Newport Folk Festival Is Back, and We've Got the Photos to Prove It (Updated)

Music Features Newport
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Newport Folk Festival Is Back, and We've Got the Photos to Prove It (Updated)

The Newport Folk Festival has returned with a weeklong special celebration called Folk On. Sunday’s highlight was an evening of black female artists curated by singer, songwriter, poet and activist Allison Russell. With extraordinary love and enthusiasm, she introduced one phenomenal artist after another to the Newport crowd. The biggest headlines were Brandi Carlile and the legendary Chaka Khan joining the stage, but the performance of the night may have been Celisse, who sang a dynamite version of “Eyes on the Prize,” beginning a capella and channeling Aretha Franklin before transforming the song into a rowdy, Chuck Berry-esque romp. I can’t imagine I’ll see a better performance all festival.

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Celisse Henderson photo by Michael Dunaway

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Allison Russell photo by Michael Dunaway

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Chaka Khan and Allison Russell photo by Viva Vadim

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Brandi Carlile photo by Viva Vadim

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Christopher Paul Stelling photo by Viva Vadim

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Caamp photo by Michael Dunaway

Monday was a busy busy day of interviews and portraits, but we did manage to catch some fantastic sets. As mentioned earlier, the Middle Brother set was wonderfully energetic. On the other end of the spectrum, Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard held the entire crowd spellbound, alone on a stage with a guitar, gently fingerpicking and softly singing—he also covered The Magnetic Fields, which was a fun surprise. Christopher Paul Stelling was a high-energy dream on the busking stage. And Brothers of a Feather, otherwise known as Chris and Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes, proved that they definitely don’t have to have howling guitars to impress. Another favorite highlight was Middle Brother’s set, from the very first moment when they opened with the Traveling Wilburys’ classic “Handle Me With Care”—one great supergroup tipping their hats to another one. But we need to bring special attention to Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and his fantastic rock-star preening.

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Erin Rae photo by Michael Dunaway

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Sunny War photo by Michael Dunaway

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Sunny War photo by Michael Dunaway

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Courtney Marie Andrews photo by Viva Vadim

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Aoife O’Donovan photo by Viva Vadim

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Aoife O’Donovan photo by Michael Dunaway

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Hiss Golden Messenger photo by Viva Vadim

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Middle Brother photo by Michael Dunaway

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Ben Gibbard photo by Viva Vadim

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Andrea von Kampen photo by Michael Dunaway

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Brothers of a Feather photo by Viva Vadim

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Crowd photo by Viva Vadim

Tuesday was the hottest day of the festival, in terms of the actual temperature at the fort. Artists, audience and press could be seen mopping their brows and commiserating about being worn down. The performances themselves generated a good deal of heat, too. Emma Swift and Robyn Hitchcock began the day with a set of Dylan covers befitting the setting. Langhorne Slim was uncharacteristically talkative during his set, sharing heartfelt insight into his recent emotional journey and then pouring those emotions into his songs. But the set of the day had to be from emerging Queen of The Fest Allison Russell, who turned in a stunning selection of personal stories in song, alternately tender and fierce.

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Emma Swift with Robyn Hitchcock photo by Michael Dunaway

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Steve Gunn photo by Michael Dunaway

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Vagabon photo by Michael Dunaway

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Allison Russell photo by Michael Dunaway

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Langhorn Slim photo by Michael Dunaway

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Fred Armisen photo by Viva Vadim

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Sharon Van Etten photo by Viva Vadim

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Bonny Light Horseman photo by Viva Vadim

Michael Dunaway is a writer, a filmmaker and an editor-at-large at Paste Magazine.