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March 31st, 2009

[ Naturalismo Exclusive ] Joanna Newsom Debuts New Record at Surprise Fernwood Show in Big Sur

Exclusive Photos by Alissa Anderson ©2009 Do not repost these photos or use in any way without explicit permission from the photographer.

More photos soon to come from ALISSA ANDERSON

Thank you to (((folkYEAH))) for making this all possible.

It was hard not to contrast the intimate secret performance Joanna Newsom performed over the weekend on Saturday night at the Fernwood resort in Big Sur with the chance encounter I had watching her open for Sufjan Stevens in a small Los Angeles club nearly five years ago. Despite her music’s maturation over the years she has still not lost her spry and engaging quirky stage and musical presence that wins over all in attendance. The show nearly half a decade ago at the Troubadour was the perfect stage to watch her unleash her stage presence and music abilities as she sprang up on stage, hopped around and sang what sounded to be a traditional folk song that she had added such a unique twist to with her  warbling demeanor, voice and harp playing that the entire audience quickly hushed for the entirety of her performance.

She may have shed her pre-raphaelite leaning attire for a strikingly contemporary couture pink dress on Saturday, but she has by no means lost an ounce of her original enrapturing sound that won over that entire audience years ago. The evening was made all the more exciting by the fact that most in attendance had no idea that she was even going to be there, much less that she was going to be playing for well over two hours trying out new material for her as yet unrecorded upcoming third studio album.  A pair of sisters hiking through Big Sur and by chance huge fans of Joanna, singing her songs for much of the day were headed back to get dinner at the Fernwood Lodge, only to casually ask who was playing that night to reveal what they never could have expected to their complete elation.

The show was billed as Mariee Sioux and The Beatles’s, a pseudonym assumed by Joanna to shroud her identity from what surely would have fleshed out the crowd to a number much greater than the 50 in attendance. Mariee Sioux’s set was beautiful as usual and her voice has never sounded stronger. On a night with such excitement over the events that would proceed her she held her own and sang with confidence and strength throughout the entirety of her set. The end of her set was marked by the debut of a new song, Homeopathic, one of her strongest to date and added to the anticipation of her next album.

It was shortly after nine when Joanna took the stage. Wearing a leopard print shawl and stockings, with a bright pink highly intricate dress peeking out underneath, she was quite striking as she sat down beside the gilded harp set up on the side of the stage. Taking a seat at the harp proved to be a tease as she scooted over to the piano beside her and played a handful of songs each one somehow better than the next as she found her stride. It was with uncertain anticipation that I took to watching the performance before she began.

It’s always an interesting moment when one of your favorite artists takes to the stage to showcase their next evolution of musical progress. However, from the first pluck of her harp through the last note the performance was nothing short of rapturous. The makeup of her new songs combines the strong melodic presence of songs on the Milk-Eyed Mender with her continued instrumentational prowess and maturation beyond Y’s. It was unclear how many of the songs covered in the course of the two and a half hour set would ever be recorded, but there was never a sour note or “should be cut” moment to be heard. If anything a double album here would make perfect sense, and be one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve heard in ages.

The backing band’s arrangements were in perfect sync and sound with Joanna’s playing and added to the atmosphere of her lush and swirling landscape of songs that often stretched beyond twelve minutes. I was completely taken back by Newsom’s piano playing that was strong as can be yet oftentimes seemed effortless in a playful way that followed along with and led her vocal warblings. The makeup of the night seemed like about one third of the songs were piano based while the other two thirds being harp based. Some of the more surprising and great moments were when the electric guitar was brought front and center during the crescendo of one of the songs. It was also interesting to note throughout the set the way Joannas voice has evolved with her fluttering vocal inflections varying between the completely unrestrained and more smoothed over than ever before with the harmonies she preformed being some of the most diversely interesting she’s written. The multi-part harmonies she shared with her band mates (and self for that matter, what an amazing and capable voice) outpace anything she’s recorded yet by far.

The arrangements preformed along with Newsom’s songs also fleshed out the music beyond what she was capable of alone. The banjo, violin, drum and guitar accompaniment to the songs provided by her backing band added a lot to the sound. The encore of Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie concluded the night in the most beautiful way imaginable with its cooing chorus and wistful resolve punctuated by her rising and falling vocals. I’ll admit that while I enjoyed Y’s a lot, I favored Milk-Eyed Mendor a bit more, but after seeing her new material performed live I think it could easily be her strongest, most enjoyable album to date. I await with stubborn anticipation for these songs to be recorded and released because I really cannot wait to hear how this album turns out.

Devin Woolf

Joanna wore the same dress at the BAM. Photo credit


Joanna’s Harp minutes before she took the stage Photo by Chad Eaton.

