54 years ago, the big news about the Newport Folk Festival was that Bob Dylan, young messiah of the entire folk genre, plugged in an electric guitar and played a rock ‘n’ roll set. People hated it. The audience booed, and an appalled, axe-wielding Pete Seeger threatened to cut the amp chords. This year, the big news about the Newport Folk Festival is that a beloved felt-amphibian television puppet sang a song with a hairy Southern-rock guy. Everyone was apparently completely chill with it. The times, they are a-changin’.
Actually, that’s me being glib. The real big news from this past weekend’s Newport Folk Festival was almost certainly the first-ever full performance from new supergroup the Highwomen, replete with Dolly Parton cameo. Still, the festival’s other marquee moment came when veteran Sesame Street reporter and Muppet Show ringleader Kermit The Frog sang “The Rainbow Connection,” the now-standard utopian ditty that Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher wrote for 1979’s The Muppet Movie. Midway through, Kermit introduced My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, a figure who’s just slightly Muppet-esque, and the two of them sang the rest of the song as a duet.
Kermit had a backing band for this performance, and that backing band included Janet Weiss, arguably the world’s greatest rock drummer. This was Weiss’ first public performance since she shockingly announced her departure from Sleater-Kinney earlier this month. Brownstein’s former bandmates Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker are out here grappling with her exit in interviews, and Weiss is backing up a fucking frog. Amazing. But as an avid student of rock history, who can begrudge Weiss the opportunity to stand in for one of the all-time great drummers?
Watch video of the Kermit performance below, via Pitchfork.
The occasion of this performance seems to be the 40th-anniversary rerelease of The Muppet Movie, which is returning to theaters tomorrow.