After my second year working at the Newport Folk Festival, I’m really struck by how special it is. To start, the location is incredible. Built in 1824, Fort Adams State Park is rich with history and you can feel it when you’re there. Located at the mouth of Newport Harbor, the view from the fort is spectacular and the sea breeze makes the summer heat more bearable for artists and festival goers. The spot is rich with music history too! This year was the 51st folk festival… and I find it so incredible to think about all of the performers who have come through and played there.
The variety of music at the festival is also a big plus for me. This year featured folk, jazz, soul, indie, bluegrass and even world hip hop with Nneka. But what strikes me the most, is the sense of community I feel among the musicians. I haven’t seen anything quite like it at any other festival. The final act of the weekend seems to traditionally be when any and every musician who is still at the festival comes up on stage to lead the crowd in a few sing alongs. Plus, you’re bound to see several sets with surprise special guests. This year for instance, Yim Yames played with John Prine, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin in addition to his own solo set. The Swell Season called up Tao Seeger and The Low Anthem at the end of their set, and Andrew Bird was joined by Calexico for part of his. Richie Havens and Glen Hansard joined Levon Helm to sing “The Weight”, and of course a slew of artists got up on stage with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, performing songs they recorded with them on their latest album.
My boss, Barbara Dacey, commented that this community feeling among the artists who play at Newport Folk really spreads to those attending and working the festival… it makes us feel just as much a part of it all as the musicians. If you’ve never been, definitely make it a point to attend the Newport Folk Festival and see just what I mean.
Newport Folk Festival