Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals Set to Return to Main Stage
NEWPORT, RI – This is where Bob Dylan shocked audiences and amplified his Fender electric guitar for the first time in front of a major audience, unleashing a new rock n ‘roll sound. This is where Johnny Cash introduced the young and relatively unknown Kris Kristofferson, a singer who would launch his career there on stage. And this is where legends like Led Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers, Dolly Parton and many more have made their mark.
Every summer, thousands of music fans flock to Newport, a naval town known for its old American wealth, to attend the Newport jazz and folk festivals in Fort Adams. He was due to celebrate his 61st year of music in the seaside town when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled their plans in 2020. It was a blow to fans, musicians and the community of Newport.
But this year, as many national festivals, like Coachella, abandoned their 2021 plans to target 2022, Jay Sweet, executive producer and festival director, said “the show must go on.”
In the latest episode of the Rhode Island Report podcast, Sweet said that in putting on a smaller-scale version of the Folk Festival (known this year as “Newport Folk Presents: Folk On”), it was necessary to limit the audience. at 50% capacity and cut some of the stages, he said, the shows will still have that sense of “familiarity.” And many familiar artists who have performed on these stages before, like Randy Newman, are making a comeback.
âI think we really needed a touchstone to look around and say, ‘Hey, we’re all here together,’ Sweet said.
Sweet said the pandemic had been a “blow” to the foundation that oversees the two festivals, as well as to performers addicted to concerts who could not file for unemployment.
âThe carpet was really ripped off really quickly,â he said. And almost every hour at the start of the pandemic, he said, he heard musicians say they should move into their van, that they couldn’t pay rent or pay for food, and that ‘they had families they needed to support.
He and his team helped establish the Newport Festivals Musician Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to musicians who have lost income due to COVID-19.
Assistance took the form of one-time grants of $ 500 to $ 3,000. Within five days of the program’s inception, Sweet said approximately $ 50,000 had been distributed to musicians who performed on stage or who are from Rhode Island.
According to Sweet, bringing music to Rhode Island again this summer was necessary. both for the community and for musicians who haven’t practiced their skills live in over a year.
âYou can sit at home and continually be skilled at your craftâ¦ an instrument or a song. But the bigger muscle is playing live in front of people. Everyone is extremely rusty, âsaid Sweet. âOne thing Newport has always provided for all artists at our festivals is a safe space to take a risk. “
Music is part of the healing process after a long year of the pandemic. For him, it is the âsocial glueâ that unites people.
âIt’s something that you can be on opposite ends of any kind of spectrum: the equality spectrum, the political spectrum, the economic spectrum,â Sweet said. “When two people are sitting there watching music playing somewhere live, you don’t know a thing about a person … [and] without any kind of communication, you can watch someone and [youâre] both play air guitar, sing the same lyrics. And that’s enough to bridge a lot of the gaps.
This year’s folk festival is made up of two three-day events. They will take place from Friday July 23 to Sunday July 25, then from Monday July 25 to Tuesday July 26. Discover the program.
The Newport Jazz Festival will run from Friday July 31 through Sunday August 1 this year. Discover the program.
Find out more by downloading the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts and other podcast platforms, or listen in the player below: