There was 362 days of anticipation going into my second weekend in Newport, Rhode Island. 362 days spent griping with my friends on when would Newport Folk Festival start announcing bands, or lamenting how much Wednesdays were the worst day of the week because there wouldn’t be an announcement, days spent researching if there would be a Middle Brother reunion (there’s still hope for 2015!!), and enough extensive research that lead me to eventually calling that Jack White aka the White Whale would grace us with his presence at the Fort (too proud to not say it).
Among all the festivals I was covering last year with their huge name brand sponsors, hot air balloon gimmicks and bright lights, I fell in love with a festival that eschewed all the typical and all the crap. I fell in love with Newport Folk Festival and in that way too short 3-day weekend, I found a family. It’s beyond cheesy but it’s incredibly true. This folk family everyone speaks of couldn’t be more real. From the little things – the girl who hands you her last beer token because she doesn’t want it to go to waste and wants to make a stranger happy, to the bands such as Spirit Family Reunion and Langhorne Slim who show up just to play a casual impromptu set in the kids tent, to Jack White who said that it was the first time in 12 years he’d been able to walk around a festival, not be bothered, and enjoy the music, to Mavis Staples popping up with every artist she could get her dancin’ hands on, to the multiple Pete Seeger tributes that each respectively left tears running down my face.
It was only a year ago that I found my people at Newport Folk Festival, the people who understand how momentous the moment was when Mavis Staples, Norah Jonas, and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes joined together to sing The Band’s “The Weight,” (the best rendition I’ve ever heard) that was followed by the joining of the entire crowd in unison to wish the most beautiful and wonderful lady in the land a 75th “Happy Birthday,” and how mind shattering it was for everyone to see Jack White’s voice crack singing for Pete.
The folk family comes to Newport Folk Festival at 11am to see a set from Willie Watson who perhaps they’ve never heard of, or pops into the Museum Stage just because. They bring their kids, their babies (even into the beer gardens) because why not? Why wouldn’t you want to expose your child to the magic? As Jenny Lewis in her mystical rainbow set sang on her new song “Head Underwater,” – “There’s a little bit of magic, everybody has it, there’s a little bit of fight left in the air,” there is 10,000 people willing every year to take the trek whether from New Zealand like the wonderful lady who introduced Gregory Alan Isakov or the locals I overheard at Pour Judgement talking about what a blast it was to snag a day pass for Newport Folk Festival for Sunday, even though it was raining.
It’s true, just like they said in Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come and Jay Sweet – you sure have built Newport Folk Festival into something truly spectacular. See photos from Newport Folk Festival below: