Kermit The Frog is best known as the world’s greatest amphibian actor, but he’s no slouch when it comes to music either. Throughout his long career as an eternally youthful celebrity (that unlined frog face must be absolutely packed with Botox), Kermit has performed La La Land parodies, covered rap classics, sang in countless TV and film appearances, and treated audiences to hit single “Rainbow Connection” at venues as storied as The Hollywood Bowl.
Still, given the venerable frog’s erratic touring schedule, his unexpected appearance at this year’s Newport Folk Festival alongside My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and Sleater-Kinney’s former drummer Janet Weiss came as a welcome surprise.
Knowing that his fans want the hits, Kermit arrived on stage, plopped down on a bar stool with banjo on wobbly green knee, and led his band in a rousing live version of “Rainbow Connection.” His familiar banjo-and-warble combination is backed up by lovely strings, guitar, and Weiss’ drums. This would have been good enough on its own, but Kermit, pulling another card from his deep Rolodex, pauses early in the song to call out: “Please welcome my friend, Jim James!”
James, managing to calm his nerves next to a star as renowned as Kermit, trades verses with the frog before joining together in harmony. Although the performance was likely a calculated promotional move to help advertise The Muppet Movie’s re-release, it’s wonderful all the same. Weiss smiles along with the band while Kermit and James look into one another’s eyes, a genuine connection bridging the gap between human and Muppet.
By playing with Weiss and James, Kermit has renewed his indie rock bona fides, reminding audiences that he can hold his own on vocals and banjo. We can only hope that this latest performance leads to more guest stints, the beloved frog lending his webbed picking hand to a Sufjan Stevens show or as a surprise player on Modest Mouse’s “Satin In A Coffin.”
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