Imagine a music festival that is not massively packed and not obsessed with making as much money as possible. Seems impossible in 2012, but it’s not. The Newport Folk Festival is the last bastion of enjoyable music festivals in the United States. The crowd is courteous, the staff amenable and the stages accessible. You can bring a chair and a cooler without being subject to a full body cavity search. You can move between stages easily and enjoy the entire line-up if you wish. And the setting in Fort Adams in Newport offers a good setting to see live music and picturesque views of the harbor. Mix in some boozy fun in town and the weekend could be the best of summer.
Last year was my first time at Newport Folk Fest and we had an amazing time. I was shocked how much fun we had and how enjoyable the music was. The highlights were seeing Saturday headliner My Morning Jacket on the main stage and then seeing Jim James play on the smaller Quad stage inside the fort (as pictured above). Also entertaining was Charles Bradley, who’s record you should definitely own because the man is amazing. I saw Gary Clark Jr. play for the first time and I was blown away by his sound. Afterwards I witnessed a well-worn roadie guy congratulate Gary on his performance and declare it a “blistering set,” a compliment in which Gary seemed to very much enjoy. Not to be overlooked were Dawes, Deer Tick, First Aid Kit, Brown Bird and Jonny Corndawg, who alone were worth the drive to Rhode Island.
Newport is a funny town with a deeply engrained drinking culture that lends itself well to enjoyable summer music festivals. It’s a place of harmony where you can find people wearing blue blazers in earnest drinking Dark ‘N’ Stormys right along side wasted massholes in cargo shorts. Upon entering the city limits it seems as if everyone agrees to give up their differences and simply focus on getting shitfaced and loving life. Mix in an amazing music festival with thousands of indie music lovers and you have yourself a perfect place to be for a summer weekend.