REVIEW: Forecastle Festival 2014

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Photos by Bruce Jason Bohman

I just wrapped up my first visit to Forecastle Music Festival and I gotta hand it to you, Louisville. From the first bass drop with MiMOSA to the last dance break with Beck, it was an unforgettable weekend full of good vibes, fantastic performances and enough Bourbon to kill a small elephant. When  in Kentucky . . .

The first thing I have to point out is that Forecastle is unbelievably manageable. It never felt overcrowded, and for the most part, festivalgoers conducted themselves well (always a toss up at these city fests – I’m looking at you Made in America). Let’s just go over the basics here: every port-a-potty was flush in TP, I never stood in a beer line for more than six minutes and I was always able to reconnect with friends when the schedule appealed to different tastes. A low stress festival makes for a happy festivalgoer, and the energy here was top notch. I’m sure the eclectic lineup, temperate weather and stunning Louisville waterfront location can be credited for that as well.

The KY Bourbon Lodge offered a look into the rich culture of Kentucky (plus a fresh blast of AC) and Louisville’s best food trucks brought their kimchi & tofu tacos, gourmet grilled cheeses and a number of other hearty snacks to the festival grounds. It was a well-rounded event that reminded me that I grew up in a place that’s pretty damn cool.

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Whether you parked it at the Boom stage to soak up the best in folk and bluegrass this weekend, or vibed out under the I-64 overpass with the EDM-centric Ocean Stage, the lineup offered performances to appeal to any taste. The crowd skewed older (you can likely thank acts like Ray LaMontange and Dwight Yoakam for that) but there were still plenty of candy raving bros to bring mondo dance moves at sets like MiMOSA’s, Flume’s and tUne-yArds’. Of course, you didn’t go wrong if you posted up at the Mast Stage all day waiting for this year’s insanely awesome headliners: Outkast, Jack White and Beck. The star studded lineup kept the party going for three days straight, and while I gladly would have taken an extra day of fest-ing to the max, I understand that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and so, I’ll just have to wait until next July when Forecastle sets sail again.

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So speaking of music, let’s get to the good stuff. Here’s a day-by-day breakdown of the shows that rocked it at this year’s Forecastle:

DAY 1: FRIDAY, JULY 18th

My friends picked me up from the airport around 11 AM, and like responsible adults, we went straight to the liquor store to grab some champagne. We were going to see both MiMOSA and Andre 3000, so it was necessary to enjoy some bubbly breakfast drinks before making moves over to the grounds. First up at the Ocean Stage was MiMOSA, whose trap-stylings rumbled loudly under the bridge. While I enjoyed watching the west coast DJ down a bottle of Grey Goose before my eyes at 3 PM, it was not the most convincing EDM performance I’ve seen. The dude had charisma, no doubt, but when you spend half of your set standing on top of a table screaming, “Where are all my white women at?” you can’t actually expect us to believe that you’re doing anything more than pressing the play button. That said, his ability to stand after drinking that much booze was impressive in and of itself. I really wanted to hit the after-party on the Belle of Lousiville that night just to see how far he pushed it on Friday, which is why I’m giving MiMOSA the superlative of Most Likely to Pass Out Before Your Own After-Party.

Next up was New York’s own St. Lucia, again at the Ocean Stage. They boldly played their hit, Better Than This, early in their set. Lucky for them, they were on such a hot streak it only helped boost their momentum. They saved hits like Before the Dive for when the crowd was really kickin’. Their set was well-rounded, with notably strong vocals and some kicking synth solos. Singer Jean-Philip Grober’s voice was as clear and on point as ever. He was also remarkably well-dressed in white pants and a bright, floral shirt. I saw him walking around after his set, and I geeked out a little. Hey, we’re not in New York anymore. I’m allowed to do it every once in a while. Also, that dude is incredibly handsome, so St. Lucia gets the superlative,  Most Likely to Make Your Boyfriend Jealous.

After a pit stop at the Bourbon Lodge for some Maker’s Mark, we swung by Nightmares on Wax for a few songs. We grooved up during You Wish, and I was pretty excited to see the full-band tearing it up on stage. This was billed as a live set, and London DJ George Evelyn came prepared. There’s something incredibly cool about seeing a funk band work hand in hand with a DJ who’s live mixing. It’s refreshing to see a DJ who reminds us that this whole electronic thing is a deep artistic endeavor that takes a ton of patience and talent. Nightmares on Wax sounds similar to RJD2 with vinyl elements and steady bass lines. His smooth, understated mixes have funk and R&B influences that came together to create a unique house blend that was mellow and perfect for an overcast afternoon. That’s why Nightmares on Wax is Most Likely to Make Top 40 DJs Look Lazy.

