Entries in Newport Folk Festival (27)


More Than Myth: Dylan Going Electric 50 Years Later *********Newport Folk Festival Preview*********

By the time Bob Dylan took the stage at the Newport Folk Festival 50 years ago this July, he had become one of the biggest names in folk music, almost single handedly mainstreaming the genre, and influencing generations of musicians and music fans.

Dylan had been experimenting in the months leading up to his performance in Rhode Island, releasing the album Bringing it All Back Home, which featured songs backed by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and recorded using electric instruments, and then just days before Newport, Dylan released his song “Like a Rolling Stone.”

When he stood in front of the Newport audience, donning a Fender Stratocaster and launching into “Maggie’s Farm,” many were irate, booing Dylan and commenting after that they felt betrayed (though it should be noted there were also cheers). It was a beautiful moment to behold, like something emerging from a chrysalis, or shedding a skin. No longer was Dylan just another Folk musician, he was carving out his place as a musician unbound by genre or style, still able to write thought provoking, poetic songs.

Promoters of the event were angry as well. The late Pete Seeger, a staple in folk music for decades by that point, and an influence on Dylan, is rumored to have tried to cut the power to stage with an ax during Dylan’s performance. Seeger said years later that he’d been upset with the sound quality of the mixing booth and wanted to go over and have them fix the sound, threatening to cut the line because he thought they were butchering Dylan’s work as a musician.

Dylan didn’t kill the folk scene of the 1960s by plugging in. He gave it room to breathe. In the decades since, especially since 2009, Newport has had a significantly more electric line up each year. The festival has embraced Dylan’s ethos by booking bands influenced more by his later albums, and helping continue to push and redefine a genre that is now, for better or worse, in the mainstream.

We still talk about Dylan going electric today not because of how foolish it seems to modern audiences – It’s not. Just look at the fan reaction to Mumford & Sons latest album Wilder Mind, an electric departure from their banjo-heavy Americana style – but because it was a rare opportunity to see an artist confront their audience and challenge their perceptions of who, or what, a musician or band is supposed to be. Who is Bob Dylan? Is he a folk musician? A rock star? A man of religious conviction? Books and documentaries continue to explore these questions and a lot more. But the simple answer is he is all of those things and more.

When Dylan plugged in and turned up the volume, it was a surprise to many no doubt. Most audiences will never see something like that in their lifetime as more and more live event surprises are often decided in the conference rooms of marketing agencies, or after an artist indulges too heavily. Rare is it today that an artist can make a drastic choice to change everything about themselves, do it live, and not care what their audience thinks.

When we look back at Dylan going electric at Newport, it should stand out as a moment when he took control of his art, his persona, and wouldn’t let it be dictated by the conventions of the culture around him. We may never have another Bob Dylan, or another Dylan goes electric moment again, and that’s okay, because we had the one and he did it best anyway.

Bob Dylan - Maggie s Farm Live at the Newport Folk Festival '63 '65 Full from kostas palaiokostas on Vimeo.


Words by Craig Robert Brown

Photos by Getty Images


Newport Folk Festival 2014 - Newport, RI

We look forward to the Newport Folk Festival every year. Late July in Newport, Rhode Island, hearing a cavalcade of interesting acts under the outstretched arms of the Pell Bridge. This year was no different.

We joined our friends - or perhaps, more accurately at this point, extended family - for another weekend of awesome music, memorable performances and warm company. We saw great acts perform awe-inspiring sets, like Jack White’s heart-wrenching, Seger-less singalong of “Goodnight, Irene”. We caught up-and-coming performers like Benjamin Booker and The Oh Hellos drop star-making sets. And at the end, as always, we marveled at our good fortune.

The Newport Folk Festival is routinely romanticized as a “pure” festival. It’s tough to discount the allure. Nary a festival on today’s bloated circuit scene can boast Newport’s rich, half-century history. It’s probably one of the few festivals that bands will take a pay cut to play. Due to the unique setting - the stage is situated on a national historic landmark - crowds are reasonable in more ways than one. The attendance is limited and as a result, the weekend sells out well in advance of line-up announcements, blurring the line between the bigger attraction - the festival or its acts. This also attracts a certain type of fan who respects not only the setting but the atmosphere. Positive vibes ring out as clearly as the tunes.

