grass clippings Minute-by-Minute Guide: 2012 Newport Folk Festival

The Head and the Heart returns to Newport this year.  Photo by Richard Kluver/grass clippings.

For the third year in a row, a team from grass clippings (this year it’s Stef, Richard, Emily and me) will be on the ground in Newport. And this year, we’ll be running around more than ever before as the festival has added a fourth stage to the mix. With the new stage setup inside the Museum of Yachting, festivarians will have a chance to hear singer/songwriters in a more intimate and unplugged setting. While we are thrilled about this new addition, we’re also burdened by even more difficult decisions of where to be when.

grass clippings Schedule Map

So, for the third year in a row, I’ve taken the schedule and put recommendations for every minute of the festival.  Five things to note about this list…

  1. I have serious regrets about this post every year and don’t even stick to it myself. I get profane writing this, cursing the name of Newport Producer Jay Sweet for making this so difficult, yet praising him for putting together such an amazing lineup.
  2. The greatest “sitting in” typically happens towards the ends of sets, so you’ll have to think about that before you run to the next act. For example, I heard this week that Ben Sollee will make appearances with My Morning Jacket, Trampled by Turtles, Carl Broemel and possibly others.
  3. There are some incredible musicians that I’ve skipped and that’s mostly because of the tastes of this blog, not the talent of the performers.
  4. I can’t be held responsible for you missing amazing things.
  5. These are the recommendations of Garland Harwood, not all of those at grass clippings.

With that in mind, here we go…

Friday, July 27th

Saturday, July 28th

  • 10:00 AM: Get there at 10AM. Great parking, and you can probably find GraveRobbers & Anthony D’Amato wandering. Get a wristband for beer before the line gets long.
  • 11:15 AM: New England’s GraveRobbers are on our list of favorite up-and-coming Americana acts.
  • 11:35 AM: Catch a few quiet numbers by Texan folker Robert Ellis.
  • 11:50 AM: Rhode Island’s rapidfire folk duo Brown Bird is back for the second year in a row, this time on the Fort stage. Says a lot about the impact of this festival on a band’s success.
  • 12:25 PM: Find a good seat for our Brooklyn friends, Spirit Family Reunion. This will be the biggest set of their career and they will likely be the most talked about band in recaps of the Festival this year.
  • 1:10 PM: Preservation Hall is a sacred ground (mostly because of the band, so that goes for wherever they are) and you won’t want to miss Del McCoury playing with these guys.
  • 1:40 PM: Catch Levon’s daughter and Ollabelle singer, Amy Helm for an intimate performance in the museum.
  • 2:00 PM: honeyhoney puts on a pretty amazing set. Suzanne and Ben will likely have a full band on Saturday. If you don’t make this one, reroute to see them on Sunday for their intimate set in museum.
  • 2:20 PM: If you don’t have a ticket to one of Deer Tick’s after parties, you should catch a few minutes here.
  • 2:30 PM: Alabama Shakes cannot be missed. Roll Tide.
  • 3:00 PM: Brooklyn’ Sharon Van Etten just might be the next folk goddess.
  • 3:20 PM: As if The Tallest Man on Earth couldn’t bring enough Swedish folk flare, the Söderberg sisters (a.k.a. First Aid Kit) add major value to the music stock of Stockholm.
  • 3:40 PM: Dawes put on one of the most impressive performances at Newport 2010 and following their latest album, Nothing Is Wrong, you should make plenty of time for them this year.
  • 4:15 PM: 4:15 marks the start of the most difficult hour of decision making of the Festival. I’d say you should kick things off with 15 minutes of Iron and Wine, run on over to Blind Pilot for another 15 and do the same at Ben Sollee. Then, decide which one you want to watch again…I refuse to make the call.
  • 5:25 PM: Patty Griffin is the Queen of all folk goddesses in Newport this weekend.
  • 5:45 PM: Even if you’re not a fan of Arlo, the Guthrie Family Reunion performance (just a couple weeks after Woody’s 100th birthday) will likely hold more sitting in and special, memorable performances that any other set at the Festival.
  • 6:00 PM: Run catch a few minutes of City and Color, the Canadian progressive folk band and that I’m most excited to check out this year.
  • 6:20 PM: Go back over to Guthrie Family Reunion. I’m sure a few folks will show up and sit in at the end.
  • 7:00 PM: The My Morning Jacket performance will be loaded with special guests. Don’t worry about traffic and miss something special.