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Next up was 21 Pilots at the Mast Stage, and holy hell that duo can bring it. I walked, okay fine, I RAN over during Holding on to You, a synth pop song that also doubles as an impressive rap track. Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun are a force to be reckoned with. Even if you can’t jive with their music, which I’ve described before as Matt & Kim meets Eminem, you would have likely still enjoyed their performance during which they crowd surfed a drum set and lived to tell the tale. Their energy was Turn Down For What level, and based on crowd response and talking to folks this weekend, they came out as a top pick for many festies on Friday. They played through other hits like Guns for Hands and Car Radio which only fed their stage rage. Their crowd work was some of the best I saw all weekend. Their risky antics and fearless attitudes earn them the superlative of Most Likely to Die While Playing A Kickass Drum Solo.

After that, I headed over to the Ocean Stage to see New York rapper and professional chef Action Bronson, but womp womp, his flight didn’t make it. We were hoping maybe it was some kind of joke, since that seems to be his style (the dude did rap from inside a port-a-potty in Ottawa a couple of weeks ago), but alas, no Action Bronson to be seen. I was hoping for a surprise parachute execution onto the party boat on Sunday after rumors spread that organizers were trying to fit him in. For that reason the super-sized no show gets Most Likely to Start A Rumor.

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With no Action Bronson to be found, I meandered over to Spoon to catch the end of their set. Of course they played I Turn My Camera On and The Way We Get By, two songs that remind me of college A LOT. Their performance was solid, and fans seemed comfortable singing along in the relaxed atmosphere they provided. When I saw Spoon at this year’s Governor’s Ball, it took me a minute to realize that Spoon blows my Pandora up on the reg. Those guys are AWESOME. Spoon is Most Likely to Play That Song That You Love But You Didn’t Know Who Sang It Until This Weekend.

The sun had just set, and now it was time for the most anticipated act of the evening, and possibly of the festival. Big Boi and Andre 3000 of Outkast exploded onto the stage right on time opening with Bombs Over Baghdad, and then proceeded to play hit after hit. After what I thought was a lackluster performance at Governor’s Ball (and after reading similar reviews of Coachella, Firefly, etc.), I was impressed to see how relaxed and comfortable the duo seemed on stage. Their crowd interaction was definitely a step up from my prior viewing, and I felt like their vocals were of a higher quality.

We heard everything we wanted: ATliens, Rosa Parks, Ms. Jackson, Roses – it was a barrage of hits, and the crowd was incredibly receptive. They invited girls from the audience on stage to work it out to the dance hit Hey Ya before closing the show out with The Whole World (no Killer Mike appearance this time tho).

It was a brilliant overview of the Atlanta duo’s popular discography, and a testament to what they’ve been able to achieve over the years. I imagine their shows will continue to get even better as they hit up more festival dates this summer – they had something like 47 on the schedule, which is hella ambitous. The damage those men could do on the road . . . Outkast gets the superlative of: Most Likely to See the Most T&A Over the Course of a Summer Festival Circuit.

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DAY 2: SATURDAY, JULY 19th

Okay, so we went HAM on Friday (I destroyed The Cure that night; like, I 100% crushed that bar), which made for a slow start on Saturday morning. After a Bloody Mary at Bardstown Road’s North End restaurant, it was time to put our party shoes back on. Of all the lineups, Saturday featured bands that were the least on my radar, so I was excited to chill out and soak up some new music from afar. While I caught bits and pieces of many shows that day, there were a few definite stand outs.

Louisville native Jaylin Roze was a pleasant surprise. He was new to me, but his music was like brass-coated candy to my ears. Roze tore up the WFPK Stage which hosted the festival’s up and comers. Roze’s music is upbeat, fun and incorporates jazz elements that puts him in a category with groups like The Roots. His loyal fans were there, singing along loudly with the rapper. I later saw him perform on the boat, and another large crowd had congregated to see him a second time. Based on the response he was getting at this festival I’d say he’s Most Likely to Appear on More Festival Undercard’s Next Summer.

