NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL 2019, FORT ADAMS, RHODE ISLAND

July 26-28, 2019 As the sun dipped to meet Naragansett Bay a few Sundays back, the 60 years since the first Newport Folk Festival seemingly came full circle. The Fort Stage crowd serenading Rambling Jack Elliott, and the dozens of singers and musicians paying tribute to the spirit and songs of Pete Seeger (who appeared at the first Newport in 1959) with one last chorus of “Goodnight, Irene”. On what would have been the troubadour’s 100th birthday, it was producer Jay Sweet who encouraged the audience to have the last word and shower the stage with the love shared by all who performed and attended over the course of the three days. That the Lead Belly lyrics so simply convey love lost and always eternal, was a fitting coda to a closing set that left me more than a little teary. In a good way. Let’s just say that there are moments as a photographer when you have to put the camera down, and take it all in, and this was one of them. Welcome to Newport Folk. Newport 2019 was true to form. Full of collaboration, a few surprises and plenty of discoveries. But what was most different about […]

Newport Folk Festival, Ft. Adams, Rhode Island

July 29-30, 2017 “These songs are a living language”, Billy Bragg told the crowd early in his Harbor Stage set with Joe Henry at the Newport Folk Festival on Saturday. Six words that pretty much sum up the heart and soul of this legacy event that sits atop so much musical history. So, true to form, one of the more anticipated Sunday performances was Speak Out! A set that started with the rollicking Preservation Hall Band horns slowing “When the Saints Come Marching In” down to a somber crawl, bleeding into the National Anthem before singer Kyle Craft launched into Bowie’s “Heroes”. A band that grew to include Austin’s Shakey Graves and My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel and others, with Graves leading the first person Trumpian rant “I’m Better Than You”. Newport Folk is about the words and the music. Songs that stir and shake, songs you shake your ass to, songs that provoke, songs that matter. But it’s also about discovery of new voices and sounds, and the fingerprints of founder George Wein still carting around Ft. Adams, and the guiding hand of producer Jay Sweet. Newport is about surprises, highlighted this year by the “unannounced” return of Nathaniel […]

Newport Folk Festival 2014, Day 3

July 27, 2014 Few festivals conjure up historic page turners like Newport Folk. Dylan’s 1965 plugged in performance is the stuff of legend that only happens to be true. But by the time the 70’s rolled around, the event fell on harder times and went dark until resurrected in 1985. These days, there still is nothing like Newport. The picture perfect setting, Pete Seeger’s presence everywhere and attendance capped at 10K. This is a Fest just as independent as days of yore, whose acts are not about a paycheck and are on the bill regardless of sales. When asked his definition of “folk” recently, Fest producer Jay Sweet told JamBase that founder George Wein considered folk as “anything that wasn’t jazz”. This Fest has held true to that renegade spirit. In that same interview, Sweet went on to say that acts are booked because “I want them to play…the audience demands that you play…and the artist wants to play”. As Rolling Stone noted recently, talent will often play for less, just to be a part of the Newport experience. So, it was my good fortune that at the end of an East Coast vacation, I was able to wrap the […]