Far removed from his days as a white-knuckled teenage prodigy in Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst has settled into his 30s as a wise and wizened elder statesman. He's come to channel his youthful intensity into real showmanship, especially onstage, while continuing to mine powerful emotions and a sort of fearless poignancy in his songwriting.
The Newport Folk Festival sells out months before its lineup is announced, but fans aren't entirely in the dark: Most know there's at least a 50 percent chance that the lineup will include the countrified California roots-rock band Dawes. Led by brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith, Dawes is a heartwarming crowd-pleaser, both on stage and on albums like last year's Stories Don't End.
They are seven girls in their teens and early 20s, awake at the ungodly (for them) hour of 8:30 a.m. With sleepy smiles, the young women slip into a windowless conference room in a Washington, D.C., hotel to talk to a reporter, who's curious to find out: What's it like to be a global girl activist?
And they're the experts. They're supporters of the U.N. Foundation group called Girl Up, which has the manifesto of "uniting girls to change the world."
In the past, the Berklee Gospel & Roots Choir has been employed as a sort of Newport Folk Festival palate-cleanser: a way to kick off the day with something kind, approachable, reverent and rooted in many folk traditions. This year, with Mavis Staples on top of the bill, the group, which opens the proceedings on Sunday, functioned as both and a theme-setter.