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Published: 2009/08/04

Pete Seeger, Fleet Foxes, The Decemberists, Joan Baez and Elvis Perkins Highlight Folk Fest 50

Newport, RIs world famous Folk Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary this past weekend at Fort Adams Park. Dubbed Folk Festival 50, the two-day event brought founder George Weins vision into the 21st century, mixing performances by roots heroes Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Judy Collins and Joan Baez with newer, folk-inspired acts like the Decemberists, Fleet Foxes Elivs Perkins. Both Saturday and Sundays festivities also featured performances by musicians who worked back stage the prior year: The Low Anthem’s Ben Miller Knox worked with the backstage recycling crew, and Deer Tick guitarist Andrew Tobiassen served as an usher backstage checking passes in the VIP tent

As expected, a number of musicians looked back throughout Saturdays performances. Billy Bragg performed some of the Woody Guthrie songs he recorded with Wilco for the Mermaid Avenue sessions like Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key, Tom Morello had audience alternately singing and jumping along to ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and Gillian Welch stated she was having a psychotropic experience due to sleep deprivation and lack of contacts or glasses and performed Jefferson Airplanes ‘White Rabbit’ with David Rawlings (who was dressed in denim rather than his usual suit). In addition, The Decemberist Family Players interpreted the famed Dylan Goes Electric Incident from Newport 1965 with guitarist Chris Funk playing the part of Seeger, drummer John Moen as producer Joe Boyd and guest vocalist Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) taking over for BobDylan.
Mavis Staple nodded to her Last Waltz collaboration by covering ‘The Weight’complete with a story that retold her experience meeting Dr. Martin Luther King in his church which inspired her father Pops Staples. The members of the Fleet Foxes and Iron & Wines Sam Beam were among the musicians spotted watching the singer sidestage, while Morello could be seen watching Iron & Wine in the wings. Bringing the festivals vision into the future, Avett Brothers performed some of material from its pop-leaning, piano-heavy forthcoming Rick Rubin produced disc during its set.
Pete Seeger and his grandson/collaborator Tao also got into the festive spirit, bringing out Welch, Rawlings, The Decemberists, Fleet Foxes, Ramblin Jack Elliott and Ben Kweller for sing-a-longs during their set.
Sundays shows also featured a number of notable moments. The Campbell Brothers,
Arlo Guthrie and Elvis Perkins in Dearland were among the days afternoon highlights. The latter group also brought out members of Tim Eriksen & Shape Note Singerswho preceded them on Harbor Stagefor Four Strong Winds Joan Baez, who appeared at the inaugural Newport Folk, also revisited the festivals history by covering some Dylan songs, including notable takes on ‘Forever Young’ and Dont Think Twice, Its All Right. She also joined Judy Collins for her own ‘Diamonds and Rust. ‘

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