Top 12 Signs of a Modern Newport Folk Festival

    newport 2013

    I’ve come to acknowledge the Newport Folk Festival is my personal curse. Two years ago, my then-girlfriend was with me, and a bad lobster roll led her to the most harrowing food poisoning incident I’ve ever witnessed. Last year, with deadlines looming and an hour-and-a-half drive ahead before I could get to work, my car died. This time, as I went to copy over my final day of photos and begin the long, frustrating, enlightening, reflective process of whittling down three days of unparalleled experience to a 3,000 word commentary, my MacBook’s display went red, then black, then dead. (I write this now from an Apple Store in Dedham, MA while my hard drive is backed up and diagnostics are run). It seems that I can’t go down to Newport without something putting a black mark on my weekend.

    But I’m going to be back next year. And I’ll be back the year after that, and the year after that, and as long as the current trends at the festival continue and as long as I’m able, I’ll go back to the Fort.

    Newport Folk Fest sunset

    Photo by Ben Kaye

    Over the last few years, the conversation surrounding the festival has changed. People are talking about the New Newport Folk Fest, the resurrection, the new heydays. A lot of that has to do with festival producer (and Paste Editor at Large) Jay Sweet. Following its years of tribulations, the event was placed in Sweet’s hands, whose audacious vision brought acts like Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and The Avett Brothers to share the stage with legacy icons like John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, and the late Levon Helm.

    General Festival - 07

    Photo by Nate Slevin


    This year, perhaps more so than any year past, the festival embraced its modern status. The open space reserved for dancing and standing in front of the main Fort Stage was expanded to the full width of the stage. There was no “legacy” act atop the bill; instead there was Beck. After-parties raged till the bars closed every night. What Sweet and the folks behind the Folk have done has pumped new life into the festival, the kind of young-blooded-ness that gave the experience its spark in the first place. Now in its 54th year, that spark has ignited a fire that lights the waters of Brenton Cove as brightly as ever.

    Curse or no curse, we are witnessing the modern reign of Newport Folk Festival. One needs only to look at this year’s event to see it.