From Back at the Ranch: How You Can Still Catch Newport Folk Fest … And Why You Should’ve Just Gone in the First Place

Josh Jackson Tweeting from Newport Folk Fest
(Tweeted by @JoshJackson at the Newport Folk Festival)

Contrary to the scores of tweets blowing up Twitter today, there really is no “second best” to being there when it comes to the Newport Folk Festival. So, don’t believe what you’re reading from those of us stuck behind in the concrete jungle of NYC or some suburban conclave saying things like, “wish I could be there, but listening to it LIVE is just as good!”

It’s not.

And pictures like the one above, tweeted from kind folks like Josh Jackson at Paste Magazine, showing happy crowds in straw hats eating picnic lunches on the sunny shores of Newport (sigh) are the proverbial knife-twists in the stomach. If that’s even a proverb.

This photo, snapped just moments ago and tweeted by @Newportfolkfest staff, also tugged at my heartstrings … the PS22 chorus singing “Imagine.” They’ll also be workin’ their tiny vocal chords with the likes of Freelance Whales and others at the Lego tent in just moments from now.

But alas, positivity should abound, right? The good people at NPR are streaming the festival live both Saturday and Sunday, so I suggest taking a look-see and watching your favorite acts from the air-conditioned comfort of your own homes.

Another positive thought? There’s always next year. And while it may be too soon to take bets on 2012’s lineup, it’s fitting to take a retrospective look back at where it all started. And, knowing where the two-day hoe-down came from makes it seem that much cooler. (Bigger sigh)

At the inaugural 1959 festival, Joan Baez and Bob Gibson played to enthralled crowds. Baez was basically an unknown during the first performance … an 18-year-old singer not even mentioned on the program. Turn out alright, she did. And a little piece of inside information … did you know that during the first years of the festival, all the acts (other than the main headliners) played for a mere $50 paycheck? Talk about true folk culture.

Of course there’s also the infamous “electric Dylan” performance from ’65 that sparked a war among American folk purists. Although, a “war” among folkies sounds as jarring as a “fistfight” among pacifists. But, I digress.

And finally … anybody with a heart for music should get a chill from this 1963 festival finale clip in which Pete Seeger’s joined by Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez and others for a jam on “Down By the Riverside.”

If wanting to be a part of this history doesn’t make you get in line to buy your tickets for 2012 early, I don’t know what will.

And for the record, next year I’ll be sending out my own “wouldn’t rather be anywhere but here at the @Newportfolkfestival! Big shout-out to my friends back in Manhattan!” tweets with a guilt-free conscience. Mark my words. (And you can; they’re archived forever.)