One of my goals, if you will, of 2011 was to travel to a city I had never been to before. Naturally, my inclinations were to go to a place that had a killer music scene so Austin, Boston and Seattle all made the list of possible destinations. Turns out that I didn’t end up in any of those wonderful cities, but accomplished my goal in a way that I hadn’t anticipated at the start of the year, by going to Newport, Rhode Island, to experience the legendary Newport Folk Festival.
Originally conceived as a trip with my dad to head up to Newport (we’re both quite smitten with Emmylou Harris, after all) for the festival and then a couple days in Boston to see the Red Sox at Fenway, my sister and I ended up making it a bro-sis road trip to experience two days of every variation of folk music under the sun. It was an experience like no other, getting to see the aforementioned Emmylou, Gillian Welch, The Decemberists, The Civil Wars, The Head and the Heart, Typhoon, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Freelance Whales and many, many more.
Newport Folk Fest 2011 was my first festival experience despite living within two hours of Bonnaroo and there were several times over the course of that July weekend where I thought to myself “I’m coming back here every year if I can.” From the gorgeous port city of Newport to the water taxi ride each morning to get to the festival at Fort Adams State Park, from the super laid back, perfectly friendly crowd to the dozens of boats pulled up to the harbor to catch the music for themselves, it was hard not to fall completely in love with George Wein and Pete Seeger’s brainchild.
So now it’s 2012 and just yesterday the lineup was released for the festival, taking place July 28 and 29, and the folks in Newport have made it waaaay too easy to honor my words from last summer and make this an annual pilgrimage. Headlining the festival are My Morning Jacket and Jackson Browne, who are both playing NFF for the first time ever. Conor Oberst, Iron & Wine, Patty Griffin and Guthrie Family Reunion (Arlo Guthrie, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Johnny Irion, etc.) also received top billing for the festival, but that’s just scratching the surface.
Highlights for me are The Head and the Heart playing for the second year in a row (the only band returning this year, I think), and a plethora of bands on my “Bucket List” that I will be writing more about in the coming weeks. 2012 buzz bands, Of Monsters and Men and Alabama Shakes will be performing, along with Blind Pilot, Preservation Jazz Hall Band, Gary Clark Jr, Deep Dark Woods, New Multitudes (Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker and Yim Yames), and The Tallest Man on Earth, who I’ve been dying(!) to see perform for years. It’s going to be an absolute pleasure getting to cross them all of my list. And I’d be remiss to share how ecstatic I am to see Nashville’s own The Apache Relay take to the Newport stage. There’s honestly not enough space in this post to do justice to all the wonderful acts playing at the festival this year.
So, dear readers, what’s your festival experience been like? Anyone else been to Newport before? Who wants to join in on this brand new tradition of mine?