Recap: What Cheer? Brigade Profile

August 2, 2010 by

The What Cheer? Brigade is a twenty piece art-punk brass band from Providence, Rhode Island. I’ve said it several times already, but they made the Newport Folk Festival exciting. I spent much of Sunday afternoon tracking them down one by one to get profile shots. Here are nineteen pictures of twenty people responsible for making the Folk Fest a party.






Dead Chopshop


Ben and Robert












Recap: Newport Folk Fest Day Two

August 2, 2010 by

The What Cheer? Brigade, pictured in part above, pretty much made the festival for me. They ended the day by leading a parade through the festival grounds with Elvis Perkins at the head. Totally epic. More on them later.

We stayed at a friends house close to the festival ground. What probably would have been a thirty minute walk turned into an hour long car ride due to traffic in downtown Newport and we missed Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. We weren’t too disappointed though, as we got to catch a little of April Smith’s set, pictured above. And goddam is she adorable. Chances are I never would have given her a shot outside of this festival. If allowed to sit at the periphery, her music has that loungy, Norah Jones vibe that I often try to avoid. But somewhere between the walking bass, the twinkling piano and her ability to mix sweet nothings with mad ravings among her stories, I was hooked. Girl cursed her off mouth every so often and the parents and children sitting so passively in front ate it up. I think she’s just as likely to beat me up as she is to go on a long walk along an empty beach with me. So thanks for that, April, your music is just the right type of crazy to keep me interested.

Immediately after April came my first experience with the What Cheer? Brigade, a twenty piece art-punk brass band from Providence. Although part of the official Newport bill, their sets sprang up between sets at random across the festival ground; along the parapet that borders the main stage, through the crowds along the waterfront, in the tunnels between the smaller stages. They played and looked like the resurrection of some fabled high-school marching band that might have died in a hideous bus-crash on the way to a competition, back from the dead to play their music harder and with more ambition. Notes fell just the right type of dissonant short of their mark, their bass parts punctuated the gut before the song. The What Cheer? Brigade was felt before it was heard and goddamn was it loud.

Sunday proved to be a tough day for photographers. As the day ended, security began kicking us out or completely barring us from the pit in front of the stages (except the inside stage. Those dudes were cool, especially Chris, thanks man). So this is one of five shots I had of the Felice Brothers. This is also about the time where Newport started to screw up. I got kicked out of the pit in front of the Felice Brothers – who, as far as I could tell, were psyched to be there and played really well – after the second song so I didn’t get to see much of them because it was impossible to get anywhere close to the stage after that. I saw security guards threatening to beat up festival goers and Phoenix colleague Addison Post almost got kicked out twice for trying to take photos of the Felice Brothers and Edward Sharpe. Weird.

This is as close as I could get to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Why they weren’t on the main stage, I don’t know. Their album “Up From Below” is a brilliant blend of pop songwriting among folk roots. It takes the trebly guitar warbles and echoed, rawhide style “has!” that I associate with childhood folk and the pop constructions of a former power-pop wizard, Edward Sharpe frontman and former I’m a Robot frontman Alex Ebert. They’re an ideal genre bridge, something I think this festival did a good job of trying to present, lineup-wise at least. On the bright side, had I not abandoned Edward Sharpe due to the crowds and an abrasive security staff, I would have missed an excellent set from Elvis Perkins and the ensuing art-punk parade.

In his last song, Elvis Perkins incorporated the entirety of the What Cheer? Brigade and as the song trailed off, people jumped off the stage and split into two groups. Perkins led one group along the perimeter of the stage grounds while several What Cheer? kids took to the left and walked through the crowd while playing. They met up at the far end of the grounds, near a tunnel and along the perimeter wall of the fort bordering the stage. They played for ten minutes with the members of three different bands, somewhere around thirty musicians all pounding their respective instruments. I can’t imagine they had time to rehearse and how they managed to pull of such a compelling, well conceived orchestration is beyond me. As the song ended, one of the What Cheer? crew raised his instrument and yelled “We’re going to take you on a parade!”

Hey, that’s him!

As hinted at by the lead picture in this post, the What Cheer? Brigade took a couple hundred people on a parade around the fair grounds. They took a loose position that felt half rehearsed, half a natural reaction to each other. Players exchanged leads, took form together and just as quickly fell apart and eventually decided on an arbitrary gathering spot, at a hill near the outside tent as the sun fell, to perform their last stand. I walked away to beat the crowd and find the rest of the Phoenix crew so we could leave. But as I exited the festival, I could still hear the What Cheer? Brigade being totally fucking epic to a handful of stragglers. Like I said before, they made the festival for me. Thanks dudes.

