Newport Folk Festival 2022 Hit a Grand Slam!
Every year at the Newport Folk Festival is fabulous, but the 2022 Festival truly hit it out of the park! The joy I – and 10,000 others – felt at seeing Joni Mitchell perform for the first time in many years was incomparable. That should not detract from the rest of the Festival, which I enjoyed as much as always.
As the rolling lineup announcements were made, I realized there were many artists I did not know. I thought about listening to some songs online, but decided to be surprised.
Note that I have not highlighted every artist I saw; there is at least one photo of every artist at the end of this review.
The first new artist I heard which was also my first set of the Festival was The Dead Tongues. The band is fronted by Ryan Gustafson, who apparently sometimes performs solo and sometimes with a band as he did this day.
I am not going to even try to describe his style. He is a singer-songwriter who writes intensely personal songs that deserve to be listened to. I plan to see him again when he is performing near me.
Another new-to-me artist was Arooj Aftab. Hailing from Pakistan, her style is different that any other I have seen at the Festival over the years I have attended it. There is a lot of jazz in her music but also a lot of pop. Still, I do not think of her as a pop artist.
Her band was a great support to her and included a marvelous fiddle player as well as Maeve Gilchrist on harp (who I have been lucky enough to see in some intimate rooms in the Boston area).
She ended her set by throwing red roses into the audience, which thrilled the younger people (and by younger I mean under 10 years old) who either caught a rose themselves or were given one by an adult who caught it.
Silk Road Ensemble is one of the groups at the 2022 Festival that I have seen several times. I was excited to see them with Rhiannon Giddens performing their Phoenix Rising work (which I was also lucky enough to see at its world premiere in Cambridge, Massachusetts).
This ensemble is world music at its best, and with Rhiannon currently at its helm I believe they will appeal to a much broader audience. The ensemble has so many different instruments from all over the world, and they all meld beautifully with Rhiannon’s fiddle or banjo.
They do not perform a lot so I highly recommend seeing them if they are near a city near you!
Saturday started off very well with an artist who had flown in from Iceland within the previous twelve hours, if I remember correctly. Arny Margret was probably new to just about everyone in the audience as this was her first performance ever in the United States!
She was clearly both overwhelmed and thrilled to be at this iconic Festival. Her songs are quite heartfelt and I look forward to seeing her return to this country to do a full tour.
Hurray for the Riff Raff (Alynda Segarra) was a surprise addition to the Festival; she filled in for an artist who had to cancel last minute, and I was overjoyed to see her. I was introduced to them at what I believe was their first Festival performance in 2013.
This performance was as a duo which truly highlighted Alynda’s strong vocals and guitar playing. She can be, but is not always, political in her songs especially relating to the environment. She lives in New Orleans, so the environmental concern is very present there.
Her set consisted of some new material as well as some of her previous hits (at least they are hits to me), so I am looking forward to a new album and full tour hopefully soon!
There was a set called Clusterfolk, which was truly a cluster of folk! Musicians such as Anaïs Mitchell, Natalie Merchant (who I had never seen), Lukas Nelson, Robert Ellis, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Kam Franklin, The Tallest Man on Earth, Dan Blakeslee, Jake Blount, Yasmin Williams, and more graced the stage for this set.
I do not have ‘good’ photos of most of these artists, but it was such a joy to see them on stage solo as well as together for the last few songs.
The last set of the day on Saturday deserves a special mention. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats performed a set called American Tune Review which consisted of Paul Simon songs from throughout his storied career. Most songs were performed with a special guest – Natalie Merchant, Lukas Nelson, and Lucius.
The last three songs, however, were the first of the weekend’s super secret surprise guests – Paul Simon himself! No photos were allowed, and I was not standing in a place where I could get any photos with my phone.
All were quite emotional for me, but especially ‘American Tune’ which he did with Rhiannon Giddens and The Sound of Silence which he did solo. There were not a lot of dry eyes in the audience after that set.
The last day of the festival started off with a set called John Craigie and Friends. What a fabulous group of friends! It included Langhorne Slim, Kentucky Gentlemen, Autumn Nicholas, and The Ballroom Thieves.
Any one of those artists are terrific on their own, but as a collective they delivered a set that was much more than I expected.
After that, we were introduced to Hermanos Gutierrez, brothers from Ecuador. Their English might not be great, but their music is.
Most of the set was instrumental. Alejandro and Estevan play electric and lap guitars. The music is ethereal.
After that set, The Linda Lindas took the stage. Their music may be a little too ‘pop’ for me, but their performance was incredible! Ranging in age from 11 (drummer) to 17 (lead guitarist), their enjoyment of their craft infected me and the rest of the audience.
One thing they did was ask all the children to come up to the rail, which security allowed. What fun it was to see how the kids related to the band, regardless of their age. Even the blow-up tiger got into the set!
Last but certainly not least, the final set was billed as Brandi Carlile and Friends. The Festival has recently been having the last set of Sunday be a collaborative set, and this was no exception. For the first 20-25 minutes, the set was Brandi and her band.
After a massive staging change to a living room setup, who should be brought to the stage but none other than Joni Mitchell! Not only was this her first public appearance in many years, but it was the first time she played the guitar outside of her home!
She sang the entire 13-song set and was grinning ear to ear when others sang leads. The emotions that swept through the audience were palpable. People were sobbing, including those who were much too young to have ever seen her perform (I did see her in 1973-74) The set consisted of her best-known songs such as ‘Carey’, ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, ‘Both Sides Now’ and others.
Strangers hugged and sobbed together and talked about how stunned they were while walking to their cars or standing on line at the ferries. It was an experience that none of the 10,000 people in attendance will ever forget. Friends asked if I was going to go to any of the shows at The Gorge, and I am not. Nothing can compare to what I experienced at the Festival.
This Festival is always worth attending. I will be there this year – look for the woman in the photo pit with multi-colored hair!
Tickets courtesy of Newport Folk Festival; all opinions are my own.
Posted on April 19, 2023, in festival photos, festival review, music, Uncategorized, venue and tagged Brandi Carlile, festival photos, festival review, Fort Adams State Park, Hurray for the Riff Raff, John Craigie, Joni Mitchell, music, Nathaniel Rateliff, Newport Folk Festival, Paul Simon, Silk Road Ensemble, The Backseat Lovers, The Dead Tongues. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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