Newport – A Folk Festival in Name Only

Looking at this year’s lineup, you begin to wonder whether it might have been better if Pete Seeger had gotten his hands on an axe back in ’65. This is a folk festival in name only. There’s a Six Degrees of Separation quality to headliner Black Crowes – “well, Jimmy Page played with them, and he was in Led Zeppelin with Robert Plant, who’s touring with Alison Krausse” – but Newport ain’t Bonarroo, so what is a derivative blues band doing topping the bill?

Sunday, Jimmy Buffett takes a break from gouging yuppies to do a stripped-down set, which is promising in a fish out of water way. Speaking of fish, or Phish, to be precise, Trey Anastasio alone on stage should be worth a look.

OK, it was probably time for a change from the endless years of the Indigo Girls. But the full-tilt Gilded Age aspect of this so-called “Folk Festival” is truly irksome. Is it appropriate to lob grapes and other fresh produce at the nouveau riche who shell out $500 for a chair on prime lawn space? That’s the going rate for VIP seating, which will eclipse half the main seating area.

In a world where scalpers have billboards, this is standard operating procedure. I suppose next year’s headliners will be the Eagles and an unplugged version of Aerosmith.

Just don’t call it the Newport Folk Festival.