The 53rd Annual Newport Folk Festival will begin this weekend at the fittingly historic Fort Adams. The festival has one of the most storied and respected histories of any American music festival. It’s where Bob Dylan was booed for going electric, where the Pixies went acoustic and this year it’s where the Guthrie Family will celebrate Woody’s would-be 100th birthday. So in eager anticipation for this weekend of amazing music, I will give you a taste of the 10 acts that are surely not to be missed…
10. Of Monsters and Men
This Icelandic band hasn’t even been touring the US for six months and already has a faithful following. Their combination of infectous melodies, uptempo rock and clever lyricism makes for one of the biggest up and coming bands of this year.
Check out a intimate performance of their single little talk underneath
Suzanne Santo and Benjamin Jaffe are bringing the Bakersfield sound back to the Country music scene. With Santo’s actress good-looks and whitty yet dark lyrics, this duo mixes some the most innovative and fresh tracks to come out of the thought to be extinct California country genre.
In 1965 Merrill Garbus would have most likely been booed off stage along with Bob Dylan at Newport Folk. But times have changed and Garbus’ band Tune-Yards continues to evolve what people call “American Music” and more importantly what they call American Folk Music. Her vocal looping and ukelele stylings are some of the most hypnotic and exciting musical moments you will experience at newport.
7. Ben Sollee
This cello wielding Kentucky native is one of the best young songwriters in the folk scene today. He just recently finished a new album, completely financed through a Kickstarter campaign, along with undergoing yet another bike tour. Yeah, thats right…forget the vans or trailers, because Ben Sollee does a lot of traveling and touring by bike.
Check out his intimate NPR Tiny Desk Performance with such songs as “Captivity,” “The Globe” and “Inclusions”…
6. Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Preservation Hall is one of the most celebrated and historic Jazz ensembles in the country. Preservation Hall is the true definition of New Orleans jazz and the heritage that goes along with such a genre can be considered the voice of a entire subculture of America. Which such a heavily historic background, PHJB is sure to include a slew of expended family on stage. With Tao Seeger and Del McCoury already confirmed, expect the likes of Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) and Ben Sollee to join the band for at least one or two…
5. Deer Tick
The Rhode Island natives are arguably the busiest band at this year’s festival. Not only are the playing an afternoon set on the Quad stage but they will also be curating three after parties at the Newport Blues Cafe. The after parties will include the likes of Sharon Van Etten, Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit and none other than Jackson Brown. With these parties aside, Deer Tick’s gritty alt-country sound, with clear influences from Kurt Cobain and the 90’s grunge scene, makes the band an incredible display of raw emotion and a incredible live performance to witness.
4. Jim James
If Deer Tick is the busiest band at Newport Folk this year, then without a doubt Jim James is the busiest man at the festival with a slated headlining set as My Morning Jacket and a Woody Guthrie tribute set with his newly formed band New Multitudes. Don’t expect James to stop there; last time James performed at Newport he popped up at sets with Preservation Hall and Ben Sollee (who are both in attendance this year). Not to mention there is a Guthrie Family reunion and a fellow member of Monsters of Folk, Conor Oberst, is there as well. Bottom line is, if you don’t see Jim James in some form……. you weren’t really at Newport Folk this year.
Not everyone will be in attendance for the opening night festivities, but Friday night with feature Blitzen Trapper, Megafaun and Wilco. If anything, a night at Fort Adams, with the beautiful harbor breeze to your back and the radiant sun setting in the horizon combined with the brilliance of Jeff Tweedy to keep you company…I’m not sure there is a much better way to spend a Friday night.
2. Conor Oberst
The reason Conor Oberst is a “can’t miss” is the simple fact that no one really knows what he will be doing at this years festival. He isn’t performing or hasn’t performed as his solo act in months, nor has he performed with Bright Eyes in a long wile. With such a extensive back catalog Obersts’ set is sure to suprise and please everyone no matter what he decides to perform.
1. Woody Guthrie
Ok, before I begin, yes…I know Woody Guthrie is dead. But the underlying theme at this years festival is Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday. With two tribute sets for the man and a great deal of his extended family in attendance, the Father of American folk will be saluted, praised and emulated to continue on the legacy of not only his music but the festival his music helped create. Expect covers galore with chants of This Land is Your Land, All You Fascists and Talking Dust Bowl Blues.