Newport Folk Festival Concludes With All-Star ‘If I Had A Song’ Set


The 2019 Newport Folk Festival went out on a high note with an all-star “If I Had A Song” performance at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island. Trey Anastasio, Brandi Carlile, Jim James, Judy Collins, Mavis Staples and Jason Isbell were among those who took part in the grand finale that came in honor of the late Pete Seeger featuring some of the greatest songs ever written.

Official songbooks were given out to attendees of the sold-out festival to create a singalong atmosphere. The core band for the set featured guitarist Chris Funk of The Decemberists, Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, Wilco bassist John Stirratt, Dawes guitarist Taylor Goldsmith and former Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss. The first performer to lead a song was Kermit The Frog as the puppet was joined by My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James for “The Rainbow Connection.” Then, Benmont and Taylor fronted a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”

A string section composed of students from the Berklee School Of Music and members of Preservation Hall Jazz Band were among those backing Anastasio and Lake Street Dive‘s Rachael Price on “God Only Knows.” Price stuck around as did the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome.” Next, Carlile and Alynda Segarra as well as members of Pres Hall led the core band on “If I Had A Hammer” before Our Native Daughters dug into Pete’s “If You Miss Me At The Back Of The Bus.”

The stage was then turned over to Lake Street Dive and Hozier for Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People” before members of Portugal. The Man led The Kinks’ “Strangers.” Next, a bevy of musicians including Mavis Staples, Hozier and Jason Isbell contributed to a rousing rendition of Seeger’s “Keep Your Eyes On The Prize.” Robin Pecknold then had a turn in the spotlight for John Lennon’s “Instant Karma!” and teamed with Isbell, Eric D. Johnson and more for Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” A special moment took place when the song’s namesake, Judy Collins, emerged. Collins then led “Turn! Turn! Turn!” The set concluded with Colin Meloy of The Decemberists and The Milk Carton Kids leading Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and nearly all of the musicians who took part in the tribute and others loading the stage for “Goodnight, Irene” led by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.

Fan-Shot Videos

The Rainbow Connection – Jim James & Kermit The Frog
Captured by The Latest Noise

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall – Benmont Tench & Taylor Goldsmith
Captured by Anna Ballantyne

God Only Knows – Trey Anastasio & Rachael Price
Captured by Jeffrey Greenblatt

We Shall Overcome – Preservation Hall Jazz Band & Rachael Price
Captured by Amy Karibian

If I Had A Hammer – Alynda Segerra, Brandi Carlile & Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Captured by Amy Karibian

If You Miss Me At The Back Of The Bus – Our Native Daughters
Captured by Anna Ballantyne

Everyday People – Lake Street Dive & HozierCaptured by Amy Karibian

Strangers – Portugal. The Man Captured by Anna Ballantyne

Keep Your Eyes On The Prize – Mavis Staples, Hozier, Jason Isbell
Captured by Amy Karibian

Instant Karma! – Robin Pecknold Captured by Anna Ballantyne

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes – Robin Pecknold, Jason Isbell, Eric D. Johnson, Judy Collins
Captured by Amy Karibian

Turn! Turn! Turn! – Robin Pecknold & Judy Collins Captured by Amy Karibian

This Land Is Your Land – Colin Meloy & Milk Carton Kids Captured by Anna Ballantyne

Setlist (via Scott Marks)

Set: The Rainbow Connection, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, God Only Knows, We Shall Overcome, If I Had A Hammer, If You Miss Me At The Back Of The Bus, Everyday People, Strangers, Keep Your Eyes On The Prize, Instant Karma!, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Turn! Turn! Turn!, This Land Is Your Land, Goodnight Irene