With the words “Happy New Year,” Newport Folk Festival Executive Director Jay Sweet kicked off “Folk On,” the 2021 version of the historic Festival. The event was downsized somewhat this year, with about half the normal capacity due to the pandemic. Still, the 5000 or so fans at Fort Adams made up the difference with their overwhelming enthusiasm for the music.

Sweet made a rare request of the opening band the Resistance Revival Chorus, who sang a powerful version of the Burt Bacharach-penned classic “What the World Needs Now.” The song set the mood for day, where the message was clear. Artists, fans, staff, media, and even security were just happy to be back at the Fort.

The musicians stepped up and won the day. Some were a bit rusty due to not playing live since March 2020, but mistakes were few and the show went on without losing a beat. In addition to the Resistance Revival performance, highlights from Day 1 at “Folk On” included an opening set from the Nashville via UK husband/wife duo Ida Mae. (Check back for our interview with the band later in the week.) The Marcus King Band rocked the house and indie singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus and her band were mesmerizing.

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears delivered a blistering performance from the Lawn Stage followed by Margo Price and husband Jeremy Ivey who put together an intimate set for a few thousand. At different points in her set, Price was joined by festival artists Andrew Bird, Adia Victoria and Shakey Graves.   

Unfortunately, thunderstorms interrupted the Festival at the beginning of Grace Potter’s set, and organizers were forced to halt her performance as well as that of highly anticipated closer Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. (Potter will return to try again Saturday at 11AM.)

Our photographer Rick Farrell was there to document the occasion. Check out his photos below.

Popular Stories Right Now

Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music and more for What'sUpNewp, Providence Monthly, SO RI, and The Bay. He DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse" Tuesday nights, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM.