Another year of the ultimate summer camp for adults has officially come to a close.
The Newport Folk Festival returned to Rhode Island, Friday-Sunday, July 22nd-24th, to full capacity after last year’s half-capacity COVID restrictions that led to the festival being spread out over six days (QRO photos). Some of these restrictions seemed to limit bands to stripped-down sets without their full bands due to COVID travel concerns. But 2022 was a return to the full-out, jam-packed Newport action that music fans took for granted before the pandemic took away our access to live music.
The festival’s director, the larger-than-life Jay Sweet, opened the festivities with a touching tribute to Newport favorite John Prine, and an introduction to the first ever John Prine Songwriter Fellowship winner, Leith Ross. It was the perfect beginning to a festival that has made it it’s mission to honor the roots and the titans of folk music while also giving a platform to the up-and-coming artists who now carry that torch. Even the 90 degree hot sun does not stop Sweet from running around the fort for days straight, making it more than obvious he feels this responsibility and duty deep in his soul.
As the festival has evolved, its commitment to upholding the legacies of the folk traditions and the icons who have graced its stages is never far from Sweet’s mind – even as it has grown to encompass a more broad understanding of folk music.
The highlight of Friday was the diversity of the lineup itself. Many first-time Newport artists, including Faye Webster (as an exciting last-minute addition) and Cassandra Jenkins, were on the bill with Newport greats like Taj Mahal and Béla Fleck. The musical stylings on offer ranged from the grunge rock of Dinosaur Jr that shook the Quad Stage, to traditional bluegrass, and even the energetic soul music of Lee Fields. All of this brought the mellow Friday to a conclusion with The National, playing indie favorites and debuting a new song, “Space Invaders.”