McPherson, a native of the East Coast has spent the last 3 years refining his retro sound in Portland Oregon. He took the stage at Newport and was almost unrecognizable to those who got used to his slicked back hair cut and 60’s hill-billy rocker style. In a laid back set of khakis and a polo, JD and his band rolled out an impressive set during a light misting. Hitting on all the favorites from their collection, they woke up the Newport faithful and got folks to their feet to start the day.
Touring on the success of their recent album, “Muchacho”, Matthew Houck and Phosphorescent rocked the quad stage right as the rain began to pour down on Fort Adams. The band show signs of brilliance throughout their performance followed by small lulls and gaps in performance. The upside of the band and their sound come during extended jam sessions where their piano player and the rhythm section are allowed freedom to play. The gaps, at least during this set, came clearly from Houck and his vocal range. With the band reaching to higher octaves and making key changes on the regular, the architect of their sound got lost in the shuffle.
The informally dubbed “Mayor of Newport,” John McCauley’s set on Friday was the most impressive of the day. Playing under a torrential downpour in the quad tent, it was just McCauley and his guitar. Pulling from a range of country and folk classics, the Deer Tick frontman captivated the crowd with his stage presence and plucking. Though Deer Tick’s hometown of Providence is a short car ride away, McCauley has made the Newport Folk Festival his own. He was joined by two very special guests – his girlfriend – Vanessa Carlton and his Mom. Carlton jumped onstage to play a duet from Deer Tick’s new album “Negativity”. Mrs. McCauley’s appearance was a lot more spontaneous. While picking along to the Deer Tick jam Baltimore Blues No. 1, John realized the riff he was playing was similar to the Jimmy Buffet track Margaritaville. He stopped dead in his tracks and invited his Mom, a devoted Buffethead, onstage to run through the beach jam. The moment was one of those that could only come about at a small festival like Newport. The Mayor brought his Mom onstage (replete with a green “Mama Deer Tick” shirt) to duet with him and finish by thanking Newport for “loving and supporting my son and Deer Tick!”