The last weekend of July is my favorite weekend of the year, as that is when the Newport Folk Festival takes place. It has become such a popular event that it sells out in minutes before a single artist is announced. Three outdoor and one indoor stage provide great performances from 11 am until sunset.
All of the artists that perform are true musicians. If you need background tracks, pyrotechnics, or back-up dancers you probably won’t play here. They do take the term “Folk” kind of loosely, as artists such as Roger Waters, Jack White, Patti Smith and The Pixies have all performed at Folk Fest. The artists genuinely seem to enjoy playing at the festival as frequent, more or less spontaneous, collaborations often occur.
Ninety-nine point nine percent of the festival goers are nice and courteous to one another. Ages range from babies to octogenarians (90 + if you include festival founder George Wein who, if you’re lucky, can be seen chauffeured around in his Wein-mobile!) The main stage has a dedicated dance floor, allowing you to experience your favorite artists up close. Otherwise you can chill on your blanket and watch the stage from afar or the live video screen at the side of the stage. The two other outdoor stages have chairs that are first-come-first-serve under a tent. The only issue is that since many acts have overlapping sets you can’t see them all.
Newport Folk Fest Lineup 2018
The roll-out artist announcements for Newport Folk Festival 2018 have started, so on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I check the Facebook page at 10 am for the latest additions. This way there is plenty of time for me to listen to the artists and figure out who I want to see when the actual schedules are finalized. So far I am very excited by repeat performer Courtney Barnett and Gary Clark Jr., as well as first timers Darlingside, Fantastic Negrito and The War and Treaty. The Folk Fest website has links to all of the artists’ websites.
There are plenty of food vendors that sell a variety of food that satisfies most people’s tastes. Unlike other festivals they don’t charge ridiculous prices. You are also welcome to bring your own food and drink to the venue, with the exception of alcohol. Beer, wine and cider are sold in 2 areas on the grounds. There are also great merchants selling art, clothes, jewelry, music instruments etc. Check out local vendors such as Matunuck Oyster Bar for a great lobster roll, Blink Gallery for great photography and Avalove for beautiful original fashion.
Tickets for Folk Fest
Even though tickets for Folk Fest are officially sold out, don’t despair; there are great shows in town at night and those tickets haven’t gone on sale yet. Newport Folk Fest has also partnered with a fan exchange website Lyte for fan to fan transactions. Plus you can always check out the usual alternate ticket outlets, like StubHub and SeatGeek.
Watching Folk Fest from the Water
On the water there is a whole other party going on! A myriad of boats are anchored outside where they can watch, and sometimes hear, the music from the main stage. But generally they are just there to have a good time! Captain Al will be taking people out for sailing charters during the festival. (First Mate Kia has put in for time off!)