Today, JamBase partner Osiris Media launched the second season of the Festival Circuit podcast. Festival Circuit’s Season Two focuses on the long and storied history of the beloved Newport Folk Festival.
Carmel Holt serves as host with a number of the fans, artists, organizers and staff who helped build the festival contributing interviews. This season will document the highs and lows of the Newport Folk Festival and explains how a beautiful community formed around the event.
The first episode of the season, “Hope And Sunscreen,” starts with Newport Folk “gatekeeper” and local Veteran Nurse Mary Ann Crook detailing her role at the festival as well as why the event is so important to her. Other staffers including Alison Pangakis and Art Jenkins describe the festival’s beautiful home, Fort Adams State Park and the effort that goes into presenting Newport Folk each year.
An exploration of Newport Folk’s Museum Stage follows featuring input from staffers Pete Caigan and Pete Hanlon. The pair explain how the stage’s open-mic sessions include a mix of up-and-coming artists such as Madison Cunningham and icons like Judy Collins. Next, The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy talks about his history with Newport Folk before the festival’s executive producer, Jay Sweet tells the tale of Pete Seeger sneaking away to watch The Decemberists perform.
Interviews with Sweet and Newport Folk founder George Wein are featured throughout the series, including in the first two episodes. “Hope And Sunscreen” also includes Newport lineup staples Brittany Howard, Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Deer Tick’s John McCauley sharing Newport Folk memories, while Newport resident and photographer Brian Lima recalls the development of the festival over the years. McCauley reveals how Deer Tick’s late night performances in Newport became a tradition.
The second episode of the season, “It Became A Utopia” digs into the roots of Newport Folk. George Wein guides listeners through the early days of the event, passing the torch to Jay Sweet and many additional topics. Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s Ben Jaffe explains how his father worked with Wein to launch the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. “When I think about the beginning of Newport and I think about how it coincided with my parents just coming out of college and being in Philadelphia on the East Coast and there was this New Orleans music jazz revival happening on the East Coast and West Coast,” Jaffe notes. “There was also the influence of Pete Seeger and The Weavers that was a big part of my parents’ identity. Inside of all of this was this thing Newport that was happening. It was recognizing a community of musicians and a community of artist and a style of music and really a way of life. A lot of things were being created all at once. Just the idea of a music festival alone!”
Wein recalls the anti-semitism he dealt with while serving in the military before discussing the Newport Jazz Festival. George shares he went to Pete Seeger to help run Newport Folk, a relationship that lasted until the famed folk artist’s passing. Next, one-time board member Judy Collins speaks about getting the event to welcome new artists such as Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell before they became household names.
While Newport Folk stopped being held for a 16-year period, the event returned in 1985. Last year marked the first year the festival didn’t take place since. Jim James, Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray and Emily Sailers and Margo Price are among the musicians who discuss their experiences at Newport Folk in the season’s second episode. Additionally, Lucius’ Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig tell the tale of how Sweet recruited them to perform with Roger Waters and My Morning Jacket at the 2015 festival, which led to the pair joining Waters’ band full-time. Other topics hit upon are George Wein’s early memories of Jay Sweet, gaining and losing Dunkin’ Donuts as a sponsor and the formation of the Newport Festival Foundation charitable organization.
Stream the first two episodes of Festival Circuit’s second season below: