Newport Folk Festival 2023, Fort Adams State Park, Rhode Island, July 28-30, 2023 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, February 25th, 2024  

Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey, Billy Strings, My Morning Jacket, James Taylor

Newport Folk Festival 2023, Fort Adams State Park, Rhode Island, July 28-30, 2023,

Aug 07, 2023 Photography by Katie Dadarria Web Exclusive
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The magic of the Newport Folk Festival is something that simply cannot be overstated, though it’s been said time and time again, year after year. A truly one-of-a-kind experience, a musician’s festival through and through; there’s simply nothing like listening to acts while enjoying the breezes of the ocean state at Fort Adams. While the breadth of artists is unmistakably diverse, there’s a thread of collaboration, mutual respect, and spirit that ties them all together. While expectations were through the stratosphere after Joni Mitchell’s surprise 2022 appearance, there was rampant joy on every stage throughout the weekend that couldn’t be stifled.

Los Lobos
Los Lobos

This year, the festival foundation reworked its mission to “creating moments of hope through the power of music and community,” and that was certainly the case, both amongst the artists, and those who came to engross themselves in the music. Two days of sweltering heat broke on Sunday to an absolutely ideal summer day, an incredibly welcome respite for both the artists and the fans, all of whom came with the utmost energy to make the weekend the best it could be.

My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket

Friday’s lineup was filled front to back with raucous acts, on a day that is traditionally a bit more sparsely populated. Mdou Moctar joyfully shredded, smiles abound, as the audience had no choice but to rise to their feet in awe of his seemingly boundless guitar licks, not knowing where the notes would travel next. Del Water Gap owned the Fort stage, with a swagger only a New Yorker could bring to New England. Thee Sacred Souls kept the funk going in the Quad; it felt as if the dancing was ceaseless underneath that tent for the entire weekend. The same sentiment stood for Nickel Creek, festival mainstays that tie more to traditional folk and bluegrass, though no less raucous—Chris Thile in particular dancing as much as the audience. One of the most “only in Newport” surprises of the weekend came due to unfortunate circumstances, with Noah Kahan having to drop out of the festival last minute. But never fear, James Taylor showed up on minutes notice, regaling the crowd with stories and classic songs; there were certainly tears in the audience, as well as in the photo pit. My Morning Jacket finished out the day with special guests, including Maggie Rogers and Animal, of Muppet fame. At this point, it feels like Jim James is an honorary Henson character himself.

James Taylor
James Taylor

Saturday’s highlights included newcomer Danielle Ponder, whose voice had the audience in awe (and lots of “woo”s). The Backseat Lovers tore it up on the Fort stage, and The Hold Steady brought their electric brand of rowdy, joyous rock to the quad. Later in the day, Angel Olsen’s mesmerizing voice had the audience enthralled, while Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit kicked off the early evening on the fort stage, with Isbell in his best cowboy attire—tucked-in shirt and all. Jon Batiste’s headlining Saturday set was nothing short of on fire—complete with a smoker on stage, cooking ribs for the audience. The multi-hyphenate artist had his own steps installed at the front of the stage, playing essentially every instrument, and calling a rain dance with the Eastern Medicine Singers—and a storm rolled in, leading to a slightly early ending to the day and some stunning lightning as night fell.

Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen

Sunday’s sets were filled with newcomers, as well as collaborative sets and big name singers. Abraham Alexander took the audience to church on the harbor stage, and Madison Cunningham played her unique, exacting-yet-infinitely-melodic tunes for the quad. Los Lobos celebrated their 50th anniversary, with a surprise appearance from Neko Case. Lana Del Rey was the talk of the lineup in a big way, and brought a whole new audience to the fort this year. Across the way, the Folk Family Revue, orchestrated by Robert Ellis, Beau Bedford, and the incomparable Phil Cook, played songs from 1973. Yet another Muppet showed up, the legendary Floyd Pepper from the Electric Mayhem. To see Valerie June sing “Midnight Train to Georgia” with him was a burst of joy that was felt on stage and off. The virtuoso Billy Strings closed out the weekend, with his dexterous playing that merged both the old guard and the new of folk and bluegrass.

Madison Cunningham
Madison Cunningham

Newport Folk is a weekend that simply has to be experienced, and those that have gone go time and time again. Few other musical experiences can say that you’ll buy a ticket before you know a single artist—and you’ll never be disappointed. The countdown to July 2024 begins now.

Billy Strings
Billy Strings
Abraham Alexander
Abraham Alexander
Mdou Moctar
Mdou Moctar




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