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Folk Fest: By Land or By Sea - Volume 1

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

There are many special events in Newport but none seem to transform the city like Newport Folk Festival. Whether your working the event, in the area, or attending by land or by sea- it's hard to not get caught up in the excitement around town. Leading up to the big weekend, we will be releasing a three part festival guide!

Newport Daffodils in full bloom at the Cliff Walk

Concert and good time enthusiasts from near and far will flock to Fort Adams this weekend. For the highlight of the summer, in the best city, and at best folk festival there is. Newport Folk Festival (NFF) has it all. Located at a beautiful historic fort that’s hugged by Newport harbor on three sides, NFF is jam packed with 5 stages, 70+ performances, and no shortage of great vibes. This explains why tickets sold out in less than an hour when tickets sales opened on December 4th and the current waitlist is over 600 hopefuls. The best part? The lineup hadn’t even been announced yet!

Passing the Torch: Connecting New and Old

A Sweet Chance: Behind the Scenes with artist Chance Emerson

On Your Toes: Special Guest Sightings


Passing the Torch: Connecting New and Old

Folk Fest, an event steeped in tradition and musical heritage, has been known for creating extraordinary connections between legendary talents from different eras. Throughout its history, the festival has showcased unforgettable "passing the torch" moments, where seasoned musicians come together to collaborate with rising stars, creating magical performances that seem to transcend time.

One of the most iconic moments in Folk Fest's history occurred in 1967 when the renowned singer-songwriter Judy Collins introduced a young and promising Joni Mitchell to the world. This introduction marked a pivotal moment in Joni Mitchell's career, propelling her towards becoming one of the most influential folk musicians of all time. Decades later, in 2022, the festival came full circle when Joni Mitchell, now a revered legend at the age of 78, returned to the stage to share a heartfelt and memorable performance with the talented Brandi Carlisle during the Sunday finale. This touching reunion bridged generations of music lovers, demonstrating the enduring power of folk music to connect people across time.

In recent years, Folk Fest has continued to delight audiences with more "passing the torch" moments, solidifying its reputation as a platform for timeless collaborations. Also in 2022, a surprise guest appearance by the legendary Paul Simon took the stage with the acclaimed Nathaniel Rateliff.

Together, they closed Saturday's show with an unforgettable performance, harmonizing their distinct styles and creating an unforgettable musical experience.

The tradition of bringing together seasoned icons and emerging talents continued in 2019 when two exceptional musicians, Sheryl Crow and Maren Morris, joined forces to perform the hit song "If It Makes You Happy." The harmonious blend of their voices and the merging of their musical talents left a lasting impression on the audience, showcasing the continuity of meaningful connections within the folk music community.

A Sweet Chance: Behind the Scenes with artist Chance Emerson

Jay Sweet, the executive producer of the festival, has a unique talent of identifying rising stars before they are well known to the public. You can have Roger Waters playing on the main stage while the next folk great is playing on the smaller Bike & Foundation stages.

One of these emerging talents was on the list of 600 ticket waitlist hopefuls until Jay extended an invite to perform early last month. Chance Emerson (@Chance.s.emerson) the self proclaimed “half-Asian singing cowboy” still has his senior year to finish at Brown University but is already selling out shows and catching music lovers attention with his gifted songwriting and tunes which will get stuck in your head. Chance recently dropped his second album, Ginkgo, on May 5th (you would think he would be focusing on finals). Chance was nice enough to answer a few questions for us leading up to his performance:

Q: Have you ever attended as a guest before?

  • Chance: Yes! Newport Folk Festival was the first music festival I ever attended in the US in 2019. I was in awe of all the talented musicians and in particular remember being so inspired by the performances of Madison Cunningham, Angie McMahon, and Hozier. I went to the festival again last year with my friend Dave Sarazen, who also happens to be playing this year with his band Laden Valley, and I was actually on the waitlist for tickets this year until I found out I was playing a set.

Q: How did you find out that you were selected to perform at Folk Fest?

  • Chance: I was on my way down from a hike in early June when I got a call from my team letting me know. Newport Folk Festival has been one of my biggest longstanding goals since I first attended the festival and decided to pursue my music career in 2019, so it was absolutely crazy to hear the news. I was, and am still overjoyed.

Q: Are there any fellow artists you are hoping to meet?

  • Chance: I’m not kidding at all or trying to dodge the question when I say I’m excited to meet all the performers at Newport Folk Festival. It’s such a phenomenal group of artists that I feel so lucky to be a part of and I can’t wait to make some new friends.

Q: What artists have you been influenced by the most?

  • Chance: While finding my voice as a singer-songwriter, I listened to a lot of Theo Katzman, Matt Corby and Noah And The Whale. More recently, Marcus Mumford, Madison Cunningham, Noah Kahan and Olivia Dean have been on repeat for me.

Q: Attending Brown, performing for Narragansett Beer and now performing at Folk Fest....would you consider yourself a Rhode Islander?

  • Chance: Yes, but only as long as the true Rhode Islanders are OK with that! I grew up between Hong Kong and Taiwan, but I’m on the verge of having lived just as long here in the States as I lived there growing up. My grandparents lived in Providence a while back so my Dad actually grew up close by too, so I feel like with all that combined... I might be able to claim that I’m a Rhode Islander?

Please look for Chance on the schedule for the Foundation & Bike Stages. To check out Chance’s music and tour schedule, follow @chance.s.emerson on Instagram or on Spotify

On Your Toes: Special Guest Sightings

Folk Fest has gained a reputation for its thrilling surprise guest appearances, and each year, attendees eagerly anticipate the possibility of witnessing a musical legend take the stage. Among the most rumored sightings is the elusive Bob Dylan, whose presence seems to be whispered around town in the days leading up to the festival. While Dylan's appearances remain a mystery, the festival has not disappointed its audience with the surprises it has unveiled in previous years.

In 2015, the crowd was in awe when the iconic singer-songwriter James Taylor made a surprise appearance, delivering a soulful and heartfelt performance that left everyone mesmerized. His timeless songs resonated with both longtime fans and younger generations, emphasizing the universality of folk music's appeal.

The following year, in 2016, the surprise guest turned out to be none other than Kris Kristofferson, a legendary figure in the world of folk and country music. What made this moment even more special was the fact that Kristofferson had previously performed at Folk Fest alongside Johnny Cash back in 1969. This nostalgic and poignant connection to the festival's history added an extra layer of significance to his appearance.

One of the most iconic moments in Folk Fest's history occurred in 2019 when the beloved Dolly Parton made a surprise appearance. Her radiant presence and timeless hits charmed the crowd, making it a truly magical and unforgettable night.

As the years go by, Folk Fest continues to delight and astonish its audience with surprise guests, cementing its status as a premier event that celebrates the rich tapestry of folk music and its ability to bridge generations and musical eras. With each passing year, the excitement and anticipation grow, as attendees eagerly wait to discover which iconic artist will grace the stage next, leaving an indelible mark on Folk Fest's storied history.

Be on the lookout for Volume 2 of our Folk Fest guide. See you tomorrow!


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