Newport Folk Festival: Blind Pilot

Portland-based folk rockers Blind Pilot trekked all the way from Oregon and took the Harbor stage by storm tonight in Fort Adams. With overcast skies and a looming gloom of potential rain upon us, Blind Pilot sure kept spirits high. The band was introduced by WERS’ own music director, Kendall Stewart; as a long-time fan of Blind Pilot, it was her pleasure!

Frontman Israel Bebeker was accompanied by Ryan Dobrowski on drums, Kati Claborn on banjo, Luke Ydstie on upright bass, Dave Jorgensen on trumpet and Ian Krist on vibraphone. With a line-up of six, the full stage definitely brought the energy as the group all meshed flawlessly with one another.

The band was in high spirits and I loved the variety of instruments. It’s not uncommon for artists to appear with stripped down sets at a festival like Newport and I was so happy to see Blind Pilot in full swing. Jorgensen’s occasional trumpet solos were the sprinkles on top of an already stellar set.

Tonight’s set showcased a mix of tracks off of both Blind Pilot albums. Stand out songs included “I Buried a Bone” and “Go On, Say It” off of their debut release 3 Rounds and a Sound. Later on, “Just One” and “Keep Me Right” off of the recent album We Are The Tide were also included in the set.

While the audience at Newport is exceptionally varied from retirees to families with toddlers to college students – Blind Pilot seemed to accrue a very mature audience. Shouts and bellows echoed from the crowd initially but once the set got rolling it seemed as though the audience fell into a mellow groove mentality right alongside the band.

The band wrapped up the set with a fantastic performance of “We Are the Tide” – the title track off of their recent sophomore release. The track kicks off with an upbeat guitar riff and accompanying drum beat – Bebeker’s vocals chime in with an air of hopefulness as he sings, “And we don’t know what’s left/but we feel it’s coming back soon/and so we’re standing in the street staring at a blood-red moon/we are the tide.”

The highlight of the set for me was easily seeing Claborn ditching her banjo for a swing at the drum kit. Grinning from ear to ear, Claborn added a spirit of passion and spontaneity to the set. At the end of the set the packed crowed begged for more – a trademark sign of a job well done.

By Jeeyoon Kim

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