Festival Heartstrings Interview

Newport Folk Family 2015

For some, the final weekend in July is just like any other mid-summer weekend. For 10,000+ however, this weekend means so much more. I remember my first Newport Folk Festival. I left Fort Adams that weekend with a sense of certainty of purpose (which is hard to come by in a young adult’s life). It’s impossible to know what the future holds, but what I immediately knew then, was where I planned to be every last weekend of every July in the years to come, for as long as is humanly possible. Newport Folk Festival is the genesis, the very Alpha and Omega of all music festivals. It embodies, embraces and exudes community, talent, pride, nurture, wonder, history and, yes, purpose.

Everywhere you turn, an unprecedented moment and milestone is occurring. While standing on the pathway just behind the Fort Stage crowd during Lord Huron’s midday performance, you might notice another crowd forming in the Late July tent where Elephant Revival is paying (and playing) a surprise visit. And, you know that something monumental is simultaneously happening inside the Museum, on the Harbor Stage, on the Quad Stage and at the Squarespace headquarters inside Fort Adams itself. And if it isn’t your first time at the festival, you know that the Newport team is creating more undisclosed magical moments inside the Fort walls and ruins that many won’t get to see or hear, until they’re released in photographs or on video post-festival. One such moment occurred this year during an interview with Jason Isbell when the NFF team presented him with an incredible surprise — an eagerly accepted offer to play Bob Dylan’s infamous Stratocaster electric guitar that graced the NFF stage to much controversy in 1965.

Simply stated, NFF is a paradise for both the musician and the music-lover. Some retreat to tropical islands, others let loose in Vegas. But for me and thousands of others who have discovered the certainty of purpose and community, NFF is our paradise and our rejuvenation, every July, for as long as is humanly possible.

Here are excerpts of conversations we had with our old and new-found friends at NFF 2015:

Julie Rhodes

What brings you to Newport?

Everything. Mostly the community, the collaborations and the energy. I guess the music too (laughs).


Julie Rhodes, Newport Folk Festival 2015 Photo: Lauren Jahoda

Amber Langanke

How does it feel to see your boyfriend (Will Houlihan, Haunt the House) up on stage?

Ethereal. The work is finally paying off and he’s getting the recognition he deserves.


Amber Langanke in the crowd at the Harbor Stage as Haunt the House performed. Photo: Lauren Jahoda

Danny Roaman, Amber Langanke, Julie Rhodes

If you could choose three words to describe Newport, what would they be?

Danny: Americana.

Julie: Community.

Amber: Fantastical.


Danny Roaman, Julie Rhodes, Amber Langanke, Newport Folk Festival 2015. Photo: Lauren Jahoda

Zach Williams (The Lone Bellow)

Who are you excited to see play this weekend?

Leon Bridges, Roger Waters, there’s a secret band that’s like my favorite band of all time (My Morning Jacket).

What attracts you most to Newport?

The vibe. The people who put it on.

If you could choose three words to describe Newport, what would they be?

Kind, brave, visionary.


Dom Flemons (Music Maker Relief Fund, Carolina Chocolate Drops)

The American Songster. The Newport Folk Festival has been a part of musical development since I was about 16 or 17. The first time I showed up at the festival, we had just finished our set as the Chocolate Drops and I met Bob Jones. He came up to me and told me this story about how he told me a great story about how he and Ralph Rinzler tried to find a black string band in early 1963 and they couldn’t find one but he said Ralph Rinzler would be turning over his grave knowing that Bob found a black string band to put on the Newport stage. And he also put me in touch with a great filmmaker Murray Lerner, who filmed the festival in the 60s. After meeting with Bob, I lived in NY for several years and called Murray. I told him I would help him with any of the footage I could. So after I got finished touring with the Drops, for the next two and a half years, I recorded and put the names to all the people who performed at the festival in the films, so I watched all the silent footage and put names on it.


Dom Flemons outside the Museum, Newport Folk Festival 2015. Photo: Lauren Jahoda

Ryan, from Del’s Lemonade

Who are you most excited to see?

On Sunday, Hozier is playing, so I’m pretty pumped. I’m hoping I’ll be outside the Fort for that. I move from different stations.

Newport in 3 words…

Beautiful, hot and sticky (laughs).


Ryan, Del’s Lemonade, Newport Folk Festival 2015. Photo: Lauren Jahoda

Bridget Law (Elephant Revival)

What was your absolute favorite moment of the weekend?

After the Langhorne Slim State of the Union after show, a few of us gathered in the stairwell to jam with David Rawlings. We are all giant Gillian and David fans so this was really special to get to share a jam with him!


Elephant Revival in the Late July tent, Newport Folk Festival 2015.

Leave a Comment