Over the last few years, Newport Folk Festival has established itself as the preeminent Americana fest, providing a top-notch lineup that combines young troubadours, alt-country bands, rock groups, and veteran singer-songwriters each July at Fort Adams State Park. This year’s lineup is no different, and American Songwriter will be covering the festival in full this weekend.
2014’s lineup is full of so many of our favorite acts, and there are sure to be some heart-wrenching schedule conflicts, but here are few of the acts we’re most excited to see at this year’s festival, in no particular order.
The man who penned nearly every Grateful Dead classic will be playing a rare solo acoustic show in his only festival appearance of the season. At 73, Hunter is one of the very few elder statesman folkies appearing this summer, and hearing songs like “Ripple,” “Brokedown Palace,” and “Friend of the Devil” sounds like a surreally perfect Newport experience.
It’s been a year and a half since Caitlin Rose released her latest album, The Stand-In, but we still haven’t been able to put the record down at American Songwriter. Rose will be representing East Nashville at her inaugural performance at Newport, one of her few U.S. appearances this summer. We’re hoping for a mix of highlights from her first two records, a new song or two, and maybe even that National cover?
The biggest name at this year’s fest is Jack White, who is fresh off the heels of his new solo album Lazaretto. There’s sure to be a great deal of buzz surrounding White’s Saturday night headlining set. Will he strip down and play acoustic, like he did at last year’s Town Hall concert? Whether or not White brings the full rock band, he’ll surely be bringing the biggest injection of country blues to the weekend of music.
Hurray for the Riff Raff
This New Orleans-based outfit, led by Alynda Lee Segarra, has had a huge first half of 2014 with the release of their most recent record, Small Town Heroes. After a breakthrough performance at last year’s festival, this highly anticipated Sunday afternoon set should be a celebration and a summation of the group’s rise to the top of the new Americana vanguard over the last few years. Expect some feminist folk, a bit of New Orleans Zydeco, and plenty of fiddle.
Jeff Tweedy’s set should be one of the sets at this year’s festival that relies heaviest on new, unreleased material. Touring behind a solo band and his debut forthcoming solo record, Sukierae, Tweedy will almost definitely be playing a good portion of his album due in September, and we can’t wait to hear it. Expect a few old Wilco classics and maybe even a Mermaid Avenue track or two thrown in for good measure.
It’s hard to know what to expect from Ryan Adam’s Friday night headlining set. Will the singer bring a rock band and lean heavily on his brand new self-titled record, due in September? Will he play the type of retrospective, solo-acoustic sets he’s been performing all over the world since he started touring behind Ashes and Fire in 2011? Either way, Adams’ performance, his only festival performance of the summer, is a can’t-miss.
Conor Oberst, who graced the cover of our most recent July/August issue, will be performing with Dawes as his backing band for his Sunday afternoon set. Expect a heavy dose of material from Oberst’s lovely new solo record, Upside Down Mountain, and a few old Bright Eyes standards.
Jenny Lewis’ set comes on the heels of her new album The Voyager, her first in six years. We expect to get an early preview of the new LP, as well as a smattering of tracks for the last few solo albums, and maybe even an old Rilo Kiley song or two. Might Ryan Adams, who produced most of The Voyager and is set to perform just a few hours after Lewis, make a guest appearance? We’ll just have to see.
Over the last few years, Newport has had a knack for booking up-and-coming acts who are just on the verge of breaking big. Hozier, a young singer who has caught the eyes of many with his single “Take Me to Church,” will be making his Newport debut on Sunday afternoon. We have a feeling it could be one of those career-making performances for the twenty-four-year-old Irish singer-songwriter who hasn’t even released his first full-length studio album yet.
This year’s grand matriarch is Mavis Staples, who will be performing the festival’s closing set on Sunday evening. Billed as “Seventy-Five Years of Mavis,” Staples will be most likely perform a variety of her greatest hits with Staples Singers from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, as well as highlights from her two most recent records, You Are Not Alone and One True Vine. Expect Jeff Tweedy, the producer of those two records, to be just one of several special guest performers from throughout the weekend. Plus, what other way to close out this year’s Newport than with Staples’ taking lead on “The Weight?”