Entries in Newport Folk Festival (32)


Newport Folk Festival 2018

Each year the Newport Folk Festival arrives with the promise of something special. And astonishingly, each year it delivers.

This year’s annual gathering of like-minded music lovers - now in its 59th year - again leaned on the alchemy of music, community, and optimism to forge one of America’s premier music festivals. The blend of notable newcomers (Tank and the Bangas, Khruangbin, War and the Treaty) woven with established legends (like Mavis Staples, John Prine, Toots and the Maytals) ensured a fabric of continuity that already has us looking forward to #60.

Friday brought sunshine and smiling faces, particularly as Margo Price’s smooth pop-country stylings got the capacity crowd to their feet, especially when she and Brandi Carlile belted out Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5”. Elsewhere, the gonzo tiki bar vibe of Glorietta, helmed by Matthew Logan Vasquez, kept the party vibe alive.

Saturday’s highlights included Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam Batmanglij teaming with a string quartet to give life to absolute gems like “Blackout”, “1000 Times”, and “Gwan”. Later, Tank and the Bangas bumped up the energy level up another notch in the Quad with inescapable enthusiasm. At the end of the day, the unannounced headliner of Mumford & Sons only disappointed the most jaded of afficianadoes. From this writer’s perspective, the group deserves loads of credit for pioneering and popularizing today’s ubiquitous folk-pop sound - and they delivered with a smashing set. Marcus Mumford and crew transitioned effortlessly from stomping numbers like “I Will Wait” and “Little Lion Man” to favorites like Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”. They also expertly continued the Newport tradition of collaboration, inviting out Maggie Rogers for the amazingly chill groove of “Alaska”, as well as the indomitable Mavis Staples for an outstanding “The Weight”. To hear Mumford, Staples, Rogers, Phoebe Bridgers and Carlile take on the classic number is the stuff Folk Festival dreams are made of.

After an evening of sizzling local music at Jimmy’s Saloon (listen local, y’all) from The Silks and the Z-Boys, the low-key grooves of Khruangbin hit the spot. The 60s/70s-indebted sounds were refreshing, and when the trio leaned into a hip-hop medley featuring “The Next Episode”, “It Was A Good Day”, “Regulators”, it was unexpected and borderline enlightening.

After guest-starring across stages all weekend, Brandi Carlile finally took to the Fort stage on Sunday. Her voice swung between searing, soaring (“The Story”), tender (“The Mother”), and ultimately triumphant (“Hold Out Your Hand” - featuring the Lone Bellow, the Watson Twins, and the War & Treaty). Carlile was everywhere this weekend and gets the MVP vote for this year's festival.

The affair came to its inevitable end with “A Change Is Gonna Come”, a star-studded stage featuring Jon Baptiste, Leon Bridges, Gary Clark Jr., Chris Thile, with help from the Dap Kings and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Lake Street Dive’s Rachael Price stuck the landing on the set’s title track as the sun was setting, giving the moment the appropriate gravity. But Mavis Staples again stole the show as she led the stage and the crowd with a stirring rendition of “Freedom’s Highway”. It served as a fitting reminder that as long as this country has existed, there have been civil rights issues to reckon with. And as long as these issues continue to fester and perpetuate, there are going to be huge crowds of folks prepared to fight for every inch of justice and fairness.

The Newport Folk Festival may not solve all the world’s problems, but for at least one weekend, thousands of music lovers in attendance had a vision of what a better world could look like - and were given a wake-up call we all desperately need.


Words by Brian Hodge

Photos by Bethany Hodge


Newport Folk Festival 2017

With political tumult still hanging in the air, and a President in office that is, shall we say, unpredictable, the Newport Folk Festival is a salve. A yearly gathering of like-minded music lovers congregating on the water to speak out, sing loud, and renew our hopes.Angel Olsen

The festival always tends to have a political bend, but this year was particularly sharp. Shirts like “Resist”, “Make America Read Again”, and “Nasty Woman” were commonplace. And if some of this year’s stand-outs are any indication, “the future is female” is much more than a slogan.

Female voices rang out from all three stages this year, including Margaret Glaspy breezing through the Quad stage with her assured singing style, Angel Olsen gripping Fort stage listeners by the collar with songs like “Shut Up and Kiss Me”, and the over-the-top Vaudevillian action of Nancy and Beth at the jam-packed Harbor stage.
Nancy and Beth

New acts helmed by female lead singers stole the show all weekend. Expectations were high for Big Thief, and the Brooklyn-based band delivered. Singer Adrianne Lenker alternated between ripping extended guitar solos like on “Real Love”, and bringing the house down with a show-stopping turn of “Mary.”

The Wild ReedsThe Seratones, from Shreveport, La., showcased the festival’s penchant for genre-defying acts as their blend of rock, soul, and punk invigorated the festival. Singer A.J. Hayne’s voice was like a scythe cutting through the crowd, clearing the way for an unforgettable performance.

