Alt-Nation: Festivals! Festivals! Festivals!

Newport Folk Festival

The iconic Newport Folk Festival enters its 57th year, as much of a force both socially and within the music business as ever. In recent years the festival has sold out before the full lineup was even released. It’s an amazing turnaround considering the festival was shut down for a number of years in the ’70s and ’80s. Newport Folk Festival is a “folk” festival in name only these days, as the lineups have expanded to include other  genres. Heck, two years ago I saw a metal band there! This year’s lineup once again offers up a little something for everyone. Here are some picks to check out each day.

Friday’s show will be headlined by New Zealand comic rockers Flight of The Conchords from the HBO show of the same name. Those looking for a sentimental crooner will want to check out Ray Lamontagne. I’m pumped for soul rockers St. Paul & The Broken Bones who did a great show at Lupo’s earlier this year that included a scorching cover of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.” Matthew Logan Vasquez from the Delta Spirit who recently rocked the Columbus Theatre is also on my list along with ’80s alternative icons the Violent Femmes.

Saturday’s show will be headlined by the original gangster punk/poet Patti Smith, which is reason enough to go.  Everything else is bonus as far as I’m concerned. That said, there is plenty of other stuff like Good Friends, which features members of Deer Tick, Americana rockers Banditos, Father John Misty, Ryan Adams and Norah Jones.

Sunday’s show will be headlined by rockers Alabama Shakes who are well worth sticking around for. I’m pumped up for Elvis Costello, but the rest of the day is pretty solid. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and reunion of Middle Brother, a folk rock super group that features members of Dawes and Deer Tick, should also be killer. Those looking for New Orleans brass swing (because this festival truly has everything) will want to check out the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Gaslight Anthem front man Brian Fallon will be doing a solo set.

The party doesn’t stop in Newport after the festival closes for the day at 8pm as there will be special shows happening all over town with the artists in town for the festival. The hottest ticket is always Deer Tick’s post-festival bashes each night at the Newport Blues Café. If you get shut out of Deer Tick, check out the Café at The Parlor on Broadway Street, which has festival acts such as Ballroom Thieves and Larkin Poe on July 22 and Phil Cook’s Guitar Heels and Spirit Family Reunion on July 23. Another joint that always features great live music is Jimmy’s Saloon on Memorial Boulevard.

Newport Folk Festival will take over Fort Adams State Park in Newport July 22 through the 24. 

Rhode Island Festival Honoring Les Paul

I talked with Dopey Lopes from the band Two Guys and Another Guy and festival co-organizer to find out the skinny behind the Rhode Island Festival Honoring Les Paul.

Marc Clarkin: How did the Rhode Island Festival Honoring Les Paul come about?

Dopey Lopes: It was conceived as a way to honor both the man and his achievements. Les was concerned that he’d only be known as a name on a guitar. He wanted to be remembered as a man who actually lived, and for others to know about his inventions. Les gave us musicians all the tools we now use — multitrack recording, the solid body electric guitar, piezo electric pickups, delay and so much more.

I was lucky enough to enter the 2012 Les Paul Estate Auction held by Julien’s of Beverly Hills and won three guitars.  My producer won another one. We later learned that they were all historically significant guitars with strong links to the Les Paul Legacy. We wanted find a way to share our experiences acquiring and restoring the guitars along with all the information we’ve been finding out along the way.

MC: What types of things will the lectures cover? Are they geared more toward musicians or casual music fans?

DL:  There are two lectures. “Les Paul From Start To Finish” is a talk by Jim Wysocki, who was a close personal friend of Les Paul’s. Jim will speak about their long relationship and share anecdotes and stories from their friendship. Jim owns a huge repository of Les Paul’s guitars, equipment and other ephemera, which he discusses at length. His collection will also be on display alongside my items. The 2nd lecture is by myself and Gil Diaz (one of the Guild “Three Amigos” who made that brand a success back in the Westerly Guild days). We speak about acquiring and restoring the Les Paul-owned guitars plus our long relationship restoring special Guild guitars together. The subject matter will be most interesting to guitarists and recording musicians, as well as those interested in music, music history and even history in general. Anyone who has an appreciation of music will enjoy this event.

MC: Can you talk just a little on Les Paul’s influence on you?

DL:  I’ve met Les a few times and have studied him pretty extensively. He communicated with me by email, which amazed me. He’s influenced me to innovate and to find my sound. I used to feel bad about modifying every guitar or amp, but know now that it all makes sense. He also strongly encourages all guitar players to pick up the guitar and “Keep Pickin,” which is how he used to sign every autograph. Without a doubt, the Les Paul Custom guitar has always defined the sound of Two Guys and Another Guy — that’s his work, very much his creation. Jon and I both use a specific model called “Les Paul Custom – Twentieth Anniversary Model,” which was made only in 1974. We owe him a great debt and this event is a great way to pay him back by keeping his memory alive and furthering his legacy by letting folks know about his many inventions and innovations in music. While this year’s event focuses more on the guitars and technology aspect of Les Paul’s work, we anticipate covering his recorded music both as a guitarist and with Mary Ford at future events.

MC: How did you choose the bands?

DL: We did seek bands that had the strong connection to the Les Paul guitar. Indeed, Jon Jones, Bob Kendall, Mark Tomis and Dave Chabot all use some Les Paul model. There’s nothing exclusive, but we are really celebrating Les and his innovation with the Gibson guitar. Certainly he and Leo Fender were good friends and frequently shared ideas. We’ll keep that spirit alive and yes, I do own a few guitars by Leo!

Rhode island Festival Honoring Les Paul takes place July 28 at The Café at The Parlor in Newport. The festival starts at 3pm with a series of lectures and exhibits to be followed by a rock ‘n’ roll show after featuring Two Guys and Another Guy, Neutral Nation, We Own Land, The Bob Kendall Band, The Underwires, and Minky Starshine. 

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