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Newport Folk Festival
August 46, 2000
The Newport Folk Festival, held at the historic Fort Adams State Park in Rhode Island, was first held in 1959 and has remained at the forefront of the musical world ever since. Mary Gauthier, a first time performer at Newport this year said, "It's the dream of the dream come true. This is the place you want to play. This is it."
With the old fort as the backdrop to the stage and boats in the harbor, it is a prime spot for a concert; however, the two-day festival saw a substantial drop in attendance from previous years. About 6,000 attended on Saturday, with slightly higher numbers on Sunday.
After a week of rain, Saturday's show opened under sunny skies. Although there was an eclectic mix of music, the overall feeling of the day was definitely Texas. Slaid Cleaves opened the festival on the main Fort Stage and was followed by Ray Wylie Hubbard, Stacey Earle and the Jewels, and Guy Clark. There was a minor scheduling change when Bela Fleck and the Flecktones switched slots with String Cheese Incident who got stuck in traffic on their way to the festival. Fleck's band absolutely mesmerized the crowd with their jazz-bluegrass rifts. The crowd was totally enraptured when bass player, Victor Wooten's two-year-old daughter, Kaila, bounded out on stage and danced up a storm.
Saturday's side stage (Border's Stage), housed under a tented roof this year, offered a more intimate setting for music. The Peter Keane Trio, Terri Hendrix and Slaid Cleaves all played to enthusiastic crowds. Bob Neuwirth, Peter Keane, John Gorka and Kerry Grombacher shared in a round-robin song swap session and Melissa Ferrick delighted many with her gutsy staccato voice.
The Fort Stage headliners, Shawn Colvin and legendary country singer, Willie Nelson brought the day to an end. Colvin's performance seemed to lack the passion she is known for. Nelson performed a familiar set, opening and closing with "Whiskey River." He played an extra long set, unfortunately, many people must have had their fill of Texas twang, as there was a steady flow of people exiting during Nelson's set.
Sunday's concert saw a return to more tradition Newport fare. Carrie Newcomer, opened the day on the Fort Stage, followed by Mary Gauthier with her songs that can shake the social lassitude out of anyone (except perhaps Republicans). She says, "I'm going to do the best I can to do what Woody Guthrie did. Disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed, that's my goal."
Besides Gauthier's compelling performance, the highlights of the day belonged to Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, who got the crowd up and moving with their Southern Louisiana Cajun beat, Natalie MacMaster, the amazing Cape Breton fiddler, and Mary Chapin Carpenter, who delighted the crowd. Natalie Merchant, who seemed to come on stage with an attitude, mellowed out and brought the concert to a close. As the last of Merchant's notes faded away, a passing shower dampened the crowds' clothes, but not their spirits, as they made their way home. Sara Barss
Go to Newport 2000 Photo Gallery!