One of the weekend’s most memorable acts was the Wild Reeds. Their sharp songs and rich tones lingered in this writer’s head long after the festival came to its sonorous sunset. The song

“Capable” will undoubtedly help the band reach scores of new listeners, with its prescient lyrics of “You’re capable of so much more/ than these people give you credit for. /And you just need to show it.” We have been huge fans of these ladies for quite some time now and are so elated that they were able to kill it on a Newport Folk Festival Stage.


The Newport Folk Festival boasts an illustrious history, a potent present, and with an eye for spotting up-and-coming acts, the future is in good hands, female and otherwise.

Here are are a few more of our favorite sets:

Regina Spekto

Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats

 L.A Salami


Fleet Foxes



Robert Ellis

Words // Photos by Brian Hodge

Photo // by Bethany Hodge


Newport Folk Festival 2016


2016 had everything we folk would expect; on stage collaborations, secret guests and up and coming artists.

But this year was the year of country! As time goes on, we lose more and more music legends. Kris Kristofferson was a "must see" on our list. As you have heard by now, the man himself played a surprise 3 song set as part of the "Texas Gentleman." Margo Price played a memorable Janis Joplin during "Me and Bobby McGee" before her own set on the Quad Stage. "If it sounds country, man, that's what it is, it's a country song" Kris Kristofferson (re: Me and Bobby McGee).
Mr. Kristofferson gave everyone warm fuzzies when he commented "it takes me back."

Other notable country acts included: JP Harris, John Moreland, Margo Price, and Ian Fitzgerald - all of which played the smaller Museum Stage last year. 2016 probably had more pedal steel than we've seen before at the festival. JP HarrisIan FitzgeraldThe type of acts you would definitely see in darker honky tonks, (I'm looking at you Tractor Tavern, Seattle) but out and about in broad daylight. Ian Fitzgerald was definitely a favorite this year, with a poker face, the best hair at Newport and a train-like sound reminiscent of Johnny Cash and Whiskeytown. "We had big plans to bathe ourselves in denim but it's real hot." Hot it was! Our sunburns have sunburns.

Margo Price threatened everyone with "shit kicking country" and she did deliver, reminiscent of country greats Emmylou Harris with the feisty lyrics of Loretta Lynn. Margo PriceA rather entertaining set with fast guitar playing, many reference to crooked Nashville and whiskey. No NFF set would be complete without a cover song to pay tribute to those that came before. Margo did a fitting cover of Gram Parsons' Las Vegas to round out the show.

First timers the Cactus Blossom were a refreshing sound on the hottest year we can recall. The brothers, complete with a full band, have a sound that is reminiscent of something old yet hard to pinpoint. Was that a cowbell?

The lesser known Museum stage is where we at VV can often be found. Never disappointing, we caught Shovels and Rope testing out some new material, and doing some real life talk about becoming parents and caring for aging parents with Alzheimer's. On becoming a mom, Carrie Ann said "it is so mundane and happens to everyone" but obviously in awe of recent happenings. We also caught a few Newport alum onstage including Elvis Perkins and Langhorne Slim.

Matthew Logan Vasquez, of Delta Spirit, Middle Brother, and generally known as Newport royalty brought it solo this year. Not one who generally plays alone, MLV brought on stage collaborations from Fruit Bats and also the Parkington sisters of Cape Cod to do a cover of "Angel from Montgomery" and also threw in a Dwight Yoakam cover, because, why not?
PS- his wife made that bedazzled jacket
Matthew Logan Vasquez
Later, joined onstage by the rest of Middle Brother, at one point MLV sported a homemade hat that read "Dad," a reminder that the Newport family is growing.

Middle Brother
Ryan Adams graced us with his presence again this year, and brought along backing band The Infamous String Dusters with Nicki Bluhm. Adams played his hits with a country/bluegrass twang. This set was exactly what we were craving after the alternative 2014 set which featured newer, harder tracks with a couple of the songs we all know and love mixed in.

Just walking around the festival, one might catch memorable bits here and there of other sets. We happened to catch River Weiss' cover of Airline to Heaven by Woody Guthrie via Wilco. By chance we also heard Graham Nash doing Our House.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros was the Sunday finale for us at VV. After getting a late start, they put on a flawless show with all of the songs and energy one would expect.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros



The Cactus Blossoms - Album Review & Visible Voice Session

***Newport Folk Festival Preview***

We met up with The Cactus Blossoms before their show with Pokey Lafarge at the Tractor Tavern for a session. With sea planes overhead and the smell of the sea air on a Seattle afternoon, you could not ask for more. I personally can't wait to see them at the Newport Folk Festival this summer!

One thing you'll notice when you listen to “You're Dreaming” by The Cactus Blossoms is that there isn't one second of wasted space. Songs are played out from beginning to end with a confident assurance that belies the ages of Jack and Page, the two Minneapolis-born brothers. With the songwriting sensibilities of Dolly Parton meets Bob Dylan, and pitch-perfect harmonizing that's reminiscent of brother duets like The Everly Brothers, The Cactus Blossoms are sure to be a household name in a small matter of time. “You're Dreaming” is their first big foray into the public sphere (touring aside), and it positions them well for future releases and a growing fan base.

