The Newport Feast for Musical Omnivores

Of Monsters and Men – Photo by Richard Kluver/grass clippings

In its 53rd year, the Newport Folk Festival doesn’t look exactly like it did years ago and that’s just fine. This year, there was a wealth of attention and excitement at the festival around young and progressive artists from outside the US. As noted in our recaps, acts like Sweden’s First Aid Kit and The Tallest Man on Earth, Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men, and Canada’s City and Colour and Deep Dark Woods each drew some of the largest crowds and were by far the most popular among younger festivarians.

While some (including The New York Times) suggest that the Festival might not be as true to its roots because pop-infused folk acts were on the bill in place of more pure American folk or pure global folk bands, I totally disagree. The festival might be broader than it was at the start, but it represents today and tomorrow’s folk. If it was simply a gathering of Pete Seeger look-a-likes, it wouldn’t be what it is today or was in the beginning. Also, there is great value in the diversity and energy that comes from mixing in bordering folk genres as long as these acts represent great music.

It’s safe to say that Newport Producer Jay Sweet will never allow the festival to be an all-in-one event like Bonnaroo, Coachella or Austin City Limits (and if he did, we’d call him out on it). Folk purists had PLENTY of bands this year and we loved every one of them. Seeing the relatively unknown Spider John Koerner, who played the Festival in ‘64 and ’65, return to a Newport stage and play without missing a note gave me goose bumps. AND joining a massive crowd of young and old jumping and chanting to Of Monsters and Men choruses also gave me goose bumps.

As the Festival’s site notes, Newport has always, and will always cater to “true musical omnivores, fans who crave innovation but appreciate tradition.” That is what this blog is all about and why this festival continues to shape our tastes and open our eyes to music of all kinds year after year.

So, that’s our take. Now…here are a few more photos from our badass photographer, Richard Kluver, and you can listen to NPR streams here.