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Minnesota band Trampled By Turtles returned to Newport Folk Festival this year to get the crowds up and dancing to their bluegrass tunes. On the Fort stage stood guitarist Dave Simonett, Tim Saxhaug, Dave Carroll on banjo, Erik Berry on mandolin, and Ryan Young on fiddle. With everyone except for Berry contributing vocals, it felt like a family gathering where everyone is encouraged to join in and play. If you refuse, I imagine they would all poke and proud you, laughing, until you finally grabbed an instrument and joined in.
It was fun to see how well Trampled By Turtles kept a beat going without a drummer; they were fueled by pure energy. The piece I found to be the most impressive was an all-instrumental track they played at the beginning of their set. Each member had to bend over, too into their part to stand up straight – crippled by their own talent, if you will. The group continued to feed off one another until they only had enough meat left on them to end the song together on one final note.
They then launched into a rambunctious “Sorry” off of their new album from this year, Stars and Satellites. A crowd gathered next to our WERS tent that danced, twirling their friends in cirlces and slapping their thighs as they did quick foot moves. You would swear just by watching the crowd that the ground was 200 degrees and they had to keep off of it.
Following that was “Wait So Long”, the opening track off Palomino, which got a roar from the crowd at the first few notes. They kept up their fast playing so well that I was worried they might burn through strings, especially Young on fiddle. Throughout the whole set, he moved his bow so quickly and with so must gusto that I found myself standing still, just staring at him rip his part to shreds.
Fans were in for a treat when Trampled By Turtles covered an old Bob Dylan song, “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” from 1969, two members of honey honey joined them onstage for a track, and Ben Sollee and members of Brown Bird hopped onstage for another song. Even when Trampled By Turtles slowed things down with “The Calm and the Crying Wind”, also from Stars and Satellites, they still had onlookers wrapped around their tricky fingers. The group knows their instruments inside and out that they can be as energetic as possible; for that, Newport will always love them.