Rookie of the Year
A close-up photo of some delicious-looking pulled pork.

The Newport Pork Festival

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #166. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


A tongue-in-cheek but also painfully earnest look at pop culture and anything else that deserves to be ridiculed while at the same time regarded with the utmost respect. It is written by Matt Marrone and emailed to Stu Horvath and David Shimomura, who add any typos or factual errors that might appear within.


This year at the Newport Folk Festival, I joined the 10-Timers Club.

If you don’t know what that means, it means it was my 10th Newport Folk Festival, and to show its appreciation, the Fest provided me with free multi-flavored cans of Nixie sparkling water all weekend long, unlimited sunshine and, yes, three days of live music on five stages, including an intimate, surprise performance by James Taylor.

In other words, I got the same stuff everyone else got, and the 10-Timers Club means exactly nothing to anyone except me (and my friend and fellow 10-Timer, Hannah). Still, I’m cool!

But what I really want to get across to my reader – as if I haven’t already tried to do so several times before in the pages of Unwinnable – is why I’ve become a member of the 10-Timers Club, beyond the obvious heaping portions of privilege and luck.

I am a member of the 10-Timers Club because this event is magic. It feels like a family gathering. I discover a ton of new artists every time and hear familiar voices, too. And, after all these years, the Newport Folk Festival still manages to deliver things I’ve never seen before.

I already mentioned James Taylor – this year’s bucket-lister after last year’s famous unannounced Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell sets. Taylor, in his words, served as “emergency folk;” he was pulled off his yacht to play after Noah Kahan fell ill and had to cancel at the last minute.

But the 2023 NFF might just be remembered for something even more unexpected – one of the greatest surprise performers in its 64-year history: A barbecue.

On Saturday, during an excellent Fort Stage closing set by Jon Batiste, I noticed some smoke coming from the left side of the stage. Either some of their instruments had caught fire, I thought, or the smoke was coming from . . . a smoker? And, wait, is that dude dressed as a chef? Sure, enough, throughout the set, while Batiste and friends burned down the stage, they were also barbecuing on it.

Better yet: The set finished with a rollicking “When the Saints Go Marching In” during which Batiste & Co. marched into the crowd – playing and singing while handing out the freshly BBQ’ed ribs. At the end of a glorious Day 2, we were left not just with an empty stage overlooking the harbor, but with the sweet smell of charred pork (and a slight twist of cannabis).

So yeah, there was James Taylor. And Caamp. And Willi Carlisle. And Aimee Mann. And Billy Strings. Also, Lana Del Rey’s set turned me into a fanboy (fight me). But wafting over it all was Jon Batiste’s BBQ.

And that’s what I’ll still be smelling when – fingers crossed – I join the 11-Timers Club.


Matt Marrone is a senior MLB editor at He has been Unwinnable’s reigning Rookie of the Year since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @thebigm.


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