I enjoyed a lovely weekend at the beach attending The Way Over Yonder Fest. Here are my takeaways (and photos!).
What’s in a Name?
Way Over Yonder is part of the Newport Folk Festival umbrella and although many acts, including top billed Jackson Browne and Lucina Williams, might fit the folk paradigm, I would hesitate to call the entire event a folk festival. Other top billed bands like Local Natives and Heartless Bastards are more in the indie rock vein and Chris Robinson Brotherhood brought out a hippie psychedelic jam rock vibe, complete with the burning incense on stage. As a result, the audience was a bit of a mix. The one universal trait of the crowd was that they all loved music. At the end of the day, I think the Fest did a great thing bringing different types of music lovers together and expanding, just a bit, the idea of what Way Over Yonder might mean.
Discovering Something New
One of the greatest features of any festival is you’re bound to discover some great new music. Way Over Yonder provided it’s audience with a solid list of talented younger bands and songwriters. There were even a few unknown to me! Friday afternoon, the opening notes of the weekend were provided by a new LMN Band Love by the name of Bootstraps. Bootstraps, led by singer Jordan Beckett play rock music that is vibrant and emotional. The band started and I was just wrapped up in the music’s warmth, transported by the guitar solos and soothing vocals.
Another band that’s going on the “to watch” list is The Lone Bellow who revved up the audience at The Main Stage Saturday afternoon with their high energy set. You could close your eyes and enjoy the soulful melodies and pleasant harmonies, but its near impossible to stop watching the stage as the band members’ deep connection to their stories and songs radiates from their facial expressions and body language.
A few bands, while not new to me, came to the Fest with some new music. The Barr Brothers opened Saturday on the Main Stage, sharing a few songs from their forthcoming album Sleeping Operator out October 7th including my new favorite, the melodious “Love Ain’t Enough”.The Barr Brothers are always a treat with their unique instruments (there’s a harp!) and crafty ways of making noises on the stage. The band’s set started out with some lazier tunes, easing the viewers into the beautiful sunny afternoon on The Pier, but by the end, they had added an electric guitar and were having a proper “rock out” moment.
Other remarkable emerging artists include songstress Leslie Stevens whose sweet and easy drawl delivers songs that pack an emotional punch, and Jamestown Revival, a local band who is making waves with their new album, Utah.
Take a Ride on the Carousel
Most of the action remained near the main stage, but for those lucky enough to follow the signs pointing to the Carousel Stage found, tucked into a corner behind an actual full-sized (and operating!) Carousel, some of the greatest talent on display that weekend. I would have been quite content to just remain glued to this stage all weekend. Here, I was introduced to some exciting new acts like The Wild Reeds, a rousing female-fronted, harmony-driven act who had the distinction of drawing the youngest, and perhaps most adorable, crowd of the weekend.
The smaller room, allowed for more of a story tellers vibe. This was perfect for singers like Joe Fletcher who, with his deep voice and cowboy hat, sings the kinds of songs that tell stories. Fletcher sang songs like fan favorite “The Wilsons”, a tune that paints the picture of a perfectly dysfunctional family over the gleeful picking of the guitar. Fletcher’s pre 7pm set Friday night was a bit earlier than he’s used to, but as the set wore on, the audience was transported to a late night honky tonk in the heart of Nashville. You just had to replace the whiskey with Italian-style sodas from the soda fountain on the other side of the carousel.
The title of best storyteller has to go to another Joe, Joe Pug. Pug captivated his audience Saturday afternoon with his winning smile, smart narrative-style tunes and in between song banter that covered everything from his failed attempts at harmonica endorsement to an imagined theme park ride tour inspired by his current venue. Other than his guitar strap covered in owls, my favorite part of Joe Pug’s set were those moments when a quiet, unassuming song was suddenly augmented by the passion of its performer who would get so into it, he’d be singing on his toes.
The lesson of you don’t have to be loud to be expressive was also full on display with the talented Nathanial Rateliff who ended the weekend of music on the Carousel Stage Saturday night. It was one of those sets where the packed room was utterly silent, rapt by the energy and emotion coming from a man and his guitar. I just can’t finish up this recap without mentioning Nathaniel Rateliff.
It’s All About Family
Houndmouth, a fun alt-country band from Indiana played an earlier set on Friday, but got the warmest welcome, introduced by a festival organizer as part of the family. This was the first of many incidents when a band was referred to as “family” and the label became a signifier of the entire weekend.
The festival grounds itself were constructed to have a very at home in the country feeling. Lawn games were set up in the bar area and hale bales covered in blankets were strategically placed for more comfortable viewing of the music. Food stands and trucks offered a variety of dining options from Mexican to BBQ and even oysters. Venders with names like Detroit Trash proffered comfortable dresses and unique, rustic-feeling jewelry.
Speaking of family, Way Over Yonder is a great event for the whole family. If anyone needs a break from the music, you’re already at the beach! Plus, The Pier has its standard amusement including Carousel and roller coaster rides, and a Ferris wheel which becomes a dazzling light display at night. Need a break from the kids? There is ample room in the 21+ area to relax and grab a drink.
For more of my festival experience, check out our twitter @_localmusicnat or my pictures below: