Photos by Dean Budnick
The 2023 edition of the Newport Folk Festival concluded yesterday, Sunday, July 30, marking a significant milestone for the Newport Festivals Foundation, which had recently revised its mission to focus on “creating moments of hope through the power of music and community.” Throughout its history, the festival has been dedicated to bringing people together, a sentiment that resonated even more deeply this year.
The festival’s lineup on Sunday featured a diverse array of artists representing both traditional and contemporary styles. The performances ranged from bluegrass virtuoso Billy Strings to the headline-making pop icon Lana Del Rey. The latter delivered a strong, captivating set with the assistance of Jack Antonoff and Nikki Lane, resonating with her adoring fans – beyond her music, she also shared stories about her family’s connection to the Ocean State.
The festival’s commitment to diversity and inclusion was evident in the performances of Jupiter and Okwess, who brought infectious African rhythms to the stage. Meanwhile, the Black Opry Revue made a powerful statement, showcasing the immense talent of Black artists in modern country music, emphasizing that they have always been an integral part of the genre.
The lineup was filled with other notable highlights, including a stellar performance by 2023 Grammy award-winning artist Madison Cunningham at the Quad Stage and Dawn Landes delivering a powerful performance featuring songs from The Liberated Woman’s Songbook, traditional bluegrass tunes from The Earls of Leicester and hit songs from 1973 performed by the Folk Family Revue. Surprise moments, such as Deer Tick’s John McCauley singing “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and Valerie June’s duet with Floyd Pepper from Electric Mayhem on “Midnight Train to Georgia,” further added to the trademark collaborative essence of the gathering.
Another highlight of the day was seasoned festival veterans, Los Lobos, returning triumphantly to the festival for their 50th-anniversary tour, bringing along friends Neko Case, Nels Cline, and McCauley for a high-energy collaboration. Notably, during their set, they dished out the “Not Fade Away” > Grateful Dead’s “Bertha” > the traditional “La Bamba,” all with Cline.
The festival reached its climactic conclusion, with Strings taking the stage for the third time at Newport. The bluegrass icon delivered a phenomenal performance, showcasing his original compositions and impressive covers, paying homage to legends who have performed at the festival before him, like The Stanley Brothers and Doc Watson.
Photographer Dean Budnick captured the action below.