7 must-see bands at Newport Folk Festival 2017

 By Kelli Raulerson

July 25, 2017

Every year, folk rock’s finest exchange massive crowds and the intense heat that define most festivals, for the salty surf and picturesque sailboat backdrop of Newport Folk Festival.

With life and song reverberating off the walls of Fort Adams State Park, the festival is steeped in history and institution without any pretension. It’s where folk’s rockers, new artists and songwriting legends come together to create a festival atmosphere unlike any other.

Part sight, part sound – the result is entirely a community all to its own and completely Incomprehensible unless experienced directly.

Newport Folk Fest

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself at Fort Adams this weekend, first and foremost enjoy the music. Executive producer of Newport Folk Jay Sweet and team curate a lineup unmatched by any other festival. And while they are to be commended year in and year out for maintaining a pipeline of top artists, the magic of Newport gets credit for what typically results – unplanned, unrehearsed awe-inspiring collaborations and unique performances.

Whether it’s the reverence of the crowd or the nostalgia, artists are visibly impacted by the experience and that’s conveyed through their performance and participation throughout the weekend. It’s exciting to watch and often times the best moments of the festival come within the unplanned moments created by these artists.

These are the moments that define Newport Folk’s brand of magic – and keep the festival selling out year after year before the first band on the lineup is announced. While the entire line-up certainly is worth a mention, it’s physically impossible to catch every performance. Luckily –pop-up performances will happen and there are always surprise collaborations whether during the festival or at the after parties making it unlikely that you’ll only have one opportunity to see your favorite artist.

To help get your list of bands to see started, we recommend the following five must-see acts:

Fleet Foxes – Friday, July 28 

Following the release of Crack-Up, Fleet Foxes’ third album and first since 2011’s Helplessness Blues has them back out on the road for the first time since 2012.

Blind Pilot – Friday, July 28

For its first album released in 2008, Blind Pilot, then just two members, went on a promotional bicycle tour traveling from Bellingham, Washington to San Diego, California and carrying their instruments on custom bicycle trailers they built themselves. The band has grown since then from a duet to a sextet but luckily retained their whimsical sound.

Chicano Batman – Saturday, July 29

With its first couple records and a steady stream of hometown gigs, Chicano Batman earned a reputation as LA’s house band. With hints of pop and soulful Latin swagger their latest record, Freedom Is Free has them hitting the endless festival circuit. Given Newport’s propensity for inspiring memorable performances – this one is not to be missed.

Julia Jacklin – Saturday, July 29

Drawing from elements of blues, folk, country and rock, the Australian native’s debut album Don’t Let the Kids Win demonstrates her lyrical prowess. At only 25, the hypnotic quality of her voice perfectly juxtaposed by her sharp lyrics has the ability to grab and hold your attention.

Mandolin Orange – Saturday, July 29

Mandolin Orange is the duo of multi-instrumentalist Andrew Marlin and violinist-guitarist Emily Frantz. NPR Music named the duo’s 2013 release This Side of Jordan as one of that year’s top 10 folk and Americana albums.

Whitney – Sunday, July 30

Whitney’s earnest and airy debut record, Light Upon The Lake, quickly won over critics and music lovers alike. Sir Elton John has even said he’s a fan.

Michael Kiwanuka – Sunday, July 30

Reflecting on his upbringing as the child of Ugandan refugees in England Kiwanuka said, “I felt like I toed the line of nowhere.” Given the success of his latest album Love & Hate he’s found a home in folk.

Check out the full 2017 Newport Folk Fest lineup.

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