[Video] Sharon Jones in the Newport Fort

August 1, 2010 by

Quick peek at Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings earlier today at the Newport Folk Festival’s Fort Stage. Best performance all weekend? That’s the talk inside the media tent…

[Video] What Cheer? Brigade live at Newport

August 1, 2010 by

We caught Providence’s What Cheer? Brigade out on the Quad stage lawn, providing intermission entertainment between April Smith & The Great Picture Show and Pokey Lafarge & The South City Three. This might have been the tenth What Cheer performance at Newport Folk Fest, proving that while anyone can roll up and bang out a set here by the water, it takes a brass street machine to play all weekend long.

Twitpic highlights from Newport

August 1, 2010 by

Taking a breather fro the sounds of the 51st annual Newport Folk Festival, here’s a quick roundup of @BostonMusicBlog’s various Twipics from Sunday. Let’s roll ghetto style before the official photos and slideshows get posted later on…

Down below check out sneak peeks at Punch Brothers, Sharon Jones, April Smith and the Great Picture Show, What Cheer? Brigade — posing for Phoenix cameras and in glorious brass intermission action on the Quad lawn — and Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three. Day 2 rules so far. Coming up: Felice Bros, Levon Helm and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes!

[Video] Interview with Dawes

August 1, 2010 by

Asking Los Angeles indie-folk band Dawes the tough questions, like the difference between east and west coast festivals, what’s up with the new Laurel Canyon scene and why was Kirsten Dunst at their show at Great Scott a few months ago (that’s so LA). After chatting with the Phoenix in the Fort Adams quad, Dawes threw down one of the best shows of Day 1 at Newport Folk Fest, all while looking sharp.

[Video] Interview w/AA Bondy

August 1, 2010 by

Music editor Michael Marotta interviews AA Bondy at day one of the Newport Folk Festival.

[Video] Andrew Bird W/Calexico

August 1, 2010 by

Videographer Addison Post captured Andrew Bird’s performance with Calexico at the Newport Folk Festival yesterday on the main stage.

Recap: Newport Folk Fest Day One

July 31, 2010 by

The above “hawties” wanted to party. I said, ‘naw gurl, I gotta work.’ So I turned around and took more pictures from the pit on the main stage. Day one of the Boston Phoenix’s Newport Folk Festival experience. Anyway.

Above we see the bassist from O’Death, who looks eerily similar to the late Jay Reatard. And unlike the dude from Japandroids, who does often employ a fan to simulate metal-approved wind-blown hair, no fan was present. That hair movement is pure, unadulterated rock goodness. O’Death was the first band I saw today and probably the best. More on that here.

Wait a second, O’Death’s drummer, that’s not how you play drums!

Above is the guitarist/singer from Calexico.

I’d always heard the name Calexico – mostly at the Latin-American restaurant at which I work – but had never fully heard a song of theirs. It’s the type of music I’d expect an old school dictator or fashionista/gangster to take in while sitting pool side at some badass villa, smoking a cigar and sipping on scotch. The songs are feathered with lap-steel and hushed, salsa vocals, the refrains punctuated by blasts of horn and bass. I only caught three songs, but they were powerful enough to inspire the crazed, possibly dug-addled girls behind me (also pictured above) to proposition the singer in a most unbecoming way.

Bro had a tat painted on his back. Pretty chill way to celebrate a festival.

Above is Andrew Bird playing his violin. It sounded pretty.

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the entirety of Andrew Bird’s catalogue without ever having owned or purchased any of his material. Cafes and bars love this dude. But so do I. Although not typical of his recorded material, today he sounded similar, vocally at least, to Jim James of My Morning Jacket (who played under the name Yim Yames on another stage today. Clever!) He played his first five songs solo and looped all his violin and guitar parts. It felt a bit like seeing Howie Day, which kinda sucked. Also, once you’ve heard one looped violin part, you’ve heard them all. But, then he pulled the big festival move that makes festivals worth the time/money. The entirety of Calexico came out and performed his last three songs along with him, which added a south-american low-end groove to a set that otherwise sounded (and looked) like the score to a Wes Anderson film. Which isn’t a bad thing. I guess what I’m getting at is that Andrew Bird was pretty sweet and Calexico made him sweeter. Go words.

More to come tomorrow!

Newport: Ladies love Dawes

July 31, 2010 by

Los Angeles indie-folk dudes Dawes just pulled in a standing ovation, maybe two if you’re being technical, at their show on the Quad stage at Newport Folk Festival. But a greater find was that pretty much every pretty girl here in Newport loves herself some Dawes. Maybe there’s something about that whole Laurel Canyon thing after all. Phoenix exclusive interview with the dapper and affable California band in a few…


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