The 50th annual Newport Folk Festival was held in Rhode Island this past weekend, and I have no idea how this particular turn of events, as reported by Rolling Stone, hasn’t gotten more attention.
The fact that Newport Folk is an ostensibly “anti-establishment” festival with latently “establishment” pathology was clear enough from the infamous moment Bob Dylan went electric in 1965 — a watershed event that even managed to memorialize Seeger (the classic anti-establishment hero) as a glowering, “axe-wielding” traditionalist. The Decemberists spiced up their typically vaudevillian set with a theatrical re-enactment of the controversy. Narrated by frontman Colin Meloy, the sketch cast guitarist Chris Funk as Seeger, drummer John Moen as producer Joe Boyd and special guest Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond) as a Cate Blanchett-styled Dylan. “This was back in the day when the PA system was fueled entirely by burning wood,” Meloy deadpanned. “Pete was back there cutting the wood, and he became so overwhelmed with emotion that his hatchet almost slipped and severed the power cables. Fortunately Joe Boyd dove in and stopped him.”
There’s got to be video of this, right? Someone? Anyone?
Update: Found it.
Oh, and one more thing about the Rolling Stone coverage…
At 50, Newport Folk isn’t without those kinds of ironies. Fittingly, then, the festival’s standout performance came from the Avett Brothers, a band whose sound — a mix of traditional bluegrass/folk signifiers, baby-faced sentiment, and punk abandon — so aptly represents those tensions. Judging by tunes like “Kick Drum Heart” and “A Perfect Space” the quartet refined the formula nicely for their forthcoming major-label debut. Call it “folk-punk” or “grunge-grass,” the Avetts have stumbled upon one of the last untapped youth demographics in American music.
Apparently the writer hasn’t heard of Against Me! or Lucero or any of the countless bands who’ve been doing the folk-punk thing forever? Or of, like, Uncle Tupelo? Sheesh.