It’s mid-July, which means Newport is going to be full of live music for the next two weekends. The famous Newport Folk Festival returns to Fort Adams State Park July 22-24, and this year’s edition might be the most unusual yet. Purists may be puzzled, if not a little confused, but for music fans, the lineup is incredibly stacked.
This year’s artists have a wide range, with singer-songwriters, indie and soul artists, folk rock bands and even a legendary hip-hop group and a trio of fuzz-rock pioneers. Here are five good acts to choose from.
And check back next week, when we present five must-see performances at the Newport Jazz Festival, Fort Adams July 29-31.
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Friday July 22, 12:40 p.m., Fort Stage
Banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck is one of the most important bluegrass musicians today, considered an innovator and pioneer with his instrument of choice. He will perform with the band behind his latest album, “My Bluegrass Heart,” which features fellow bluegrass savants Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas. If his performance resembles what I saw when he and his band took the stage at last year’s FreshGrass Festival in North Adams, Massachusetts, then it will be something special.
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Friday, July 22, 4:45 p.m., Fort Stage
Ever since I first heard “Elevator Operator” on his 2015 debut album, “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Sit”, I’ve been a huge fan of Barnett’s music. She has that modern indie rock feel, while her lyrics have a knack for telling stories and exuding an intelligent wit. It will be interesting to see what she does when she performs in Newport, but it will certainly be high quality and very entertaining.
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Friday July 22, 2:45 p.m., Quad Stage
When Amherst’s alternative rock shredders were announced for Newport Folk earlier this year, it caused a stir. It’s understandable, because for anyone who’s listened to Dinosaur Jr., especially those who’ve seen them live, the terms folk and acoustic are the last words you’d use to describe their sound. That being said, guitarist/vocalist J Mascis and bassist/vocalist Lou Barlow have experience dropping songs, so it will be interesting to see what they do at the festival.
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Saturday July 23, 4:20 p.m., Quad Stage
It’s fitting to consider the indie pop band from Los Angeles via Brooklyn a staple of Newport Folk at this point, and there’s a good reason for that. Just watch videos of their past performances, as well as their live collaborations with the likes of Brandi Carlisle and more, and you’ll know why Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig keep coming back. Lucius’ latest disco-tinged album, “Second Nature,” was released in April, so expect them to perform a few songs from it. Also get ready for their “Saturday Night Fever” afterparty at the Newport Blues Café, 286 Thames St.
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Sunday July 24, 4 p.m., Fort Stage
Hip-hop bands perform at the Newport Jazz Festival, but it’s not every day that they’re on the Newport Folk schedule. So it will be refreshing to see The Roots perform on the final day of this year’s festival. For anyone who hasn’t seen these Philadelphia dynamos live, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson bring the party vibe when they take to the stage. Black Thought has been working on a record with brilliant producer Danger Mouse, titled “Cheat Codes,” which is due out next month, so it’s possible the band will perform a few songs from that album.
For more information on the Newport Folk Festival, visit newportfolk.org.