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Jackson Browne, My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst, Sharon Van Etten, Alabama Shakes, Dawes to play Newport Folk Fest 2012

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Snow and rain fell steadily on Cambridge Wednesday evening, but just outside Central Square, visions of a sunny weekend in Newport filled the Middlesex Lounge as the Newport Folk Festival unveiled it’s 2012 lineup.

When organizers started piecing together this year’s lineup of more than 40 acts that span the spectrum of folk and continue to redefine and already indefinable genre, winter had yet to rear its ugly head upon New England. “We spent seven months putting together what you’re about to see tonight,” announced Newport Folk Fest producer Jay Sweet.

What the room witnessed –- in addition to freshly served oysters, cocktails that betrayed the weather outside, and an opening half-hour-plus performance by Providence's JOE FLETCHER & THE WRONG REASONS -- were several rebus puzzles that provided clues to the identity of each performer. The crowd was then encouraged shouted guesses to who would grace the stage this July 28 and 29 at historic Fort Adams State Park; one-by-one, the Newport Folk Fest 2012 lineup took shape.

And those wanting star power certainly received it.

Building off last year’s sellout crowd and shift to more mainstream appeal, this year’s 53rd annual Newport Folk Fest is headlined by psychedelic roots rock band MY MORNING JACKET (whose ringleader, Jim James, is by now a Newport veteran after a string of solo and side project performances) legendary American singer-songwriter and rock and roll Hall of Famer JACKSON BROWNE, Bright Eyes’ emo reflector CONOR OBERST, and neo-folk hero IRON & WINE.

Other notables include fast-rising Brooklyn vocalist SHARON VAN ETTEN, buzzy loopstress TUNE-YARDS, and hotly-tipped rock n’ soul quartet ALABAMA SHAKES, maybe already the must-see act of this year’s impressive collection.

With more than 40 performers and more to be announced leading up to late-July, the lineup also features Rhode Island’s own DEER TICK and BROWN BIRD, as well as JAY FARRAR, WILL JOHNSON, ANDERS PARKER & YIM YAMES performing original music set to the lyrics of Woodie Guthrie. 

The weekend slate is rounded out by PATTY GRIFFIN, DAWES (who drew the biggest cheer of the assembled crowd), CITY & COLOUR, GUTHRIE FAMILY REUNION, THE HEAD AND THE HEART, THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH, TOM MORELLO, PUNCH BROTHERS, TRAMPLED BY TURTLES (whose cover of the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” was a highlight of 2011), BLIND PILOT, OF MONSTERS AND MEN, ROBERT ELLIS, PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND, CHARLES BRADLEY & HIS EXTRAORDINARIES, FIRST AID KIT, GARY CLARK JR., SPIRIT FAMILY REUNION, APACHE RELAY, HONEYHONEY, SLEEPY MAN BANJO BOYS, SARA WATKINS, BEN SOLLEE, CARL BROEMEL, SPIDER JOHN KOERNER, JONATHAN WILSON, DEEP DARK WOODS, JOEL RAFAEL, JONNY CORNDAWG, KOSSOY SISTERS and others that’ll once again amount to one hot ticket over one hot weekend.

Also drawing hearty applause was the announcement that Newport Storm would be the official beer of the weekend, another of the many ways Newport Folk keeps it local.

Tickets to the fest go on sale Thursday, March 1 at 10am via newportfolkfest.net and ticketmaster.com. A limited number of two-day passes are currently available for $135, and single-day tickets are $74 in advance and $84 at the gate.

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