Santa Monica Lookout
Newport Folk Festival Comes to Santa Monica Pier
By Jorge Casuso
September 24, 2013 -- Best known as the venue where Dylan plugged in and outraged the folk purists, the Newport Folk Festival is headed west to the Santa Monica Pier for a two-day show next month, promoters announced Monday.
Titled “Way Over Yonder,” the Santa Monica festival October 5 and 6 will feature artists who have appeared at Newport and will continue in the tradition of the itinerant American musician -- but it will not try to emulate the storied East Coast venue, promoters said.
Among the artists in the “Way Over Yonder” lineup are Nebraska-native and Bright Eyes front man Conor Oberst and Candian singer-songwriter Neko Case, formerly of The New Pornographers.
Case is scheduled to perform on October 5 along with Brett Dennen, “one of his generation’s strongest songwriters;” Calexico, Justin Townes Earle, Shovels & Rope and the Eagle Rock Gospel Singers.
And on October 6, Oberst will take the stage along with First Aid Kit, whose music “juxtaposes sadness and beauty;” the Felice Brothers, Jonathan Wilson, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down and Joel Rafael.
"It's not going to be Newport Folk Festival-West," festival producer Jay Sweet told The Associated Press, adding that he hopes it would become an annual event. "It can't be, because you can't just recreate Newport. I want this to be its own thing."
One similarity will be the backdrop. Like Fort Adams State Park in Newport, the Santa Monica Pier offers a scenic seaside setting, and Sweet hopes it will help spur the intimate performances and musical collaborations that have made the original festival famous.
Founded in 1959 by famed festival producer George Wein and patterned after the Newport Jazz Festival, the Newport Folk Festival has seen a resurgence in recent years. Its shows this July sold out five months early and last year the festival was headlined by My Morning Jacket and Jackson Browne.
During its heyday in the early sixties, the festival had a major impact on the spread of American folk music, showcasing Country Blues musicians of the pre-World War II era who would have a major influence on the development of popular music and Rock & Roll.
The festival also introduced major stars like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan and showcased legendary acts from various genres, including Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.
The venue is perhaps best known for the 1965 appearance of Dylan backed by an all-electric band. The darling of the festival the two previous years, Dylan outraged the audience with a loud new sound that wasn’t helped by the poor acoustics and a marked drift from his protest songs to personal psychedelic poems.
The festival fell on hard times as the popularity of folk music waned in the late sixties, and it shut down in 1971 until its revival in 1985 and subsequent comeback, although it drew crowds far smaller than the 20,000 that packed the venue in its heyday.
Sweet is not sure how the Santa Monica festival – which will feature two stages and charge an entrance fee-- will fare at the Pier, which has been known to draw large crowds for popular LA acts like Los Lobos and Ozomatli during its free Twilight Concert Series every summer.
"We've never done something like this before," Sweet told AP.
For more information about the event, visit wayoveryonder.net.
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