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 […]

LA Bluegrass Situation, Greek Theatre

October 3, 2015 Yup, we got an LA Bluegrass Situation on our hands, and with Way Over Yonder a goner and a tinge of real time Hardly Strictly Bluegrass envy, that 10-hour hang at the Greek on a balmy Fall day couldn’t be any more welcome round these parts. Ed Helms, who co-founded BGS, and Amy Reitnouer their Executive Director, love the music deeply. Well, they hit their mark without missing a strum, and it showed in a strong lineup and front porch feel that continued long after the sun went down. Featuring generous sets from Dawes, the Punch Brothers and the ever rising Lone Bellow, LA BGS 2015 also showcased new grassers Della Mae (who just killed it), Gregory Alan Isakov and his stirring writing, and Nashville émigré Jonny Fritz palling up with Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith on the Greek’s main stage. During the earlier part of the day (music started at 2 PM), a smaller stage was set up by the venue entry, and featured acts almost at eye level to folks listening, dancing or taking in a smattering of games, crafts and food trucks – a nice Sunday in the park atmosphere. Wild Reeds, L.A.’s Dustbowl Revival (do […]

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 […]