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Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Oh man. That woman exudes so much soul it’s crazy, and her band is just hella fun. The show opened with a song from Jone’s backup singers. The elements of swing and big band provide a timeless sound that appeals to many age groups and tastes. It was an extremely diverse crowd. Her MC/bandmate introduced Jone’s as “A Woman So Bad She Kicked Cancer In the Ass”. Later she would sing it out soul style about how she beat her illness and was here to stay. That said, you’d never have known the diva was sick. She never faltered and she absolutely crushed it which is why Sharon Jones is Most Likely to Live Forever. Big ups for covering Tina Turner. You go girl.

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The rest of the evening was spent noshing on snacks in the media tent and catching Band of Horses from afar before meeting up with my friend who had unfortunately broken her foot on Friday night. Talk about bummer town. We strolled past the party boat to get her ADA bracelet and people were going NUTS. The “Lifeguards” who had been posted up all weekend must have found some party favors because these dudes were raging hard. The DJ yelled, “Somebody get this lifeguard some water! He’s gonna die. He’s going to need you to save him!” That lifeguard dude is Most Likely to Hang Out With Me at Electric Zoo. He’s also my hero. Anyway . . . next up was the very long trek to get to the ADA section of the Mast Stage, but holy shit, it was so worth it.

There was something in the air that night because this was my fourth time seeing Jack White (once with The White Stripes and three times solo) and I have NEVER seen him bring it quite like that. I don’t know if he was channeling rock gods of the past, or pulling supernatural power from the champagne bottle he swigged throughout his set, but it was one of the most rockin’ shows I think I’ve ever seen, well maybe, EVER.

White opened with Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground and after that it was a nonstop explosion of hits spanning his time with the White Stripes up through his newest release, Lazaretto. His band was incredible. The slide guitarist knew no bounds, and that chick on violin/vocals was so, so, so dope. She brought a folksy element to White’s performance that was wonderfully complementary, and their stage chemistry had plenty of people eluding to the possibility that there may be romance between the two. But that’s not what this was about. This was about rock.

We are Gonna Be Friends, Fell in Love With a Girl, Steady as She Goes, Icky Thump (live mashed with Jay Z’s 99 Problems, at that) . . . They were all there. And the dude played 30 minutes over set time, so suck on that Radio City fans. You wouldn’t get the eff off your phones at his show, and then you had the nerve to complain about a set list cut short. He ended with Seven Nation Army, and of course the crowd lost their minds. Much rock. Such jam. Wow. I had a Ball and Biscuit at that show, I really did. Jack White is Most Likely to Get You Pregnant from 900 Feet Away. Make of that what you will.

DAY 3: SUNDAY JULY 20TH

Oh music festival Sunday, I used to loathe you. You used to make sad because you were a harbinger of the end. You were the day I had to “take it easy” because I had to prepare for the following morning. You were that faint reminder that this alternate world would disappear for 362 days. You were a signal of the inevitable death of fun. But now, you know what? Music festival Sunday may just be my favorite. You have one day left, and you need to make the most of it. Yesterday’s lineup was SO clutch too – definitely my favorite of the three. It was a nonstop marathon of shows, but we did it, and we made it look good.

We started our day off with the ladies and gentlemen of Lucius, who brought a piece of Brooklyn to Louisville. Front ladies Jess Wolf and Holly Laessig were dressed to the nines in matching mod-inspired garb. They brought a calm, collected force that built steadily throughout their unfortunately short 45 minute set. Lucius is Most Likely to Go From Slow Burn to Inferno. The show started off mega chill with subtle rock ballads before exploding into their signature electro-pop hits like Turn it Around, which brought some pretty kicking drum skills from the ladies. They also appeased their Louisville fans by covering My Morning Jacket’s Wonderful (The Way I Feel). Nice one, dudes. We were off to a great start.

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I did some quick swings by Sharon Van Etten who was bringing her badass brand of folk rock to the Boom Stage before hanging back for Brooklyn’s Chrome Sparks whose ambient electro tunes got people in proper form for the night’s upcoming dance party. Then it was back to Trampled by Turtles who provided some technically stacked bluegrass that had the crowd groovin’ and movin’.

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I eventually made my way over to Jenny Lewis, because I pretty much had to. We’re talking about the singer of Postal Service and Rilo Kiley here. We’re talking about the soundtracks to every breakup I had in college. We’re talking about the music that greatly shaped my tastes nearly 10 years later. SO YEAH, I PRETTY MUCH HAD TO.

