The Newport Folk Festival and the Lowell Folk Festival seem to go head-to-head the same weekend every summer. But hey, Newport Folk sells out near-instantly several months in advance while Lowell is free – and more open to last-minute whims.
Newport Folk primarily sticks to tried-and-true returnees this year, starting with Fleet Foxes, Wilco and John Prine as the respective headliners Friday through Sunday. Other favorites offer new combinations, like the Decemberists with Brit-folk siren Olivia Chaney as Offa Rex, while the Punch Brothers team with I’m With Her (Sara Watkins, Sara Jarosz and Aofie O’Donovan) as American Acoustic. Other expected highlights: the Head and the Heart (pictured) and Big Thief (who both play Friday before moving to Boston on Saturday for a bill at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion), Regina Spektor, the Avett Brothers, Drive-By Truckers, Angel Olsen, Shovels & Rope, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James (solo) and Hooray for the Riff Raff. And beyond that, there will be surprise performers, including a tribute to Chuck Berry and “Speak Out,” furthering Newport’s history for protest music. Here’s the full schedule.
The Lowell Folk Festival runs the same three days on stages around downtown Lowell, with music spanning blues, soul, bluegrass, jazz, African, Acadian, Irish and Brazilian music, including such performers as CJ Chenier and his Red-Hot Louisiana Band, the Seamus Egan Project and the Sun Ra Arkestra, still led by saxophonist Marshall Allen. Here’s that full schedule.
There’s plenty to do around town as well, with the art-rock of British atmosphere spinners Alt-J at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion and Philly’s angular indie-rock upstarts Palm at Great Scott on Friday, while the wily Kings of Leon rock Mansfield’s Xfinity Center the same night with Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats opening.
Saturday has two very different offerings at the Boston Seaport. Grammy-winning film composer Hans Zimmer tackles guitar and keyboards as he leads an orchestra-sized band at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, playing his soundtrack music from such projects as “Dunkirk,” “Inception,” “The Dark Knight,” “The Lion King” and Pirates of the Caribbean.” Meanwhile, hip-hop takes over the Lawn on D with Briggs Fest, which runs 3-11 p.m. and sports local hero Sammy Adams, Waka Flocka Flame and B.O.B.
Finally, Sunday’s in-town pick will be the fine double bill of the Deborah Harry-led Blondie and the Shirley Manson-fronted band Garbage at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion.