Jon Batiste and The Dap-Kings at Electric Lady Studios
Last week I had the incredible fortune of experiencing a little bit of the Newport Folk Festival a few months early. On Thursday night, Newport Folk Festival played host to a small group of folk fans at the Electric Lady Studios, a.k.a. the house that Hendrix built. It was only after we showed up that we found out we were there to see Jon Batiste and The Dap-Kings record an album to raise money for charity.
Now, for the record, these are two of my favorite bands right now. I caught Jon Batiste a few weeks ago as he performed in the round at the Bowery Ballroom, and the Dap-Kings have long been one of my favorites - though I haven’t seen them play since the passing of Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley.
Knowing the incredible collective musicianship there, I knew it would be special. It was. Incredibly so! Before the show, NFF executive producer Jay Sweet explained that night they would be recording an album to raise money for the NFF Foundation, and, that Batiste and the Dap-Kings would be headlining this year’s NFF under the name A Change is Going to Come.
To say A Change is Going to Come delivered would be a massive understatement. The group tapped into something bigger than music—this cultural moment— kicking through Allen Toussaint's Yes We Can Can and also a powerful track I’d never heard before that’s maybe called Light Shines Brightest in the Dark? Keep an ear out for that one. The set also featured Batiste on the sax, a rare treat, and whether it was intentional or not, I couldn't help think of Ray Charles's 1958 Newport performance where he also played sax in a blue jacket. Who knows?
All in all, it made for an incredibly moving and memorable night, and I'll definitely be acquiring the album as soon as it's pressed.
For those scoring at home, it’s been 50 years since NFF hosted Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Taj Mahal, Elizabeth Cotton, Mississippi Fred McDowell and many others during the especially turbulent summer of 1968. So this year’s festival will not only mark this momentous anniversary date, but performers like Batiste and the Dap-Kings will also tap into the long folk tradition of using music to bring people together and speak truth to power. That’s needed now more than ever (at least since ’68 that is) and I can’t think of a better group to do just that.