“Stoplight Kisses” kicks off the album on a nostalgically upbeat note, and sounds like it could easily have fit into the catalog of Bob Dylan with a little Beach Boys influence. The lyrics are straightforward, but this song is about the vibe, and it makes me want to experience the place they create in this 2-minute track.

The title track, “You're Dreaming”, keeps the mood consistent, and the harmonizing between the two singers is excellent. The relaxed guitar and loose drums serve as the perfect bedrock for their voices, and the lyrics "I'm not sleeping, I'm not walking. And you can't hear my talking when your eyes are closed" help evoke the dreamlike atmosphere that permeates the beautifully concise 34-minute album.

The Cactus Blossoms - You're Dreaming

The instrumentation over the course of the 11 tracks is intentionally minimal - vintage guitars, upright bass, tight kit drums. It's a vehicle for the brothers' voices to glide effortlessly along from one song to the next. The album plays out as almost a full tale of love. From the upbeat beginning of the title track and “Clown Collector”, to the the darker territory of “Powder Blue” and “Change Your Ways Or Die”, and the catharsis of “No More Crying the Blues” and “Adios Maria”, the real star is the effortless vocal union between the two brothers.

The Cactus Blossoms - Clown Collector

By the time “Traveler's Paradise”, the album's final track, drops, the brothers sing, "Goodbye, sure is good to know you. I'm so thankful for you." It's the perfect close to a beautifully melancholic journey that floats along as easily as a summer breeze, and it's such a smooth listen that you'll be hard pressed not to press play again the moment it's over.


Words by Alexander Hallett

Video by Jorge Gonzalez

Video editing by Adam Richert


Newport Folk Festival 2015

Every year I have the good fortune to find myself at one of the oldest and grandest music festivals in the United States, shoulder-to-shoulder with the same group of friends. It’s been called both the “grand daddy of American music festivals”, as well as “possibly the most polite festival.” The type of place where people buy tickets (all of the tickets!) before the lineup is even released. People go to Newport for the sake of Newport. Young people, older folks, and toddlers alike (there’s a sneaky-good kids tent.). We all come to this ritzy town to be rich. Rich with friends, rich with experiences, and of course - wildly rich with music.

With too many great acts to name,
When you return from the Original Gangster of festivals, the first question that gets asked again and again is, “What was your favorite?” My answer is always something unexpectedly plucked from the treasure trove, the glints of gems glistening from the stages you walk past on the way to something else, the allure of the unkown that draws you in and invites you to clap along with everyone else.

The Newport Folk Festival is known (publicly) for it’s big acts such as Ryan Adams, James Taylor, and Beck to name a few…but that is only a fraction of what this festival offers. The Newport Folk Festival is a breeding ground for up and coming artists. No only do they allow artists to play on stage; they promote them, encourage them, and connect them with other artists. These up and coming artists will not dissolve but will become part of an extended family. Some of the great acts this year that really stood out:

Traveller, three singer songwriters from Nashville, Tenn. (Cory Chisel, Robert Ellis and Johnny Fritz) touring and playing each other's songs plus some new ones. The kind of thing you can't find online or anywhere else - yet. Call it what you will, country, folk, Americana. There is a heavy dash of John Prine or Roger Miller-type humor in their songwriting styles.

The tiny Museum stage hidden yet in the center of the festival feels like a throwback to the way that the festival used to be, highlighting either the non-famous or bringing the bigger names to the small stage in unannounced sets for the lucky few that have devoted their time, waiting to see what will happen next. Allowing people the chance to "discover" their new favorites or have an unforgettable story about seeing one of their favorite acts up close and personal. On that stage was Wildwood Revival, curated by the masterminds behind a new music festival in Georgia by the same name. The stage was graced by singer-songwriters who you've probably never heard of, but should take note of. Notably Margo Price with a country twang reminiscent of early Loretta Lynn. Or Aaron Lee Tasjan who had everyone in stitches singing about seemingly random events that all led back to David lee Roth of all things.

Elsewhere, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats, gave the feeling that you were at some kind of revival, making more noise than one white tent can handle.

Langhorne Slim, a personal favorite had the crowd in hysterics with his typical stage antics. Hundreds gathered under the Quad tent to belt out his catchy lyrics in unison.

Other highlights include repeat performers Spirit Family Reunion and First Aid Kit each taking another step towards make more indelible memories for those lucky enough to see them. Similarly, Hozier and Tallest Man on Earth both returned with bigger bands and bigger ambitions, wowing the waves of crowds with rock-infused folk.  Festival newcomers like Leon Bridges, Courtney Barnett, and Luluc took turns turning heads on the festival’s smaller stages and pop-up sets from James Taylor and My Morning Jacket added to the festival’s legacy of jaw-dropping surprises and seemingly ceaseless wonderment.

And just like that, in the blink of an eye I find myself at the very end of the three day fest, making plans to come back next year, like always. As far as Newport is concerned, I may not be rich. But at the Newport Folk Festival, I am certainly a rich woman.



Words by Vanessa Roberts Richert


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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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