Conor Oberst joined his first band at the age of 13 and has been releasing music since 1993. Over the next two plus decades, he’s released cassette-only recordings, split 7-inches, and a dozen albums of uncommon insight, detail, and political awareness with his band Bright Eyes, under his own name, as a member of Desaparecidos, as leader of the The Mystic Valley Band, and with the Monsters of Folk supergroup.
The Newport Folk Festival may not be a monster fest on the order of a Bonnaroo or a Coachella, but it has rejuvenated itself over the last half dozen years into a premier summer stop for a broad range of alternative, indie, country-rock and folk acts. Much of the rejuvenation has been the result of a conscious decision by festival organizers to loosen the definition of “folk” to include a much wider swath of bands – really anybody who could plausibly include an acoustic guitar at least somewhere in their set list.
This weekend, I was one of the luckiest people in the world. San Francisco had a banner weekend full of events, from Fleet Week to the World Cup to the Castro Street Fair to Litquake to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass—and that’s not to mention the athletic events that took place in the Bay Area. Such a full calendar guarantees that all modes of transportation will be a nightmare, if not deadlocked.
Anybody hoping for last year’s incredible lineup that featured Tom Petty and Steve Winwood playing on the same day and also sharing the stage for a few tunes was bound to be disappointed with this year’s lineup. Day 1 of the Outside Lands seemed a little small for a festival, but that may have been because there were so many stages with up to five bands performing at once, sometimes in different areas of Golden Gate Park. Then again when Pearl Jam began its final set of the night.