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Newport Folk Festival turns 50; celebrates with name change and Colin Meloy!

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For as awesome as the Coachellas and Bonnaroos of the world are today, the Newport Folk Festival trounces all when it comes to history – if you don’t know why do a search for “Electric Dylan.” In fact, one could definitely argue that if it wasn’t for the Newport, Rhode Island festival, there would be no Coachellas and Bonnaroos of the world.

However, that doesn’t mean it has gone the way of the dodo bird. No, now in its 50th year, the festival is alive as ever, even despite some recent uncertainty. After previous Newport Folk Festival producer Festival Network was found in default of its contract with the state of Rhode Island earlier this year and longtime sponsor JVC America was forced to pull out due to financial troubles, there was doubt as to the future of both the folk festival and its sister festival, the Newport Jazz Festival.

Ironically however, George Wein, who originally founded both festivals, agreed to return to his post for this year’s editions – he had sold his production company to Festival Network in 2007. And with the position apparently comes the opportunity to name the festival after yourself – this year’s festival will be referred to as George Wein’s Folk Festival.

As for what he came up with?

A stellar mix of both old and new. Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, who played the first Newport festival in 1959 will head the 2009 edition, set to take place from July 31-August 2 in Newport, Rhode Island, while The Decemberists, Ben Kweller, Neko Case, Josh Ritter, and The Avett Brothers will provide some of the newer feel.

All in all, the currently announced lineup looks something like this:

Arlo Guthrie, The Avett Brothers, Balfa Toujours, Ben Kweller, Campbell Brothers, The Decemberists, Del McCoury, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Fleet Foxes, Gillian Welch, Iron & Wine, Joan Baez, Josh Ritter, Judy Collins, Langhorne Slim, The Low Anthem, Neko Case, Pete Seeger, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, Tim Eriksen & Shape Note Singers

The complete lineup will be announced in the coming weeks. Tickets will go on sale beginning Wednesday, May 6th via folkfestival50.com.

The Newport Jazz Festival has also unveiled its initial bill for 2009, which currently includes Tony Bennett, Branford Marsalis, Etta James, and Esperanza Spalding. More informantion can be found at jazzfestival55.com.

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