Jim James, Kermit the Frog, Trey Anastasio, Hozier, Mavis Staples, Judy Collins, Robin Pecknold and More Help Close Out Newport Folk 2019 with All-Star Set
all photos by Dean Budnick and Caroline Budnick
Newport Folk Festival wrapped up its 60th anniversary celebration on Sunday with another collaborative day of music, culminating in a star-studded “If I Had a Song” set of classic folk tunes featuring a parade of musicians from throughout the weekend’s lineup, along with some unexpected appearances.
Collaborations that took place earlier in the day included Brandi Carlile sitting in with Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who in turn joined The Infamous Stringdusters for a tease of the Grateful Dead’s “Terrapin Station” and more; Annie Nero with Bonny Light Horseman (a new supergroup that features guitarist and Nero’s husband Josh Kaufman, along with Fruit Bats’ Eric D. Johnson and singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell); Dawes backing up J.S. Ondara; Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle teaming up for a set that included a cover of Cher’s “Believe”; and Hozier hosting a set that included guest spots from Carlile (on her own tune “The Joke) and Mavis Staples (on their studio collaboration “Nina Cried Power”).
Trey Anastasio also made his return to Fort Adams, playing his second solo acoustic set at Newport Folk and first since 2008. The Phish frontman ran through staples like opener “Sample in a Jar,” “Blaze On” and “Farmhouse” and newer tunes like “Set Your Soul Free” and “Rise/Come Together.” Anastasio also offered just his second live take on “Snowflakes in the Sand” since his acoustic/electric TAB tour in 1999 when the song was debuted.
The highlight of Sunday’s Newport Folk finale came with the closing If I Had a Song set, which honored the history of the iconic festival—and, specifically, the late, legendary folk hero Pete Seeger, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday earlier this year—with a series of collaborations, most of which were backed by a house band of Decemberists guitarist Chris Funk, Wilco bassist John Stirratt, former Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench and former Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss.
The set kicked off with a surprise appearance from Kermit the Frog, who led the way on his own hit, “Rainbow Connection,” with a string section and welcomed out My Morning Jacket frontman and Newport Folk regular Jim James to help out on vocals. Next up was Tench taking lead vocals on Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” which also included Dawes guitarist Taylor Goldsmith, followed by Anastasio providing vocals (but no guitar) to The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” featuring Lake Street Dive’s Rachael Price. Price would stick around for the gospel/protest standard “We Shall Overcome” with Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which preceded a cover of Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer” featuring Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra, Carlile and Pres Hall.
The set continued with another Seeger tune, “If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus,” led by recently formed supergroup Native Daughters (Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla and Allison Russell). Lake Street Dive then came on stage for Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People” with help from Hozier, followed by Portugal. the Man offering their take on The Kinks’ “Strangers.” Hozier and Staples returned to the stage, along with guitarist Jason Isbell, Pres Hall, Native Daughters and brothers Phil and Brad Cook, for the Civil Rights Movement standard “Keep your Eyes on the Prize,” before Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold made a surprise showing for a cover of John Lennon’s “Instant Karma” with Pres Hall.
In possibly the climax moment of the all-star set, a group dubbed The New New New Newport Singers came out to collaborate on Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” The group comprised Pecknold, Johnson, The Shins’ frontman James Mercer and iconic singer-songwriter and activist Judy Collins (for whom the CSN song is titled and who had a hand in the booking of Newport Folk in its earlier days), plus Isbell on guitar. Collins, who also performed at Fort Adams’ museum stage earlier in the day, covering Dylan’s “Masters of War” and more, stuck around for a take on The Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn” (written by Seeger) along with Pecknold. Next up was Woody Guthrie’s folk classic “This Land is Your Land,” presented by The Milk Carton Kids and Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy, before octogenarian folk singer Ramblin’ Jack led much of the If I Had a Song participants in the festival-closing “Goodnight Irene.”
Below, check out some more photos and fan-shot videos from the final day of Newport Folk Festival 2019.
Newport Folk Festival – Newport, RI
Sample in a Jar, Blaze On, Brian and Robert, The Inlaw Josie Wales, Set Your Soul Free, Back on the Train, Farmhouse, Rise/Come Together, Shade, Summer of ’89, Sand, Snowflakes in the Sand, Steam, More*
Notes: * Originally played in the wrong key and eventually aborted and restarted in the correct key.