America’s smallest state has long been home to one of its biggest festivals. But this year, Newport Folk Fest has taken things to a whole new level. And that’s saying something for one of America’s oldest festivals, founded in 1959 and site of many iconic performances including Bob Dylan’s legendary set in 1963. Fans have certainly taken notice, with all Newport Folk Festival tickets already sold out on the primary market — selling out before most of the lineup was even announced.
So what makes this year’s lineup so special? To start with, it’s not all folk. There’s piercing guitar rock courtesy of Third Man Records founder/current Rolling Stone cover star Jack White. There’s reggae from none other than genre legend Jimmy Cliff himself. There’s iconic throwback acts like Sun Kil Moon and Nickel Creek. There’s even a set by Step Brothers actor John C. Reilly, who trades in his role opposite Will Ferrell and picks up a guitar as John Reilly & Friends.
The festival takes place July 25-27 at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island, situated at the mouth of the Newport Harbor with panoramic views of the Newport Bridge and East Passage. Located about 1.5 hours from Boston and 3.5 hours from NYC, you’ll feel like you’re in another world as you hop a ferry from nearby towns like Jamestown for a scenic ride into the festival grounds.
With so much going on, let’s break down the lineup by day. Friday features veteran singer/songwriter Ryan Adams, indie folk breakout stars Band of Horses, Jimmy Cliff, Sun Kil Moon, indie songstress/former Postal Service collaborator Jenny Lewis, and heavy-hitting one-man guitar juggernaut Reignwolf in addition to up-and-coming acts such as The Devil Makes Three and Colbert Report darlings Lake Street Dive.
Saturday brings forth Jack White, Nickel Creek, John Reilly & Friends, fun-loving affable folk heroes Deer Tick, party-starting bearded rockers J. Roddy Walston & the Business, indie folk upstarts Houndmouth, singer/songwriter veteran act Milk Carton Kids, and up-and-comers Shovels & Rope.
Sunday closes out the fest with Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, ‘70s soul icon Mavis Staples, contemporary indie rock legend Conor Oberst, the foot-stomping vibes of Trampled By Turtles, indie rockers Dawes, veteran act Lucero, the always unpredictable Rodrigo y Gabriela, and upstart act Thao & the Get Down Stay Down.
But it’s not just the professionals who will be joining in the act at Newport Folk Festival. You can join the party as well at the Martin Jam Stage, where everyone is welcome to come up on stage and jam. They’ll even provide the instruments.
And for those who think that folk festivals are a mellow affair, the festival’s “No Chair Zone” might change your mind. Located in front of the main stage, this area is all about dancing. Or standing. But preferably, dancing.
There will also be a beer/wine garden, bike parking, rideshare carpool, and camping at nearby parks. Come see why one of America’s oldest music festivals just happens to also be one of its best.