For years now, the Newport Folk Festival has been a sell-out event well before its July date, without ever listing a single performer. The three-day music and cultural event held on the grounds of Fort Adams State Park in Newport Harbor, and a long time destination for folk music purists, is one of the most intimate festival experiences around, with 10,000 tickets sold per festival day (ferries shuttling attendees to and from the fort caution non-ticket holders before they depart). Getting tickets early is simply a must for Newport Folk.
Sell-out attendance comes as no surprise to those with tickets to Newport Folk. Now in its 55th year, the festival continues to redefine what “folk” music is today with an ever-eclectic mix of artists and musicians who bring progression to sound while respecting the genre’s legacy. Today, many come to Newport Folk for new music and new artists that are redefining folk.
Below are seven musical acts representing the new generation that performed this past weekend at Newport Folk Festival. And while names like Hozier and Jack White may certainly be familiar to many, we hope that the likes of Benjamin Booker, Lucius and the others will have you asking yourself, “Why did I not attend Newport Folk this year?” Luckily, there is always 2015 to plan for.
Photography: Amy Hill
The Oh Hellos
Originally from Texas and now in Brooklyn, NY, The Oh Hellos mix classic American songwriting with a touch of twang. They made their Newport Folk Festival debut on Saturday.
New Orleans’ resident, Benjamin Booker, recently told NPR’s World Cafe that his music embraces “Black Flag and the blues” among other things. Listen to his voice: there is nothing subtle about his tone. Hear much more on Booker’s forthcoming self-titled debut album, out August 13.
The Milk Carton Kids
Guitarists Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan have only been performing as The Milk Carton Kids since 2011, but they’re already gained a Grammy nomination in 2013 for their album, “The Ash and Clay.” Their dedication to the traditions of folk music are unmistaken; their music is a true gift to us all.
Brooklyn’s Lucius made the rounds at Newport Folk Festival filling in as guests for everyone from Jeff Tweedy (they deliver the female vocals on Tweedy’s latest album co-written with his son) to Mavis Staples (who coincidentally celebrated her 75th birthday at Newport). Lead by vocal duo Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, Lucius’ sounds spans generations and genres. We happen to love them. Pick up their album “Wildewoman” for more.
What’s not to like about Irishmen Hozier? His Youtube hit, “Take Me to Church,” brought him well-deserved praise and his live performance did not disappoint. Hozier’s love for Newport Folk was apparent as he reminded the audience during his Harbor Stage performance that there was no other place he would rather play nor be.
Rolling Stone called Jordan Cook’s (aka Reignwolf) performance at Newport Folk the best non-folk set of the festival. That may be true if you see folk in its purest sense, but we don’t. His crushing Quad Stage set ignited Newport Folk with an energy and release unseen in some time. It was non-traditional and about the best show you missed all weekend.
Detroit-born Nashville resident Jack White probably had more fun than anyone at Newport Folk. White left his sullenness at the festival gates and blasted through a set that delivered us a host of guests — Milk Carton Kids, John Reilly and Friends (yes, John C. Reilly) and Pokey LaFarge — during his closing set on Saturday afternoon’s main stage. Yes, Jack White genuinely enjoyed his Newport Folk Festival experience. His latest solo album, “Lazaretto,” is out now.