For those of you familiar with the Newport Folk Festival, you’re already aware of how special it is (if you’re not familiar, go here). You’ll also be able to appreciate how thrilled I was when Tretorn offered me and my fiance Teddy three day passes for this year’s festival. I hadn’t been since my boarding school days (I attended St. George’s in Newport) and was thrilled to be returning, and introduce Teddy to the festival. We couldn’t make it down for friday’s lineup, and we were bummed to be missing Phosphorescent, Feist, and more. So we got up bright and early Saturday morning, jumped into our Zipcar, and shot down to Rhode Island. Our excitement was steadily building as we pulled into the Fort Adams road and saw all the hand-painted signs featuring an excellent custom font. Car parked, we grabbed our backpack filled with a water bottle, snacks, beach towel, and sunscreen and hit the path to the fort in our Tretorn Nylites. It was gloriously sunny both Saturday and Sunday with a lovely breeze coming in from the ocean. You really can’t describe the joyous feeling of being on the ocean, listening to great folk music, and having the sun beam down on you.
I was really impressed with the seamless production of the festival this year and the roster of sponsors. Squarespace was on site providing charging stations for folk’s mobiles, Sennheiser hosted intimate recording sessions with their wireless headphones, Alex + Ani jewelry had water pumps throughout the grounds to keep attendees hydrated, Late July Snacks had a family tent with free snacks and Elizabeth Mitchell performing, Chris Funk of the Decemberists hosted Folk with Funk and led interview sessions with some of the festival’s musicians, and Tretorn’s BACKYARD Beer Garden treated festival goers with games of corn hole, ping pong, and Newport Storm brews. NPR recorded the sets, creating an online archive of the performances for those who couldn’t make it, and for those who want to relive the festival.
The festival revolves around several stages and tents, so the schedule overlaps slightly. We did our best to catch a bit of each artist but took it easy so as not to make the experience feel frenzied or rushed. Some of our favorite sets were Rayland Baxter, Family Spirit Reunion, Shovels & Rope, Jim James, Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, Michael Kiwanuka, The Lone Bellow, Cold Specks, Rambling Jack Elliot, The Lumineers (Neyla is a cousin and it was incredible to finally hear her live, man what a voice!), and of course Beck’s spirited finale. It was evident how much the artists respected and appreciated the history of the NFF. Wesley Schultz of the Lumineers even cut off their hit Ho, Hey! to urge the audience to put away their technology and simply enjoy the music, “Newport is a bit of a throwback festival, so let’s put away those cell phones and cameras for a minute.” And although short lived, the sentiment behind the request was powerful and I believe very indicative of the sort of festival NFF is.
Already looking forward to next year.
*All images via Newport Folk Festival