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Newport Folk Festival heads to Santa Monica

PROVIDENCE — The Newport Folk Festival is taking its resurgent brand on the road with plans for a two-day festival in California.

Known as Newport Folk Presents Way Over Yonder, the Oct. 5-6 event will feature performances from Conor Oberst, Neko Case and several other performers playing on two stages on the pier in Santa Monica, Calif., the seaside tourist mecca adjacent to Los Angeles.

Plans for the event came about after a California-based promoter attending the 2012 Newport Folk Festival approached organizers with the idea of holding a similar event on the West Coast. Newport Folk Festival producer Jay Sweet said while he hopes the Santa Monica festival could become an annual event, he’s not trying to clone Newport.

“It’s not going to be Newport Folk Festival-West,” Sweet said Monday, the day the event was announced. “It can’t be, because you can’t just recreate Newport. I want this to be its own thing.”

There will be some obvious similarities. Like Newport’s Fort Adams State Park, the pier will provide a stunning seaside backdrop for the music. The lineup at Santa Monica will feature alumni of Newport, as festival organizers refer to them. And Sweet said he hopes the new event shares Newport’s emphasis on intimate performances and musical collaboration.

Sweet said he isn’t sure how many tickets will be sold for the first event. The pier can hold several thousand people — not including the thousands of others who could listen and watch from the nearby beach.

“We’ve never done something like this before,” Sweet said of his expectation for turnout.

The Newport Folk Festival has experienced a resurgence in recent years, with this year’s festival selling out five months early. The festival was first held in 1959 and has boasted lineups featuring Joan Baez, Pete Seeger and Johnny Cash. Bob Dylan was famously booed at the 1965 festival during his first electric live show.

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