Newport Folk Fest Treks Across America

Historic folk-music gathering schedules 13 dates away from Rhode Island base.

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

Angeles.

"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

[highway] I-95."

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