As any fan of “Mad Men” knows, nostalgia is a powerful drug. It’s easy to squint your eyes at just about any point during the weekend and imagine yourself at the same festival 50 years prior. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Mavis Staples is still the one bringing the house down.) It’s not just a festival but a weekend-long holiday - an intoxicating blend of history, tradition, familiarity and a healthy smattering of the unexpected. As it does every year, the holiday must end.



 Words by Brian Hodge of Visible Voice 

Photos and editing by Vanessa Roberts Richert

Photos and editing by Adam Richert


Death Vessel - In-Store, Tour Dates (Newport Folk Festival Preview

You know the old saying about judging a book by its cover? With a name like Death Vessel, you could blame a listener for being a bit surprised when they first hear Providence, Rhode Island's Joel Thibodeau.

Behind a thin voice - at once youthful and timeless - Thibodeau constructs angular, insular alternative folk that belies the band's hard-edged name. Death Vessel's latest, Island Intervals (Sub Pop), is wonderfully produced, packed with lush textures, forming an ideal soundscape for Thibodeau's voice to simmer, swoon and soar. The album was recorded over three months in Reykjavik, Iceland, with assists from producer Alex Somers and Sigur Ros singer Jonsi.

Thibodeau recently celebrated the release of Island Intervals with an in-store performance at Providence'sWhat Cheer? Records + Vintage. You can hear a portion of the title track at right and better yet, catch the band's interesting act in person as they tour with Shearwater


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atlanta, ga
carrboro, nc
washington, dc
brooklyn, ny
providence, ri
boston, ma
montreal, qc
toronto, on
grand rapids, mi
chicago, il
peterborough, nh
newport, ri



Words//Video by Brian Hodge


Newport Folk Festival - 2013 Slide Show

The Newport Folk Festival does a great job of recognizing its illustrious history without being burdened by it. The times are always a-changing, and the festival has done a masterful job of adapting along with it.

In fact, some of the weekend’s best attended and most memorable acts hardly belong within the folk genre. Like Bombino, whose guitar playing wizardry conjures up sandstorms of hypnotic grooves; or the UK-punk rock of Frank Turner; or Trombone Shorty, who has successfully weaponized jazz and funk for mass consumption.

 The festival has broken new wave artists and expanded bands’ audiences, audiences that now stretch multiple generations. And each year sell-out crowds come to experience music that push buttons, blur borders and even inspire change - and that’s what folk music, and the Festival, is all about.

Enjoy some memorable moments from NFF 2013 in this slide show!

Photos // Adam Richert

Words // Photos // Brian Hodge


Newport Folk Preview: Spirit Family Reunion LIVE


Words // Scott Pingeton

Spirit Family Reunion's recently-released, self-titled debut is one of my favorites of the year.  They don't make it that easy to buy or listen to, so why not check out one of their incredible live shows and buy it at a show?  Your next chance is Saturday afternoon at Newport Folk where they will kick off the weekend in style.  I can't wait, it's sure to be one of my favorite sets of the weekend and a launching pad for SFR.

I've seen them a bunch of times int he past few months, first opening for David Wax Museum in a church, and most recently at the "Road To Newport Folk" show we put on in Gloucester MA.  In the middle was the fantastic Brewery Sessions brunch show that you can listen to below.  Hear the entire house concert, documented in true Alan Lomax style for your listening pleasure.  Enjoy and please support the band by going to their shows, buying their merch and telling your friends.

