Goodbye Newport. I’m very sorry but I will not be attending this year.
The Newport Folk Festival has been one of my favorite summer events for many years. It’s one of the best music festivals on the East Coast: the venue is amazing, with its stage looking out past the vast audience onto the surrounding bay; its fans are well behaved and attentive (Colin Meloy of the Decemberists called Newport “the most attentive festival crowd” they’ve ever played for); the selection of acts – a unique mix of old and new “folk” artists – is top-notch; and let’s not leave out the festival’s musically historic significance (i.e. Dylan going electric).
But I will not be attending this summer.
Festival organizers this year decided to try something new with selling tickets and revealing the event’s lineup.
For the past couple years at least, the festival held a nightime gathering at a club in Cambridge, Mass., to announce the lineup, and then tickets went on sale the next day. So if you attended the event or woke up the next day and checked online, you could see each of the two day’s lineups and pick which day you wanted to attend based on who was playing.
This year, tickets went on sale even before the lineup was announced. And as of this writing, all the artists still haven’t been revealed – or which day they will be playing.
All of this is fine… for the festival because it has become so popular that fans are willing to buy tickets without even knowing who is playing. It has become so popular, that the festival has added a third day and nearly sold out all three days.
I’m not going to sit here and complain that the Newport Festival has gotten too popular (though they do seem to be outgrowing the lovely grounds of Fort Adams State Park). Good for them. There were a lot of barren years, and they never shut the festival down. And I, for one, love that they bring in new acts that aren’t quite folk – some that adhere to tradition and strip down their sound, and others that don’t.
But for me, I generally cannot afford the time or money to attend both days, and liked that I could look over the lineups and choose which day I wanted to go to. Sometimes the decisions were tough: two years ago I struggled with choosing the Saturday show featuring the Decemberists and Gillian Welch, knowing I’d be missing David Wax Museum, Middle Brother, Emmylou Harris, and the big Pete Seeger celebration the next day.
I cannot spend $50 per ticket (plus fee, plus an extra $12 for parking) without knowing whom I’m seeing. I just can’t do it. I’m happy for Newport that so many people are willing to, but even as much fun as the festival is, I won’t do it.
As with all festivals, the weather itself is enough of a crapshoot as to whether the experience is fun. I don’t need Newport officials making it a bigger gamble with their new ticket and lineup plan. So have fun, Newport Folk Festival fans. I hope you get to see your favorite acts, no matter which day you attend… or better yet, just stay for the entire weekend which, if you can afford it, is apparently the way to go.
Reprinted from the Modern Acoustic blog