being but what I can confirm is that I found myself creating an album with some of the most beautiful and unique humans I have ever known. This one is as close to my heart as anything I’ve ever done. I am forever grateful to these men and lady for climbing on board and setting out to sail with me.”
Hopefully the crowd at United Folk Fest gets to hear a few of those new ones as well as some old favorites like “The Way We Move “, “Song For Sid” and “Changes”.
The Low Anthem (4:15-4:45pm)
It had been five years since The Low Anthem’s last album before their latest, Eyeland, came out in 2016. They were busy working on a project very important to the hustling Providence music scene, the Columbus Theatre. Members of The Low Anthem have been working alongside Tom Weyman, manager and booking agent, and the Columbus Collective as sound engineers, bartenders and whatever other function is needed to operate the venue on a day-to-day.
The band makeup has also changed since the last album. Gone is Jocie Adams who now fronts Arc Iris. Founding members Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky are joined by Florence Wallis and Bryan Minto. Naturally, the new album has a much different, experimental sound. After a European tour, the US tour was cut short by an unfortunate car accident. We’re excited to see how the new songs play live with the new lineup… and we hope to hear some old favorites as well.
Elvis Perkins (2:55-3:25pm)
Since Elvis Perkins latest release I Aubade was released in 2015, he has stayed busy performing his eclectic live shows and also doing the soundtrack to his brother, Oz Perkins’, horror movie The Blackcoat’s Daughter.
With the unique sound on his albums and the not so typical instruments (sitar, xylophone) he always keeps it interesting. He doesn’t sound like many other people you see live, which is always fun.
Luke Temple (1:45-2:15pm)
Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Luke Temple is an alumnus of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He has released recordings with the band Here We Go Magic, and he recently recorded under his own name for the Don’t Act Like You Don’t Care album.
This record is a little sparser than previous material but should make for a nice afternoon set at United. His songs have always grabbed the audience with his lyrics and storytelling and we expect nothing less for Saturday.
Barna Howard (12:35-1:05pm)
You might leave United Folk Festival with Barna Howard as your new favorite artist! Now living in Portland, OR, Barna is a Missouri native and an old soul, who writes songs like he’s done a lot more living than his age would reveal.
Howard’s second album, Quite A Feelin’, have songs based in country and folk and a very organic feel. In their instrumentation and lyrics, you can tell this guy is interested in nothing but the truth. Songs about home, traveling and drinking are performed with amazing vocals and feeling. Expect to hear his name buzzing around Wilcox Park and beyond, after Saturday.
The Barr Brothers (6:50-7:50pm)
The Barr Brothers have taken a step back from heavy-touring over the past few years to write and record. That being said, don’t expect them to be rusty this Saturday as they headline the Library Stage.
Their live shows are filled with foot-stomping riffs, great harmonies and energetic songs that always makes for a memorable festival performance. Band members are top notch musicians and with their most recent, surprise EP Alta Falls, they won’t be short of solid tunes, new and old.
Michael Nau (5:00-5:40pm)
Having fronted Page France and Cotton Jones, Michael Nau went at it alone for his debut album Mowing, and now, not long after he released his second solo album Some Twist. In a live setting expect some fuzzy folk-pop as with his past bands, but also some nice quieter moments with his last two solo albums.
Woods are a folk-rock freak-out band from Brooklyn with some jam-band qualities that make them a much sought after live act. Recently in the studio for their new album Love Is Love, they leaned toward a tighter, cleaner sound. In the live setting, they are capable of taking songs like “Bleeding Blue” and “Lost In The Crowd” for extended jams.
The heart of this band is in their playing and masterful instrumentation. They also have great improvisational skills, put on display on their Live From Third Man Records album. When you see them on the Library stage this Saturday don’t be surprised to find yourself dancing and swaying.
My Bubba (2:20-2:50pm)
My Bubba are a Swedish/Icelandic female duo whose music is described as minimalistic, vocal-oriented folk. They have toured with and co-written music with some of the top names in the business including Damien Rice and Matthew E. White.
Expect soulful Scandinavian folk songs and powerful voices to bring a nice intimacy to their set at United Folk Festival.
Little Wings (1:10-1:40pm)
They say the quietest moments can be the most transcendent ones. Kyle Field, aka Little Wings has made a practice out of this belief. His recordings are sparse but produce strong moments. Recently opening for Angel Olsen and playing to some bigger crowds, he should be ready to deliver a nice early set at United Folk Fest.
Wild Sun (12:00-12:30pm)
Rounding out the lineup are Westerly’s own Wild Sun. A rock and roll band who play honest, heartfelt songs that the hometown crowd should embrace, as they open United Folk Fest at noon on Saturday on the Library Stage.
This band is eager and raw, having only been together for two years, and their talent is exceptional. Their debut album Little Truths got some serious airtime, and has established them as a local powerhouse. They have earned mentions in Rolling Stone, Spin, Billboard, and Entertainment Weekly. Make sure to get to United Folk Fest early so you don’t miss these guys!!
We can’t for Saturday. Enjoy this great lineup!!
And just when you think the festival ends… the party does not! Providence’s newest artist, musician and resident Dan Blakeslee is playing the United Folk Festival after party along with John Colvert at Perks and Corks, a short walk from the festival located at 62 High Street in Westerly. Show at 9pm.
Written by Michael Panico
Edited by Sarah Goodrich