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Newport Folk Festival 2004

Ahhhhh, Newport. It's hard to imagine a better setting for a summer show than Fort Adams State Park, surrounded by a cool breezy shoreline.


Thursday night: The festival started a little early for some folks, as a crowd came together The Apple & Eve 2004 Newport Folk Festival Talent Search. 350 Entries from across the country were whittled down to a group of 5 finalists for the evening's performance. Music Director Rita Houston represented FUV as one of the judges. Friday night: The traditional kickoff to Newport Folk Fest weekend is a Friday night show. This year, Josh Ritter and Ron Sexsmith were the featured artists.

Judge Rita | Main Stage | Comparing Notes | Livingston Taylor | Rachel Garlin | Rachel Garlin | Houston, Ritter, Sexsmith |

Saturday, August 7: Jim White, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Crosby, Stills & Nash...

Shadows! Shadows! | Rita womans the tent | Perfect scene | Home base | Important: Hats | Best spot in the world | Jim White | Jim White | Steve Earle | Steve Earle | Mullet! | Lucinda Intro | Lucinda Williams | Lucinda Williams | Lucinda Williams | Lucinda Williams | Thanks! | CSN Set List | CSN Guitars | Crosby, Stills & Nash | Stills, Nash & Crosby | Everybody sing! |

Sunday, August 8: Laura Cantrell, The Old Crow Medicine Show, Chip Taylor, Darden Smith, Lori McKenna, Dixie Hummingbirds with Garth Hudson, Joan Osborne, Ollabelle, Rufus Wainwright, Wilco...

Laura Cantrell | Laura Cantrell | Claudia Marshall | Claudia Intro | Dixie Hummingbirds | Garth Hudson | Queens of NY Radio | Claudia, Rita and Meg | Old Crow Medicine Show | Old Crow Medicine Show | Song circle | Song circle | Darden Smith | with Rita Houston | Joan Osborne | Joan Osborne | Grand piano | Rufus Wainwright | Rufus Wainwright | Rufus Wainwright | Jeff Tweedy, backstage | Wilco | Wilco fans | Wilco view | Wilco dancing | That's all, folks! |

From the Desk of: Rita Houston

The Newport Folk Festival is always one my favorite events of the year. After all, it combines my two favorite things -- the beach and music. (Well, it's got food too, but more about that later.)

With the Newport harbor as the backdrop, this legendary festival presents "folk" music -- in its broadest sense -- for a weekend each August. This year we were fortunate to have PERFECT weather. Of course, as any festival-goer will attest, you take what you get, and I've enjoyed many soggy Newport fests as well, but we did get very lucky this year with a cool breeze blowing and brilliant sunshine all weekend. Even the traffic jams of Newport are bearable, since you end up stuck staring out at the water or at the grand mansions. This year's fest struck me as particularly family-friendly -- there were so many kids of all sizes and ages there having fun.

Some recollections:

The festival began for me on Thursday night, hosting the Apple and Eve talent search.

Then, after a glorious day of scootering around Newport (I highly recommend that activity) I was honored to host the big Friday night opening night performance of Josh Ritter and Ron Sexsmith. The night had a somber tone for some of us, as our thoughts were with Newport Festival founder Bob Jones, who is battling some health problems and was unable to be at the festival. His presence was certainly missed. The crowd was into Josh Ritter from the start, who boldly began his set truly acoustic, without the PA system. Then it was Ron Sexsmith, who in his debut Newport performance continued to expand upon the folk traditions with his melody-rich pop songs.

Then it was on to the festival proper out at Fort Adams State Park on Saturday morning, which started for me with Jim White, who won a lot of folks over with his quirky swampy hipster rock -- like "If Jesus Drove a Motorhome" -- great songs that made you want to listsen to the lyrics, which proves it is a folk festival after all.

Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams played back-to-back. Earle was solo acoustic, but packed a punch as always; he opened with one of his new songs, "F*ck the FCC." Lucinda brought out the sexy tunes and politics, respectively, and brought Steve back out for a couple of songs.

Saturday night's big headliner was Crosby, Stills & Nash. They opened with "Carry On," "Questions" and "Marrakesh Express." At times the harmonies faltered, but for me it was still magical. At the end the mix got way too loud, more like a big stadium sound than the Newport vibe.

Sunday started with New York City's own Laura Cantrell and her fine band. Laura brings style and cool to anyplace she's at, and she was well-received at Newport with her timeless country songs.

I was also very impressed with The Old Crow Medicine Show and their youthful, punk approach to roots music -- great talent with a sense of recklessness.

The songwriters circle brought together the legendary Chip Taylor and FUV fave Darden Smith (among others), and the big discovery for me there was Lori McKenna. She's the real deal.

On the big stage, next it was the Dixie Hummingbirds, billed with Garth Hudson and Levon Helm. But alas there was no Levon, but it was a great start to a sunny day, especially hanging with pals Meg Griffin and Claudia Marshall.

The next choice was a tough one, with Joan Osborne and Ollabelle playing at the same time. I caught a few soulful songs from the newly pregnant Joan before heading over to introduce Ollabelle. They really shine in live performance, if you ever get a chance to catch them, take it.

Rufus Wainwright wins the style award (once again) with his sailor cap, white Captain's blazer and slip-on deck shoes. Look out, Elton! It was a real treat when he brought out his mom, Kate McGarrigle, who joined him for a few songs including a tweaked version of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" that offered the notion of a world without Bush and Cheney.

Wilco played a great set as the sun was going down, Jeff Tweedy was in fine voice. They played lots of new songs, and Garth Hudson came out to join them for "California Stars." It was one of the best Wilco sets I've ever seen.

Overheard backstage between performances, Jeff Tweedy to Rufus: "Hi, I'm Jeff. Great set." Nice that he still introduces himself.

So that's Newport. Can't wait to eat that yummy 48-hour chicken in a bowl again next year!

-- Rita Houston, 2004


More stuff: Newport Folk Fest 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010

For more info on the Newport Folk Festival in general, visit