The War and Treaty

The War and Treaty: A New Gem

Music can stir the soul and the imagination like nothing else. Immersing yourself in a three-day music festival—I’m looking at you, Newport—may not be the best way to get the most out of a conscious choice for a singular musical experience, especially on ridiculously hot, humid weekend. So much music, so many stages. I experienced a lot of great performances, and could speak to many of them. But one performance stood out for me above all: The War and Treaty.

One expects to have a great experience listening to headliners or bands you’ve already heard or seen before. However, to be completely blown away by someone new to you, or to watch have a favorite performer take their performance to a new level? That’s a performance to grab hold of and one to help you “juice up”. Two years ago it was Sierra Hull’s performance at Fresh Grass, and last year it was Sarah Jarosz’s debut of Blue Heron Suite at Fresh Grass. The Blue Heron Suite spoke to me on an even deeper level since I could relate so closely with the struggle of dealing with a life-threatening illness of a loved one. Those performances were transcendent.  The War and Treaty was this year’s standout for me.

“This is not a war. It just has to be a treaty.”
 – Tanya Blount-Trotter

Take Me to Church

The War and Treaty, a husband and wife duo (Michael Trotter and Tanya Blount-Trotter) performed on Sunday morning with a backing band of three powerhouse musicians. The love they shared for each other, for the music they were making, and for the audience was palpable with every bit of their performance. Roots gospel and soul can make you feel like you’re in church, and their performance was an uplifting, transcendent experience. They brought it from the minute they hit the stage Sunday morning. High power, wide ranging, soaring vocals, deep throated growls, a “real” feel, an intimate connection with the audience.

I had been interested in hearing them, but my main motivation for being there was to have some initial protection from the sun for a while before exposing myself to the heat on the lawn of the Fort Stage for much of the day. But their performance grabbed me from the first note. What a ride!

They were both clearly touched by the roaring reception of the crowd at the Quad Stage, with Tanya shedding some tears. They held nothing back. They just about blew the tent off of its stakes.

“They’ll knock your socks off,” Amy had promised before we settled in. I took off my sneaker at the end and pretended to throw it at her. Mission accomplished.

Gospel. Soul. Rocking. Moving. Inspirational.

A Great Story

Their story is a great one too. You can read about where they came from, how they met, and how they moved forward on The War and Treaty website. “Healing Tide”, the single from their upcoming first full album of the same name, dropped August 10 and sums up their mission to bring their story of healing and resilience to their audience. Michael had pointed out that there was one MLK, one JFK. “They’re gone. But there are all of you,” he pointed to the audience. We all need to be the change we look to someone else to make. We all have to “pick up the gauntlet,” lead with our best, instead of follow with our worst. The performance left me energized and ready to kick ass and embrace love.

Hits from their EP and a single play included “Down to the River”, “Hi Ho”, Set My Soul on Fire” and the stellar “Till the Morning.”  “Are You Ready to Love Me” and “Healing Tide” were two standouts from their upcoming album.

Listen. Create.

There is good music to be had anywhere. You can find music in your town or on city streets for free, especially during the warmer months. You can pay extravagant prices for a headliner or more theatrical musical performance, but get out of the “Top 40” zone and experience a new band or singer, a new genre of music. And really listen. Forget about the endless beer runs at a concert venue and snapping endless photos with your phone. Just stay put, listen, and let the music move through you. Enjoy it. Reflect on the words, the melody, the feeling. Let it engage and inspire you.

“Love is the key that is never out of tune.”
– Michael Trotter



The Newport Folk Festival is a magical, storied, event. However this weekend in particular, I, along with my musical companions, expended a lot of energy just gutting it out. The heat registered in the high 80’s most of the time with a humidity of between 90-100% for Friday and Saturday.  

Sunday was a bit more merciful. The ocean setting, with water visible on three sides of the Fort Stage, is gorgeous. But you can’t swim there to cool off, there are no areas to completely hose down, and there is precious little shade. The wait in “the pen” in the morning to enter doesn’t help either.

Time in between acts was spent in a daze, acquiring Del’s lemonade (so good!), lathering up with sunscreen, searching for food that appeals on hot days (there are options), and soaking towels and filling water bottles in an effort to stay cool and hydrated.


Where can you go to hear live music? Don’t forget to check out local bands on town commons, street festivals, and local clubs.

Listen deeply. How does the music move you? The message?

What type of music do you usually listen to? Try something new: classical, rock, blues, bluegrass, hip hop. Expand your musical horizons, and open yourself up to a new musical experience.

Use your musical experiences as a way to relax, open yourself to new ideas, examine your beliefs, write…create.