If you follow music anything on Twitter or Instagram, you’re probably dead with envy by now after viewing the epic moments from last weekend’s Newport Folk Festival. It was basically one big family jam. Jenny Lewis, the Watson Twins, Lukas Nelson, and Lucius performed Lewis’ “Acid Tongue.” Sarah Shook & the Disarmers welcomed Lee Ann Womack onstage with them. Margo Price sang with John Prine. And the list goes on and on — even Cheech and Chong were in the mix. Dude, I know.
And Charleston’s Sadler Vaden (OK, yeah he lives in Nashville now but he’ll always be Charleston’s pride and joy) got the thrill of his life at Newport, too. A member of Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit for five years now, Vaden and company got to perform with none other than David Crosby, the band’s surprise guest — a deliriously great end to Day 1 of the festival. The guys were skeptical that it would even pan out, like it was just too good to be true.
“This was a big moment for me personally because I’m a huge fan and Crosby is a folk/rock icon, a true legend,” Vaden says. “He basically invented the type of music we play as a group through his work with the Byrds and CSN(Y).”
Together, the band, including Isbell’s wife and incredible artist in her own right, Amanda Shires, played Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Wooden Ships,” which was released in 1969 — at the height of the Vietnam War. In the song, a soldier asks his enemy, “I can see by your coat, my friend, you’re from the other side/ There’s just one thing I got to know, Can you please tell me who won?”
The protest song was a good fit for Isbell, who is outspoken both lyrically (see songs like “White Man’s World,” also performed at Newport) and on Twitter. And Crosby is as opinionated as ever. A few weeks back, he told us why he’s still fighting the good fight. “I’d like to have worked all this shit out,” Crosby said. “But, unfortunately, we haven’t, and there it is. Greed, ignorance, racism, stupidity — it’s all still standing there looking at us.”
Protest songs were on fleek at Newport, with Mavis Staples, Jon Batiste & The Dap Kings, Leon Bridges, Brandi Carlile, Valerie June, and more also joining forces for Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” Margo Price performed her own “All American Made,” a song that wonders if the president gets a lot of sleep at night.
Vaden agrees that artists still have their work cut out for them when it comes to protests and politics. He says, “[Crosby] has always been outspoken politically throughout his career, which is something we need more artists to do nowadays.”
You can check out the crew performing “Wooden Ships” above. Isbell, the 400 Unit, and Crosby also performed CSN(Y)’s “Ohio,” which you can see here.