2016 Newport Folk Festival Preview

After many months of a much needed hiatus, we’re back just in time for this weekend’s Newport Folk Festival.

As in the past, this year’s lineup consists of a genre-spanning and well-curated melting pot of legends, notable artists within today’s indie folk and rock scenes and strong emerging acts. Here’s a few things that stand out to me this year…

  • Offshoots: case/lang/veirs, Middle Brother, Graham Nash, Matt Vasquez, Dave Simonett & Dave Carrol, Phil Cook, The Texas Gentleman, and Father John Misty (performing solo) – these are a few of the relatively large number of side projects and graduate acts that we’ll see this year. The fact that these exist in Newport shows how distinctly different this Festival is. It’s about the music – not the brand of a few bands – and artists have the freedom to explore at Fort Adams.
  • Politifolk: While the tradition of politically driven, activist folk songs has existed at Newport since its very foundation, the current temperature of politics this year is hotter than it has been in decades. Coming off the insanity that was the GOP Convention, just ahead of the Democrats’ gathering in Philly and as race-driven crimes and terrorism dominate the news daily, I’ll be curious to see how artists use this peaceful and progressive Festival as a megaphone for their views and their message.
  • Comedy: With Flight of the Conchords performing tonight, Newport’s music snobs will get a dose of heady musical comedy that hasn’t existed on the schedule of festivals past. As Jay Sweet told NPR’s Bob Boilen, this is something he’s been after for a long time – and George Wein signed off. I’m all about it.
  • Lomax: According to the handbook, there’s a special presentation of Alan Lomax’s footage from the 1966 Festival. Fully plan to nerd out there.

As for the sets on my docket, I would call Ryan Adams with The Infamous Stringdusters and Nicki Bluhm, Alabama Shakes and St. Paul & The Broken Bones unmissable. While there does seem to be a bigger contingency of gritty indie acts with electric guitars, there are plenty number of pure acoustic folk stars to latch onto, like Joan Shelly, Rayland Baxter, Hayes Carll, Aoife O’Donovan, Father John Misty and Glen Hansard. These quieter acts will fill the stage with little effort and fewer band members, which always seems to get me the most. That said, it’s a pretty unforgettable experience to be in the crowd while the double digit band member count acts like Edward Sharpe, The Oh Hellos, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and The Berklee Gospel Choir perform at the Fort.

This year is also different because I won’t be at the Festival with the rest of the gcb crew (planning to be back in full force next year though). Instead, I’ll be there with my new wife and I’m pumped to show her why this is my favorite weekend of the summer.