Spirit Family Reunion
Boston MA - April 15, 2012

I Belong To The Band (?)
Alright Prayer
Green Rocky Road
Carry Me
No Separation
Leave Your Troubles At The Gate
Trouble (?)
Gazebo Song
On That Day
Unknown song
The Night Replaced The Day
When My Nname Is Spoken
I'll Find A Way
On My Mind (?)
Battle Hymn of the Republic

Full set download: mp3 zip


Newport Folk Preview: Alabama Shakes LIVE


Words // Scott Pingeton

To see Alabama Shakes live is to believe in the buzz.  They will convert you.  They will knock you on your ass.  If you see this band and don't believe in the power of rock n' roll, check your pulse.  Their show at the Paradise in April was hands down one of the greatest shows I've ever seen, and I've seen a few.  No doubt their set at Newport Folk will be one of the highlights of the weekend.

Complete live recording from the April 15 show at the Paradise in Boston is below.  Enjoy, and if you do, please support Alabama Shakes by buying their album and catch them at Newport!

Alabama Shakes
Paradise Rock Club - Boston MA
April 15, 2012

Goin' To The Party
Hold On
Hang Loose
I Found You
Always Alright
Boys & Girls
Be Mine
Worry'n Blues
Rise To The Sun
Making Me Itch
Hurricane Strut
You Ain't Alone
Heavy Chevy
--encore break--
I Ain't The Same
On Your Way
Heat Lightning
How Many More Times (Led Zeppelin cover)

Full set download: mp3 zip


Newport Folk Festival 2012 Lineup





Newport Folk Fest 2012

July 28-29 - Fort Adams State Park - Newport, RI

My Morning Jacket
Jackson Browne
Conor Oberst
Iron & Wine
Patty Griffin
Guthrie Family Reunion
The Head And The Heart
Deer Tick
Punch Brothers
City & Colour
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
The Tallest Man On Earth
Tom Morello
Trampled By Turtles
Gary Clark Jr.
Alabama Shakes
Blind Pilot
Of Monsters And Men
New Multitudes (feat. Jim James, Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker)
Sharon Van Etten
First Aid Kit
Sara Watkins
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires
Brown Bird
Johnny Corndawg
Jonathan Wilson
Spirit Family Reunion
Deep Dark Woods
Carl Broemel
Robert Ellis
Frank Fairfield
Spider John Koerner & His Rag Tag Boys
Joel Rafael
Joe Fletcher & The Wrong Reasons
Sleepy Man Banjo Boys
The Kossoy Sisters
The Berklee City Music Choir



Newport Folk Festival 2011 Recap

Words by Scott Pingeton  |  Photos by Nina Mashurova

For me, Saturday at Newport was a blur.  There was the wide eyed anticipation of a great weekend of music that laid ahead of me, but also the disorienting buzz of the crowd morphing from an orderly line into a chaotic mass of humanity as we passed through the gates.  Once through the gates, it's a land grab for coveted blanket real estate.  And finally, a brief moment to look around and take in the beautiful surroundings - the salt air and sailboats, the rows of vendors, the bright colors of the beach chairs and blankets.  Then the madness begins.  With music pulling you in all directions it doesn't take long before the carefully-planned strategy is a distant memory as I rush from stage to stage to see as much music as possible.  And this year, there was the nagging reminder that our Nightcap afterparty looming just a few hours away - equal parts excitement and nerves.

Despite having to leave just a few hours into the day to start setting up for the afterparty, Saturday was full of highlights.  River City Extension delivered a stunning set of anthemic folk-rock, replete with rousing horns, breathless energy and a visit into the crowd.  Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside overcame a brief power outage to open the Quad stage with an impressive set of early rock n' roll-influenced songs.  Later, Delta Spirit proved why they are my favorite live band in the world.  It was a long whirlwind of a day.

But on Sunday, with the successful Nightcap behind us and another full day of music from some of my favorite bands ahead, I was able to slow things down and take it all in.  My day started just as it did a year ago...waiting anxiously for David Wax Museum to take the stage.  Only this time it was the much bigger main stage.  It's been well-documented how David Wax and company seized their opportunity to play the Quad Stage last year after winning a contest, turning in one of the most memorable sets of the weekend and following that up with the release of Everything Is Saved (a shoe-in for my albums of the year list), a Tiny Desk Concert, Mountain Stage appearance, nonstop national touring and opening slots for Josh Ritter, The Avett Brothers and Dave Matthews Band.  They topped last year's appearance with an exuberant main stage set that won over so many of the blanket-mafia that they got called back for an encore.  It felt like a victory lap to see the band come full circle in such a big way, but I get the feeling that it was just a second wind in their sails on the way to even bigger fame.