Sunday, July 29th

  • 10:00 AM: Again, get there at 10AM. Great parking, and the Berklee City Music Choir will be wandering around. Get a wristband for beer before the line gets long.
  • 11:00 AM: Sleepy Man Banjo Boys: Feel like a reject while watching kids play music like you never could.
  • 11:20 AM: Continue the mini-bluegrass streak with a couple songs by R.J. Storm, Pete Seeger’s banjo-repairman, and his trio.
  • 11:30 AM: Deep Dark Woods is in my top five bands to see. Wish I could see their whole set.
  • 11:45 AM: The Kossoy Sisters played at first Newport Folk Festival and sang in the original production of Woody Guthrie’s Bound for Glory. They also were the voices behind “I’ll Fly Away” on the O Brother soundtrack special to miss.
  • 12:00 PM: When I heard that Sara Watkins got married, I cried for days. Her new album should make for an impressive live set and we’ll hopefully see her brother and Chris Thile show up for a Nickel Creek reunion song or two.
  • 12:25 PM: Go check out honeyhoney’s intimate set at the Museum for a few songs.
  • 12:35 PM: Learn a little bit about Woody with Joel Rafael
  • 12:45 PM: Joe Fetcher’s song “Say What You Will” is one of my favorites for the year. It’s dripping with badass.
  • 1:20 PM: Twenty minutes with the rapidgrass of Trampled by Turtles will wear you out.
  • 1:40 PM: Roll on back to the late 60’s rock with Jonathan Wilson. Ten bucks says some of the members of Dawes show up.
  • 2:00 PM: Learn some more about Woody Guthrie with The New Multitudes. Too much to say about this, so read more here.
  • 2:30 PM: Charles Bradley is much, much more than just a soulful performer…and you just might get a hug.
  • 3:00 PM: Spider John Koerner, who is in poor health, last played Newport in 1965 and his last wish was to do it again. We should all pack it in for this.
  • 3:20 PM: Mix it up with some blues, brought to you by genius Gary Clark Jr.
  • 3:45 PM: The Head and the Heart stole our hearts last year (and several times since), so don’t miss much of this set.
  • 4:25 PM: I’ve wanted to see Of Monsters and Men since I first covered them back in 2010. This will likely be the most intense and well-attended acts of the Festival. They should really be on the Fort stage.
  • 5:10 PM: Carl Broemel is one of the best acts in the Museum. Don’t let the Monsters take you away from this.
  • 5:30 PM: Conor Oberst is a weird, weird bird, but his brilliance in song writing is hard to top.
  • 5:45 PM: The Punch Brothers will never, never be bad. Stay here for a few awhile, but don’t let some of the most impressive instrumentation at the Festival mesmerize you so bad that you forget about The Tallest Man on Earth.
  • 6:10 PM: To me, The Tallest Man on Earth represents a mesh of the old and new of Newport. His influences have imprinted him with a sound of old, while his latest album and his youth represent the progressive singer/songwriter sound of today.
  • 6:40 PM: Jackson Browne is a legend and we all know that. Expect load of special guests.

So when will you have time to have a Newport Storm and get some food? Your best bet is to grab it at the same time while you’re at the Fort stage. Drinking, unless you have a backstage pass, can actually only be done around there.

You can download a printable guide of my recommendations here. And don’t forget that you can keep track of the schedule and learn more about the bands with the Festival’s iPhone or Android app.