10. Ben Gibbard
If it was surprising to see Ben Gibbard’s name on the lineup this year, the set he delivered was a complete shock — and an immensely pleasurable one, at that. The Death Cab for Cutie frontman morphed himself into an affable and engaging folk artist for the warm early evening performance. Gibbard doesn’t have a folk voice and was barely playing folk music by turning DCFC tracks (“I Will Follow You into the Dark”, “Title and Registration”) into slower acoustic songs, yet it somehow was all still entirely appropriate, a beautiful show from which it was hard to walk away. His banter was solid as always, as when he restarted “When the Sun Goes Down on Your Street” saying, “I only play it five times a year, so I wanna make sure I play it in tune.” The opener of “Such Great Heights” may have slipped a bit, but he opened with “Such Great Heights” at Newport Folk Fest, for Christ’s sake. Gibbard caught you off guard right from the start, gently beckoning you to release expectations and simply enjoy.
09. Dr. Dog
You can always count on Dr. Dog to bring the ruckus, and even at a folk festival they delivered. Despite being the second-to-last band to hold down the Quad Stage, they were the first ones I caught there who brought the entire crowd to their feet right from the beginning. The Philly outfit have a huge discography and not everything is a smash, but with a set list built on winners like “Broken Heart”, “Bring My Baby Back”, and “Nellie”, it’s hard to fail. Theirs was a no-nonsense set light on banter and heavy on jams, which fit the theme of Sunday being the best day of music and vibes the whole weekend. It’s almost surprising they’d never played the fest before, but they certainly made themselves at home in front of the eager crowd.