Up next it was a mad dash to catch some of Mountain Man's gorgeous harmonies.  I got chills as they led the huge crowd at the Harbor Stage in a round on "Now I Walk In Beauty".  Then I was off to catch a bit of Secret Sisters before returning to the main stage for some Carolina Chocolate Drops - one of my favorite sets of the day.  I sacrificed Cave Singers - painful since I've never seen them live - to camp out for all of Trampled By Turtles...and boy am I glad I didn't leave their show early.  The intensity ramped up throughout the entire set of ragged breakneck bluegrass, culminating with "Wait So Long" and an encore of The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind".  I left the Quad Stage just long enough to catch a bit of Wanda Jackson whipping everyone into an absolute frenzy with "Let's Have A Party", returning in time for Justin Townes Earle's fantastic set.  Earle has a commanding stage presence, baring his soul in his lyrics and witty between song banter.  If you're on the fence, you gotta see him live - Justin Townes Earle is not getting by on name alone, he's the real fucking deal.

The hometown heroes (Deer Tick), budding stars (Dawes) and 2011 festival standouts (Delta Spirit) joined forces as Middle Brother for one of the true highlights of the weekend -- a raggedly fun set of rock n' roll that will likely be the supergroup's final appearance together for quite some time.  But before Dawes got called out for an impromptu encore of their own I was off to catch The Head And The Heart serenade an overflowing crowd at the Harbor Stage about canyons and valleys and rivers and roads.  Meanwhile Elvis Costello was playing a not-so-acoustic set on the main stage with the help from his Imposters.  It was a welcome sight to see Steve Nieve and Pete Thomas on stage with Costello and he didn't disappoint - bringing Chris Thile up for a gorgeous rendition of "Brilliant Mistake" and Emmylou Harris for "Scarlet Tide" before closing the set with the classic "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding".

As the sun cooled and set in the west, I caught the acoustic half of M. Ward's set from the side of the stage - the softly fingerpicked "Here Comes The Sun Again" was a gorgeous highlight.  As I made my way back to the main stage for Emmylou Harris that familiar bittersweet feeling came again.  Newport Folk was winding down, the crowd was starting to thin, the sun was getting low - it was time to go home. 

2011 was a landmark year in Newport Folk's history - the first advance sell-out in years, a diverse and deep lineup, perfect weather and a flawlessly-run festival.  If there was any room for improvement last year, it was improved this year.  More beer tents, larger Quad Stage, blanket-free zone in front of the Fort Stage - the list goes on.  As New Englanders we are truly lucky to have a festival of this caliber to call our own.  What was once a quaint little festival that's past far overshadowed it's present is now one of the premier music festivals in the world.  I cannot fathom a summer without a trip to Newport Folk.  It will be a long wait for 2012, but I'm already excited for what next year's festival will bring.

More photos from Newport Folk 2011 Day 2


Newport Folk Festival 2011 Day 1

So there it is, the climax of the year gone.  Truth is, if you're a music fan in around these parts, the whole year pretty much revolves around Newport Folk...at least it does for me.  It's the avatar of summer, a microcosm of all that is good in life:  friendship, community, music, collaboration, discovery, beer and sunshine.  On the coldest nights of an unrelenting New England winter there is the knowledge that, unfathomable as it may be, before you know it you'll be back at Fort Adams basking in the sun. By springtime, it starts to feel like a reality again - the lineup is announced, you scramble to absorb all the new music, you buy tickets, the the countdown begins. Then inevitably, in the blink of an eye, it's over and you're left grasping on to the memories.   Here are just a few of our memories from Saturday at Newport...

Photos by Nina Mashurova


Lots more to come on Newport Folk 2011 - stay tuned...