As a boy, folk singer Loudon Wainwright III used to thumb rides from his home
in Chapel Hill, N.C., to get to the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, R.I., and see
folk giants such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez perform.
This year, young folk-music fans throughout the country won't have to hitchhike
to Rhode Island to see artists such as this year's slate of Baez, Lyle Lovett,
Lucinda Williams, Nanci Griffith, David Bromberg and Wainwright play on the
same stage. For the first time, the 40-year-old folk festival will go on the road for
13 dates, beginning with a July 30 gig in Atlanta and ending on Sept. 20 in Los
"I'm happy to be a part of it certainly," said Wainwright, 51. "I have pleasant and
longtime associations with the festival. I used to hitchhike to Newport for the
festival in the early '60s ... me and my Martin D-28 [guitar] would head up
Nat Farnham, booking agent for this year's Newport Folk Festival, said the
decision to take the folk concert on tour was partially based on a desire to
expand the vision of festival co-founder George Wein.
"The festival business was really created by George Wein and Bob Jones," said
Farnham, who also books dates for the Lilith Fair. "These guys took Miles
[Davis], [John] Coltrane and [Thelonious] Monk to Newport in the '50s [as part of
the Newport Jazz Festival], and they sat around backstage in 1965 [at the folk
festival] when Bob Dylan turned up his collar and plugged in. I got my start 10
years ago as a greasy stagehand at the Newport Folk Festival."
As for producing the festival's first tour, "I wanted to create something to put my
own imprint on," Farnham said.
The Newport Folk Festival began in 1958. Over the years, an eclectic array of
artists such as bluegrass legend Bill Monroe, blues-guitar giant B.B. King, folk-
rockers Buffalo Springfield and the Jim Kewskin Jug Band performed at
Newport, and festival-goers have witnessed historic events such as folk-rock
pioneer Dylan going electric.
Despite his long history as both a fan and a performer at Newport, Wainwright
declined to wax nostalgic about his experience playing a previous festival. "It's
a gig. I did it once. I don't know if there were any legends around," Wainwright
said. "It rained like cats and dogs, and everyone was worried about people
getting electrocuted onstage."
In addition to the tour, the festival will have its usual three dates in Newport on
Aug. 7-9. Artists slated to perform at this year's festival include the Violent
Femmes, Marc Cohn, Bela Fleck, Alison Krauss, Rodney Crowell and
BeauSoleil, as well as the aforementioned Lovett, Baez, Williams, Griffith,
Bromberg and Wainwright.
Newport Folk Festival Tour Dates:
July 30; Atlanta, Ga., Lakewood Amphitheatre
Aug. 1; Philadelphia, Pa., Entertainment Centre
Aug. 2; Wantagh, N.Y., Jones Beach
Aug. 9; Saratoga Springs, N.Y., SPAC
Aug. 14; Charlotte, N.C., Blockbuster Pavilion
Aug. 15; Raleigh, N.C., Walnut Creek
Aug. 16; Columbia, Md., Merriweather Post
Aug. 20; Indianapolis, Ind., Deer Creek
Aug. 21; Chicago, Ill., The World Music Theatre
Aug. 22; Detroit, Mich., Pine Knob Music Theatre
Aug. 23; Pittsburgh, Pa., Star Lake
Sept. 19; Concord, Calif., Concord Pavilion
Sept. 20; Los Angeles, Calif., The Greek Theatre