The Newport Folk Festival announced its 2011 lineup at a kick-off event which immediately preceded the official March 30 press release. After an opening set by BrownBird, with guests from The David Wax Museum, the bands were announced one by one to the largely media crowd gathered in Cambridge MA.
Headlining this year’s event at Fort Adam State Park in Newport Rhode Island on July 30-31 are The Decembrists, Tegan and Sara, Elvis Costello, and Emmy Lou Harris.
Co-producer Jay Sweet, in his 4th year working with the Festival, has, along with his staff, put together 36 acts that will again stretch the boundaries of the once staid and sacrosanct Folk Festival lineup. Not since Dylan plugged in with the Butterfield Blues Band in 1965 have acts as diverse as Gogol Bordello (acoustic set) and Wanda Jackson played on the same stages as the more traditional favorites as Earl Scruggs, Mavis Staples, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot.
This year will also mark the return of the “workshop” type stages, with Song Circles featuring Dar Williams, Ellis Paul, John Gorka, and Liz Queler.
Over the course of the 2 day festival, look for regular “sit-ins” as musicians finish their own sets and wander over to join other acts, creating a family of music vibe that defines Newport Folk. Among the 2010 highlights was the ever present Jim James sitting in with everyone from Preservation Hall Jazz Band to John Prine, The Low Anthem joining Glen Hansard’s set, The Avett Brothers playing from the top of a crane set up behind the crowd, and The David Wax Museum jumping offstage for an acoustic number in the mid- audience.
In past years, the Folk Festival has been a springboard for many bands, including the Low Anthem, The David Wax Museum, The Avett Brothers, and The David Rawlings Machine, to name a few. This year’s breakout band could be anyone from the Freelance Whales, The Ebony Hillbillies, The Head and the Heart, or maybe Trampled By Turtles.
For details and a complete lineup, check the Festival webpage, www.newportfolkfest.net