Record ticket sales set stage for a resurgent Newport Folk Festival

By David Klepper, AP

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island–The Newport Folk Festival has sold out before, but never as early as it did this year, with tickets for the two-day event disappearing a full three months in advance.

The seminal music festival returns to Rhode Island’s Fort Adams State Park on July 28 with a lineup featuring veteran stars like Arlo Guthrie as well as up-and-comers hoping to turn an appearance at Newport into their big break. Fifty-three years after music impresario George Wein created the festival, and 30 years after it appeared all but dead, its draw is as strong as ever.

“I’m old enough I know that these things go in cycles,” Wein, 86, who is also a jazz pianist, told The Associated Press during an interview in his hotel room the day before his band, the Newport All-Stars, played a date in Boston. “I want people to go to the festival knowing they’re going to hear great music. And these bands — they’re hugely popular.”

Some 10,000 attendees are expected each day for performances by Guthrie, My Morning Jacket, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Patty Griffin, Jackson Browne, and more than 40 other bands. Tickets remain available for a kick-off concert on Friday headlined by Wilco.

Folk music and its place in American music have shifted mightily since Bob Dylan famously traded in his acoustic for an electric guitar here in 1965, but the festival continues to grow. Last year, tickets sold out a few weeks before the event for the first time; this year, it sold out in April.

Jim James, vocalist and guitarist for My Morning Jacket, said he’s not surprised by the festival’s staying power. He said the venue, the organizers, the performers and the fans set Newport apart from other festivals.

“It is a transcendental, beautiful experience that goes way beyond playing a festival,” he said. “There’s just something so special about Newport, playing on the main stage and looking out to see the boats on the water. You don’t ever get a chance to play for a bunch of sailboats.”

Organizers and artists interviewed by the AP credit the lineup’s diversity and renewed interest in roots music, an umbrella term that can cover alt-country, bluegrass, Americana, Cajun and several other genres.