Newport Folk Fest has a history of perfectly curating its weirdness. The weekend is always punctuated with truly unique, unexpected acts, and they’re often the ones we remember the most. We’ve been entranced by world acts like Bombino, awed by the DIY polyrhythms of tUnE-yArDs, and kinda terrified by Reignwolf’s primal shredding. Below are a few acts likely to join these rare ranks at Newport Folk this year.
Raury on Friday July 22
On Twitter, Raury identifies himself as “coconut oil papi ☯.” Please take a moment with that. We are working with a quintessential bb of the internet here, and them youngsters are all about embracing their strange. The twenty-year-old’s two albums pull from a grab bag of genres, ranging from rap to trap to soul to folk, naturally. This chaotic blend of influences mixed with Raury’s self-assured star power guarantees an unmissable set. Based on Raury’s prior shows, prepare for: crowdsurfing, his pausing the show for ten minutes to hand out free vinyl, social justice rants, and just maybe a cameo from collaborator and NFF alum, Tom Morello.
Basia Bulat on Friday July 22
Basia Bulat’s instrument of choice has long been the autoharp, which is definitely up there in terms of indie cred (especially ever since the ukulele jumped the shark). But on her latest album, Good Advice, she dresses up her harp and other folksy sensibilities with a new experimental energy and sound. Bulat’s latest now sports resonant drums and electro-pop synths, providing a startling freshness that had me quickly committed to stopping by her set. Let it not be a surprise that the otherworldly yet precise production on Good Advice was helmed by none other than Jim James of My Morning Jacket, which gives us all the more reason to A. listen to her new tunes B. plan for some magical guest appearances on stage.
Father John Misty on Saturday July 23
I’d give FJM the freak folk crown right now if I had to declare its fearless leader. Father John Misty a.k.a. Josh Tillman has already blessed us with a set at Newport in 2013, which was charged and awkward and beautiful and featured much mom dancing. Since then, Tillman has only doubled down on his flamboyant troubadour stage act, one that won’t fit in at the Fort as much as it will stand out. Tillman is billed to perform solo this year, which has me both curious and wary (were we not promised a mariachi band?), but given his reputation as one of today’s best songwriters and biggest liabilities, I’ll be there to witness his singular presence, no questions asked.
There are many exciting, unusual acts to look forward to at the Fort this year. Your time is precious, so I only wrote about three. Who did I miss? Let us know in the comments.