This weekend thousands will once again descend on Fort Williams State Park in Rhode Island for the 2017 Newport Folk Festival. Organizer Jay Sweet and his team has put together another lineup that promises not to disappoint with headliners including the re-activated Fleet Foxes, The Avett Brothers, Suzanne Vega, John Prine and Wilco. And as always, there’s a couple of wild cards to keep an eye on as well, including the semi-mysterious Speak Out listing on Sunday and the teaser of whoever might fill the ‘Unannounced’ slot at the Harbor Stage the same day. (Hint – it’s a musician who is no stranger to the stages of Newport).
The three day festival is officially introducing the Museum Stage as a fourth venue to accommodate the growing number of impromptu jam sessions and surprise performances and is once again hosted by Chris Funk from The Decemberists, with J. P. Harris filling in on Friday. Concert goers should plan their set-watching accordingly to maximize the festival experience, and it’s never a bad idea to download the Newport Folk phone app to keep abreast of late-breaking announcements. To help, Dig Boston offers up ten picks for the must see acts of 2017.
Hurray For The Riff Raff – Get ready to dance during this set. The Americana roots band brings listeners back to a simpler time with their clean sound and a fresh spin on a primitive tradition of storytelling. HFTRR takes the Fort Stage at 1:55 PM on Friday.
The Ballroom Thieves – This Boston-based folk trio won Folk Artist of the Year at the Boston Music Awards last year, and will play at the Museum Stage at 3 PM on Friday. Be sure to keep an eye out for Berklee alum, Callie Peters on cello. The band builds its sets with a quiet intensity. Listen for “Archers” – you’ll know it by its stark opening lyric “I came in on bended knee.”
Regina Spektor – Spektor, a veritable cornucopia of styles, including punk, folk and piano ballad takes the Quad Stage Friday at 5:35 PM. No matter the genre, her ethereal voice is sure to please the masses.
Chicano Batman – Daptone Records helped jumped the neo-soul movement into high gear, but they are not the only game in town. Chicano Batman comes on like a long, LA sunset- inviting, peaceful and warm. Spinning classic chill grooves and a slight Latin feel into the mix, the band has had a super busy festival season so far, and they’ll add Newport to the list of Coachella, Sasquatch, Forecastle and Bonnaroo. They kick things off at the main stage on Saturday at 11:25 AM, so don’t be late and skip breakfast if you think you’re gonna be running late.
Christopher Paul Stelling – Stelling makes his official return to the stage at Newport after proposing to fellow bandmate, Juliana Christgau at the end of his set in 2015. One of the most promising acts of our time, his finger picking prowess and intensity on the guitar is not to be missed. Look for him on Saturday at 1:20 PM on the Museum Stage.
Drive-By Truckers – The Truckers have never shied from taking an overt political stance, and last year’s American Band is arguably their most pointed salvo to date. Co-leaders Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley continue to explore inequalities from their unique perspectives. Sadly, it appears as though future subject matter that inspired songs such as “What It Means” and “Ramon Casiano” aren’t going away anytime soon. See them close down the Quad Stage on Saturday, starting at 5:40 PM.
Wilco – Back in 2012, Wilco was the Friday headliner when a third day was added to the festival, and while Jeff Tweedy has been back with son Spencer and others via the family-named band three years ago, Wilco’s return is most welcome. Their set lists are always in flux, and we can only hope that some obscure gems from Being There might still linger in their repertoire; last month’s self-curated Solid Sound Festival had Wilco play both the sophomore record and their highly acclaimed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in their entirety. Let’s find out on Saturday at the main stage, 6:15 PM sharp.
C.W. Stoneking -Australian blues and jazz artist C.W. Stoneking is one of the more original sounding artists on the bill this year, with a sound that is decidedly Southern and reminiscent of a bygone, simpler time. Starkly refreshing, he is sure to get the crowd boogieing. You can find him Sunday on the Harbor Stage at 12:05 PM.
Michael Kiwanuka – Hailing from London, Kiwanuka has the sort of voice that’s instantly welcoming and comforting, like a favorite sweater. He’s all cleared up from the vocal issues that forced the cancellation of his 2016 tour, and is currently riding a groundswell via “Cold Little Heart,” the theme song from the excellent Big Little Lies HBO series. Set a reminder for 1:45 PM Sunday at the Fort Stage.
American Acoustic – Newport is well-known for adding some curveballs to the mix, and American Acoustic should be another well-received experiment. Comprised of I’m With Her (no, not an HRC campaign rally but the trio of NFF veterans Sara Watkins, Sara Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan) and The Punch Brothers, the anticipation for such a highly-pedigreed ensemble runs high. Check out the buzz at their headlining set Sunday on the Quad Stage at 5:20 PM.
Newport Folk Festival FRI 7-28 to 7-30 FORT ADAMS STATE PARK, NEWPORT RI – ALL AGES/SOLD OUT – NEWPORTFOLK.ORG