Tyler’s experience:

The music was played on Saturday. Big Sur’s reliable afternoon sun played host to guitar plucking and river-gazing before putting its light on loan to a distant Western world. Mariee Sioux and a mystery band called “The Beatles’s” were scheduled to play in the Fernwood Lodge’s small, wood-paneled performance space: a lamp-lit area designed for, at most, a hundred feet. When I entered the hall in the dusty haze of afternoon, the light spilled across a curious scene: familiar faces milling amongst flannelled strangers talking weather and beer, myself ambling amongst them, and a golden harp inviting us all to silently speculate. Oddly enough, there were also butterflies stitched onto a powder-blue backdrop: big, beautiful insects cut from cloth, dangling large and lifeless. “The Beatles’s” mystery fluttered into the afternoon.

Later, the sun died and the sky turned speckled. The new suns above us, those points of historic navigation, blinked steadily like stars and lead us to the Lodge. My friends and I clung together down a dirt path, across a bridge, between fires, through tinny radio waves, and up a steep plank staircase that promised a haven of cigarette-talk and humanity. The music was starting and we were excited to stare.

Mariee Sioux and Joanna Newsom’s performances proved a celebration of people alive and loved, strings dormant and hopeful, and expectations dead, buried, and gone. How my hat was hung and shirttails tucked I don’t recall, but why my mind is now dancing daisy chains in loops around my eyebrows is as clear to me as it indescribable to you. Sorry. Everything evades detail. There are, however, faint impressions of songs and friends and faces unshaven and sounds unseen that appear, to me, aside reality; there are also bolder strokes of sound that are so real that I am reluctant to yarn them for fear of their undoing. It was a pretty picture I don’t often see or really care to lose.

December 4th, 2008

Video Naturalismo: Beatniks in Newquay

With some free time afforded by America’s recognition of a couple-hundred-year-old meal in New England, some friends and I decided to ditch those sedentary table traditions, fill the tank, and drive north to Big Sur, California. The deer and dew and babble of recent memory, of the Festival in the Forest, were fresh in my mind still, asking to be revisited. So we did.

The redwoods’ wise, fabled trunks stoked the coals of beat mystique in me as I stood beneath them feeling small but adventurous, feeling like I was an undergrad again: reading Gary Snyder, drinking wine from a bottle, dripping in postmodernism, and soaking in the possibilities that prose and poetry presented me then. I felt dizzy, but sobered up quickly and enjoyed five days of hollow-log drumming and dirt road plodding. Breathing was easier.

I came across this video and found it quite fitting to the way I feel today, in the wake of my travels. Enjoy!


September 30th, 2008

Recollecting Festival in the Forest

I stepped over lazy rocks and roots weaving clumsily through the redwood trees beside me. The fog followed us across the footbridge as clouds would follow. Sleepy and silent, we parked the car beside a brook, with a yawn and a smile and a stretch, upon a peninsula due-south of the stage. We pitched a tent, and the first day began with a warm sun overhead.

Too many words would empty the experience of its juice so I’ll try to stay short and sweet. There were a lot of friends and a lot of tents to house them. There were a lot of bands and a wooden stage to play them. Each morning we awoke to music and water mumbling over rocks and, for a lucky few of us, coffee sweetened by chicken eggs.

Those same few made a short trek long, but luckily a beach greeted us at the end of it all.  We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, split by hand. We asked a traveling couple for a ride back to Fernwood, south, and they were more than happy to help. There was music when we returned.

Every band complimented the feel of the forest surrounding us. Many many thank you’s to the musicians I met, in the audience and at the camp, for each and every sound you made this past weekend. Matt Baldwin and Beach House floored me. Two incredible performances.

But I especially want to thank two musicians who played songs that I never expected to hear. I returned to my tent as the sun sank between bands, thirsty and hungry for a seat. A ukulele came from a nearby tent with a hand and a voice to bring it alive. Dina Rae made her small instrument sing and rose a towering voice above it, singing songs that made us all sit still. Thank you.

Sisters also sat by the water, Cass and Karina. Karina fingerpicked a nylon-string guitar; her thumb and fingers sounded circles and layed lace around intuitive melodies played in the shapes of stories.  I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a sound so beautiful in an atmosphere to match.  Thank you.

Throw in some beer and some gummy bears and you have yourself a fairly accurate picture of my time at the Festival in the Forest. I’m looking forward to the next.

Thank You FolkYEAH, Britt, the volunteers, Samuel J. Macon’s beautiful photography, and Big Sur for making it happen. Don’t miss Karina, known as Besos de Tortuga, playing at BrainWash in San Francisco on Saturday, October 18.

