Considering its eclectic line-up, this year's Newport Folk Festival proves that in 2011, it's hard to define what is and is not part of "folk culture." By purist definitions, music made by a major-label pop group like TEGAN AND SARA wouldn't qualify. But if more loosely, "folk" can be applied to any "folk group" that maintains distinct traditions, and boasts visible customs, music, dress, etcetera, then Tegan and Sara fit the "folk" label, based solely on the customary culture amongst the fans at their shows.
Tegan and Sara fans are an Information Age "folk group": they're tween- and teenage girls who stand eagerly in the front rows, point-and-shoot cameras in hand. They know every word to every song, most probably from downloading the records. A few of them always scream "We love you!" at some point. A handful even have short spunky haircuts similar to those of the twins themselves. Some of their fans are older, now in their twenties, but they used to be these girls, posting their show photos on Tegan and Sara LiveJournal communities circa 2003.
Yesterday afternoon in the Quad stage at Newport, Tegan and Sara played through a set of crowd-pleasing hits and singles for about an hour. The band was stripped down to mostly just acoustic guitars, bass, and keys, which helped make their high-energy aesthetic sound more fitting for a folk festival, including sadder, more minimal versions of "Back In Your Head", "Where Does the Good Go", "Nineteen", "Alligator", and more. Some technical difficulties led them to play their second to last song even more stripped down -- a nearly acapella version of "Dark Come Soon" over bare acoustic guitar plucking -- but it totally worked.
Photos by Janice Checchio