Sunday, April 20, 2008

Newport "Folk" Festival: Changes in The Music

New folks at Newport rock festival's traditions --
Jug bands, flddlers left out of '08

by Joan Anderman, Boston Globe, April 17, 2008

In 1965, Bob Dylan turned the folk world on its ear when he plugged in an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival.

In 2008, things are going to get a whole lot louder.

Under new management and with a young producer at the helm, the venerable Newport Folk Festival is stepping out of the past and into the rock 'n' roll mainstream. Gone are the jug bands, Cape Breton fiddlers, and bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley. This year's lineup features good-time tunesmith Jimmy Buffett, swaggering rockers The Black Crowes, and indie-soul chanteuse Cat Power.

"For me the theme was bridging the gap," says Jay Sweet, a 37-year-old editor at Paste, an indie-oriented music magazine. Sweet is coproducer of this year's event, which takes place Aug. 1-3 at Fort Adams State Park. "We're going to try to bring in more sizzle, in the artistic sense. We're creating a festival for musical omnivores." In the bargain, they're creating New England's first real rock festival, which Sweet hopes will someday rival the genre-spanning sprawl of Tennessee's Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.

"If we do it right and book it right, the kids will come," he says.

Newport has long been known for pushing the boundaries of folk by booking unexpected artists, from '60s screamer Janis Joplin and punky troubadour Ani DiFranco to jazzy hitmaker Norah Jones and alt-rock heroes the Pixies, while presenting a vibrant blend of new and old-school styles. It's what is not on the roster for this year's event - straight, traditional folk music of any stripe - that signals a dramatic reinvention of the Newport Folk Festival.

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