She looked darling in her colorful rainbow suit, and it was clear she had the audience in her hands. She came out strong playing No Rain near the beginning of her set. She invited Louisville’s Watson twins to the stage to join her on Rabbit Fur Coat, taking them back to their touring days in 2006. It was a nostalgic show, which is why Jenny Lewis is Most Likely to Make You Think About Your Freshman Dorm Room.

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tUne-yArds. Jesus Christ. This show was a 100% face-melter. Merrill Garbus, you are a freaking genius, you know that? Seriously these ladies are out of control. I have no way to even really describe what I was hearing, but I can tell you it was funky, folky, electro-poppy, yodel centric, dance ready,reggae infused, girl powery, fist pumping stuff. So yeah, you totally know that genre that I’m talking about, right?

There’s something to be said about a band that can’t be compared to anything else out there. Some elements reminded me of acts like Robert DeLong (love him), while other songs felt like classic folk tunes that had gone through some kind of futuristic makeover. Do yourself a favor and listen to them. Just do it. tUne-yArds are Most Likely to Be Your New Favorite Band. They closed out the show by thanking Louisville for their percussionist, Dani Markham. Their last song was the only one I know by name, Water Fountain from their new album Nikki Nack, which came out earlier this summer. After that, I will be listening to much more. Special shout out to backup singer Abigail Bengson, who is a Brooklyn beauty and an all-around rock star.

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And then it was time to regroup before things got cray. So I guess The Replacements were playing during this time and Billy Joe Armstrong showed up. I must have missed that whole thing because our group was getting super amped for the driving hip-hop, bass pulse of Australia’s Flume. First of all, Flume is only 22, but this kid has mad skills. His set was flawless. His transitions were perfect, and unlike some dance shows you attend, the whole thing felt like one complete piece. His self-titled album plays the same way, but to experience it live is something truly magical.

And on top of that there were the kicking visuals, and the bass rumble that bounced off the undercarriage of the bridge overhang, making the music feel like it was rolling over our dancin’ bods. There’s a certain finesse that Flume has on lock that you don’t see from many DJ’s and producers out there, even more so for those who are as new to the big time as this dude. He played the majority of his 2013 self-titled album, or I say he “played” but really he used those elements to create a whole new piece of work.

He opened strong with the dreamy Sleepless featuring Jezzabell Doran, and that was the beginning of a journey that never missed a beat. It was a showcase of what this guy does best, interweaving his own familiar samples into new remixes, making the whole experience feel momentous and one of a kind. The crowd went nuts for the hip-hop infused track, On Top ft. New York rapper T-Shirt. Another collaborator got a big round of applause when Flume posed the question, “Do you guys like Chet Faker?” before launching into the melancholy reverb of Left Alone. He also sampled fellow Oceania diva Lorde on the track Tennis Court, which was unexpected. My dad loves Flume, and danced his dick off at that show yesterday. Kids like him. Dads like him. Everyone likes him. He’s just that good, and that’s why Flume is Most Likely to Make You Reconsider Your Unfounded Distaste for EDM.

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And then there was Beck. This festival could not have ended on a more fabulous note. He opened with the Odelay! hit Devil’s Haircut, which set the tone for the next 90 minutes. Beck’s ability to work a crowd is a freaking work of art. Sure, he’s touring in support of Morning Phase, so he could have just played a chill acoustic set and we would have liked that too, but hell he knows he can do it all, and so THAT’S WHAT WE GOT.

“This feels like a perfect night in Louisville where anything can happen.” Oh Beck, you’re so ethereal, without even trying. He just absolutely killed it, and in addition to running through his discography going back to 1994′s Mellow Gold hit Loser (BTW that was 20 years ago, y’all) to the beautiful ballad Morning off of his newest release, he also covered track’s like Busta Rhymes’ Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See and Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean (to which he had to comment “I don’t even know if this is legal.”) Things got especially hype on tracks like New Pollution, Girl and Sex Laws which had our group in a full-blown tag-out dance circle.

Beck is a pleasure to watch, because in addition to shredding, he’s a genuinely funny and likable dude. The crowd lost it for the driving guitar riff’s of E-Pro (the song whose music video almost put Beck out of the game altogether after a bad injury on set). He’s just still got it. Ah, I love him. He closed it out with Where It’s At, but not before introducing us to a robot and letting his band groove out on tangents that featured Rolling Stones inspired guitar solos and disco offshoots. Beck is Most Likely to Make You Exit A Festival With A Humongous, Stupid Smile on Your Face.

Festival junkies, do yourself a favor and #GetOnBoard with Forecastle. This ship’s heading all the right directions.

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