[ stream ]

Karina, known as Besos de Tortuga – “Hambre Besos”

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Dina Rae – “Warbling Banshee”

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August 9th, 2008

(((folkYEAH))) Festival in the Forest Update

If you’re already going to be attending the Festival in the Forest that we’re putting on with (((folkYEAH))), DO. NOT. MISS. the amazing show that’s occuring the same weekend, just a mile down the street, the day after the Festival concludes. Definitely make the vision quest down to the Henry Miller Library on Sunday, September 28!

July 21st, 2008

(((folkYEAH))) presents: Pegi Young Band Live

We are pleased to announce 3 very unique and intimate shows with Pegi Young Band (featuring Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Anthony Crawford of Neil Young’s current touring band!!!) plus very special guest and support. Only 200 tickets for each show are available! Pegi Young will be performing new songs plus songs from her debut release. These will be her only performances for 2008!

“This has to be one of the most delayed debut albums in singer-songwriter history. Pegi Young wrote some of the original songs here more than thirty years ago, long before she married Neil Young. But one of the unexpected pleasures of Pegi Young (along with the sound of Neil playing electric sitar in “Love Like Water”) is hearing Pegi revisit questions and impressions from her youth — “Key to Love,” “White Line in the Sun” — in a voice etched with the deep-cut grain of adult experience. Pegi’s recent songs, such as “Fake” and “Sometimes,” are as simple and direct in their promises and worries as her husband’s, and producer Elliot Mazer sets them in a pedal-steel sparkle that inevitably echoes Neil’s Harvest.”
DAVID FRICKE/ Rolling Stone Magazine

(((folkYEAH!))) presents @
The Little Fox in Redwood City, CA
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Pegi Young Band
Plus very special guests Mariee Sioux

(((folkYEAH!))) presents @
The Little Fox in Redwood City, CA
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Pegi Young Band
Plus very special guests Port O Brien (acoustic)

(((folkYEAH!))) presents @
The Little Fox in Redwood City, CA
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Pegi Young Band
Plus very special guests Howlin Rain (special acoustic duo set!)

Tickets ON SALE Monday, July 21@

Info @

[ download ] Pegi Young – Key to Love

May 28th, 2008

Video Naturalismo: Celebration at Big Sur]

“In 1971, everyone did it. And they did it for love. Filmed at the legendary West Coast philosophical retreat The Esalen Institute (which gave birth to EST and which counted Henry Miller as a regular guest), the very rarely-screened Celebration At Big Sur is a terrific document of this formerly annual concert, featuring the sounds of CSNY, Joan Baez and her sister Mimi Farina, Dorothy Morrison, John Sebastian and Joni Mitchell, all performing on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Like Woodstock, the Celebration was a free festival that had major quirks, which in turn made for great filmic moments. Highlights include Steven Stills getting into a fight with a heckler, experimental Jordan Belson-like bits during Joni’s piano playing, and David Crosby skinny-dipping with Carl Gottlieb (the film’s producer and the co-writer of Jaws) in the infamous Esalen baths while chanting up a storm. Purify yourself at the sea of madness!”

If you live in the LA area, don’t miss a RARE screening of this amazing film tonight at the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax. Arthur Magazine has been doing an amazing series of folk-related films. More info here.

The rest of the movie, after the jump (only for those non-LA people out there)!

Read the rest of this entry »

May 16th, 2008

Mariee Sioux: New & Unreleased Songs

When I first heard Mariee Sioux’s debut album Faces in the Rocks, time seemed to stop. Her voice, fragile yet confident in its own understated elegance, wove a tapestry of images and sounds that brought me to an emotional and spiritual plane bereft of worldly obligation or anxiety. In other words, I felt beyond time, beyond self.  Never before had I heard an artist who, seemingly out of so few raw materials, was able to craft songs able to hold water even after nine minutes…or longer.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mariee for the first time at folkYEAH’s Big Sur celebration last weekend. As enchanting and graceful as the wind, grass, and streams she sings about so effortlessly in her songs, Mariee had a presence that I won’t soon forget. Her singing and fingerpicking was flawless, despite the chilly air sweeping betwixt the towering redwoods. Shafts of golden light split the branches, dust danced on the whim of breezes. As laid back and absorbed the aura of twilight, Mariee’s poems cradled my restless mind.

Daytrotter – god bless ’em – was able to get some unreleased songs from Mariee, and hear the stories behind a couple of her tracks from Faces in the Rocks.


Friendboats” (new version) – original on Faces in the Rocks

Old Magic” (previously unreleased)

Two Tongues” (new version) – original on Faces in the Rocks

May 15th, 2008

The Entrance Band Live at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, concert review in photos

Photos: The Entrance Band Live at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur

Click Here for more, all photos by Devin Edvard Woolf (me)

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