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The first band to hit the Harbor stage for the weekend, The Apache Relay were greeted by an incredible level of humidity and a full tent of late-morning festival-goers at Fort Adams State Park. The group of “Nomads”– who actually do have a home-base in Nashville, Tennessee– had been out and about in Rhode Island a few days prior to their Folk Festival date, having played a show this past Thursday night in Providence.
About an hour before their scheduled show time, the band sent out a tweet inviting their fans to “come hang” with them. And hang they did. WERS’s own Mariel Wade introduced the band, who proceeded to launch into their set, looking genuinely happy to be jamming together. The crowd reacted with plenty of enthusiasm, spreading the positive vibes full circle. Cellist Ben Sollee joined the band for two songs, including “The Watering Hole”.
Fittingly enough, at the exact moment lead singer Michael Ford Jr. sung the opening line “Take me to your watering hole”, bandmate Brett Moore was seen taking a heaping swig of water in the background. The down-tempo bluesiness of the song led to a shining moment for fiddle player Kellen Wenrich, whose string accents were often hard to hear above the rest of the band.
During “Lost Kid”, five out of six of the band were rounded up for vocal duties, and the tune was one of the best parts of their performance. Also during their set, The Apache Relay played “Sets Me Free”, “Only Shadows”, and the title track to their EP, “American Nomad”. Their rootsy rock and roll surely got the folks at Newport, including myself, revved up for a start to a great weekend.