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NPR Arts & Life

What We Saw At Newport Folk 2017

Two audience members dance during Wilco's set at the 2017 Newport Folk Festival.

Moments of unexpected magic are the Newport Folk Festival's calling card. The festival typically sells out well before its lineup is even announced — but the official lineup is more of a rough guideline, anyway, since the weekend is peppered every year with surprise performances and collaborations.

An unannounced slot at the smallest of Newport's main stages turned out to belong to Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, who played some new music with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and finished out their set by parading, second-line style, through the enormous crowd that had assembled.

Hiss Golden Messenger's M.C. Taylor assembled a few friends — including Justin Vernon, Phil Cook and Natalie Prass — to perform a tribute to Bill Withers' music.

And master songwriter John Prine, who played Sunday evening's last set, brought out Vernon, Rateliff, Jim James, Margo Price and Roger Waters, before a stageful of the weekend's performers gathered to sing "Paradise."

Newport's most dedicated festivalgoers, affectionately known as the Folk, know to expect surprises like this; they're what have made Newport Folk Festival one of the country's most unique and beloved music festivals for almost 60 years.

NPR Music's photographer Adam Kissick is ready for those surprises, too. He spent the weekend chasing them down, traversing the festival grounds at Fort Adams State Park many times over. (We asked him to check his step counter at the end of one day's work: eight miles.) Below, find some of what we saw at this year's festival. For some of what we heard, check back over the coming days as we continue to post audio from selected sets.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The gates are open — no running!
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
The gates are open — no running!

Roger Waters and John Prine.
/ Adam Kissick for NP
Roger Waters and John Prine.

Nancy And Beth (and Shakey Graves, and Nick Offerman).
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
Nancy And Beth (and Shakey Graves, and Nick Offerman).

Jim James and Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
Jim James and Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Hurray For The Riff Raff.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
Hurray For The Riff Raff.

Angel Olsen.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
Angel Olsen.

High five!
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
High five!

L.A. Salami.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
L.A. Salami.

The Avett Brothers.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
The Avett Brothers.

Rhiannon Giddens.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
Rhiannon Giddens.

Two audience members dance during Wilco's set at the 2017 Newport Folk Festival.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
Two audience members dance during Wilco's set at the 2017 Newport Folk Festival.

Chicano Batman.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
Chicano Batman.

Grandma's Hands (M.C. Taylor and friends).
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
Grandma's Hands (M.C. Taylor and friends).

Nathaniel Rateliff and Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
Nathaniel Rateliff and Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

"Speak Out!" with Sharon Van Etten.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
"Speak Out!" with Sharon Van Etten.

Jalen N'Gonda.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
Jalen N'Gonda.

Robert Ellis.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
Robert Ellis.

Ben Gibbard.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
Ben Gibbard.

Mandolin Orange.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
Mandolin Orange.

Wilco and Billy Bragg.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
Wilco and Billy Bragg.

"Speak Out!" with Margo Price and Zach Williams.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
"Speak Out!" with Margo Price and Zach Williams.

It was all a blur.
/ Adam Kissick for NPR
It was all a blur.