by Doug MacGunnigle, WPRO
Following Friday’s remarkable performances at the Newport Folk Festival, it was said that despite a vastly varied day of performances, that this year belonged to the women. Saturday’s performances erased any doubt about that.
The star-studded finale, punctuated by a highly anticipated ‘secret special guest appearance,’ was one of the finest performances of the past few years, perhaps ever, at the Folk Festival.
The “Collaboration” set, curated by festival stalwart Brandi Carlile, hit on all cylinders from the start, bringing on guests from the lesser known but powerful Lucy Dacus and Maggie Rogers, to superstars Sheryl Crow, who performed “If It Makes You Happy” with Maggie Rogers and “Strong Enough” alongside Carlile and British singer/songwriter Yola.
Legendary songwriter Linda Perry, responsible for such hits as Christina Agulera’s “Beautiful” and hits for Gwen Stefani, Adele, and Pink, joined Carlile and Jade Bird for her blockbuster “What’s Up?” which the crowd eagerly joined in on.
Bird also made an unannounced appearance at the Bose vendor tent in addition to her well received set on the Fort stage earlier in the day.
Singer Judy Collins, who first appeared at the festival in the 1960’s joined Carlile for a beautiful rendition of “Both Sides Now,” and joked about the heady times of the sixties, before displaying a “RESIST” neckless that had the crowd cheering.
Carlile then brought out her supergroup the “Highwomen,” consisting of Amanda Shires, Carlile, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby to reprise their take on the Highwaymen’s theme, before bringing out the big surprise performer of the weekend, Dolly Parton.
Parton was received as a conquering hero by the crowd and performers alike. When she arrived, her party was escorted backstage in three blacked out SUV’s, and the entire complex was locked down – even performers such as the Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray were prevented from moving into the backstage area.
Parton performed “Eagle When She Flies,” “Jolene,” “I Will Always Love You,” and a finale featuring all the women from the day on “9 to 5,” which drove the crowd into a fury before setting them loose into the Newport Night.
Earlier in the day, Jeff Tweedy from Wilco performed a mellow, well received solo acoustic set featuring both solo and Wilco songs.
Maggie Rogers performed a high-energy set at the Fort Stage, entrancing the crowd, before joining in with Crow and the Collaboration.
A group collaboration featuring a complete album performance of Graham Nash’s “Songs for Beginners” album took place at the Harbor stage featuring members of The Tallest Man on Earth, Hiss Golden Messenger, Kyle Craft, Amy Ray, and others.
Dawes also performed a guest filled set at the Fort stage performing their debut album “North Hills,” featuring walk ons from Brandi Carlile, John McCauley of Deer Tick, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Jason Isbell, and Rachel Price.