Jim James of My Morning Jacket brought plenty of hometown energy at this weekend’s Forecastle Festival in Louisville.
Photos by Steve Liskiewicz
Lovers of music, bourbon and all things Kentucky came together over the weekend for a 3-day arts and music festival that proved once again that Louisville is rocking some VERY COOL VIBES. Competing with other major festivals in close proximity like Bonnaroo and Bunbury, organizers of Forecastle Music Festival had plenty of work cut out for them in terms of booking quality acts and convincing ticket buyers that this was the festival in which to commit. Landing headliners like British soul/pop singer Sam Smith, hometown natives My Morning Jacket and longtime jam staple Widespread Panic, certainly didn’t hurt.
ZZ Ward played kicked off Forecastle with a high energy set on Friday afternoon.
Forecastle featured four stages and an extensive range of artists from local to nationally known acts. Friday opened with a relatively modest schedule, leaving festival goers with plenty of options for music ranging from soul and rock shows from acts like St. Paul and the Broken Bones and ZZ Ward to the Cold War Kids. Of course, if those acts weren’t enough to get your heart pounding, there were plenty of other things to do on-site, like grab a bite from the extensive food truck oasis (Holy Mole’s Nashville Hot Chicken Tacos get my thumbs up!), competing in a bouncy horse race or sipping from a wide range of rare libations at the air-conditioned Kentucky Bourbon Lodge. Things got more upbeat that night with acts like Keisza and Big Krit on the Ocean Stage, the weekend destination for hip-hop and EDM artists creatively located underneath a heavily trafficked overpass to make the most of lights, sound and the younger, rowdier crowd.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night for me was just how much I enjoyed Sam Smith’s set. What I was expecting was a completely sleepy, completely sad presentation of a dude who had somehow missed the fact that he’s a freakin’ megastar in a fog of his own self-loathing (his songs are like, really, REALLY sad). But I was totally wrong! Instead, he gave an amazingly energetic performance that included several hits, plus a live cover/mashup of Amy Winehouse’s Tears Dry on Their Own vs Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. Unfortunately, during his performance of Lay Me Down (which was proceeded by him saying, “I hope there aren’t too many people in the audience who love someone who doesn’t love them back” – now that felt VERY Sam Smith to me), a huge storm rolled in, resulting in a premature ending of the night’s festivities as well as more than $20,000 worth of damage to the Mast Stage. I would be lying if I said I didn’t laugh pretty hard as the night ended with us all running away from Sam Smith screaming hysterically. There had to have been some small part of his tired soul that felt like he manifested this. I would have liked to have heard his Disclosure collaboration, Latch, which I’m sure was his encore, but alas.
Jason Huber of the Nashville electro-funk duo, Cherub, shredded on his guitar during their Saturday evening set.
The damage contributed to a late start to Saturday, when gates opened nearly an hour past their originally scheduled time. This was good news for us because it provided extra time to make our way to the venue and avoid probably the most brutal heat I’ve experienced at a festival all summer. It was akin to living inside of a very large, very sweaty butt. Every once in a while, the waterfront would help break wind, but let’s be real, it smelled like a salty distillery up in that beast. Mariachi El Bronx brought a unique Latin flavor to Saturday’s lineup, and set the tone for the grueling day. Later that evening, it became very clear that ILoveMakkonen had us TURNED UP on a Saturday (which made sense because tomorrow was Sunday). Other stand out acts included Nashville’s Cherub, who finally brought the weirdos out of their shell that day, and inspired the first full blown, apeshit dance party of the weekend with raunchy singles like Monogamy and Doses and Mimosas. The real draw that day was My Morning Jacket, however. They always play a little harder, better, faster, stronger in their home town. Jim James and his crew shredded until well past the scheduled 12 PM end time, leaving us wanting more after a truly spectacular finale of One Big Holiday. They remain one of Louisville’s faves for a reason.
Jim James donned a cape during My Morning Jacket’s Saturday Night Set.
I hit the Jamie Xx party on the Belle of Louisville later that night. While I enjoyed the performance, I could have gone for at least another hour of boogies, even after that insanely hot day in the sun. While The Belle felt a bit like a high school dance that I should have been chaperoning (sometimes I realize that I’m OLD AF), I still enjoyed the vinyl set that Jamie Xx spun, relying less on his recent release In Colour and more on disco standbys. It was definitely worth the $24 ticket.
Robert DeLong’s collection of video game controllers, live drums and looped vocals allowed him to give the most unique performance of the weekend.
Since Saturday ended inevitably late, it was slow going getting to the venue the next day. Day 3 vibes are always my favorite, though. People are more tired, more weird and they give significantly less fucks all around. This was apparent immediately upon arrival. Our group scattered, some to the media tent for booze (see also: Me), some to catch the cool punk band with the unforgivable name, Diarrhea Planet while others went family friendly with the Wilco dad/son collective, Tweedy.
After slamming a quick drink, I made my way behind the Ocean Stage to grab face paint from Robert DeLong’s team. See, Robert DeLong is one of my favorite performers, and if I have a chance to get involved on a deeper level, I’ll always take it. His shows carry a face paint tradition, and volunteers are always called upon to unleash their talents on the crowd. The next hour was a whirlwind of painting faces, singing with fans and telling people who I thought were couples to have engage in shameless pre-marital sex that night. Unfortunately, I think I may have told a pair of siblings this, at which point it was time to execute Operation: Foot in Mouth. They were good sports about it though, and we all had a good laugh. How could one be mad when DeLong is literally covering the stage in filthy beats? DeLong’s set focused on songs from his debut album Global Concepts as well as Long Way Down EP. Having followed him for the past two years, it’s been exciting to see him come into his own as a stronger singer/songwriter, and I’m glad to see that his gear which comes complete with wii motes, sidewinders, midi fighters and more, is still being put to fabulous use. His set was by far the most exciting and unique to see at the festival on Sunday.
Modest Mouse showed off their new sound during their Sunday evening set.
Next up was Modest Mouse, who I listened to from afar (because I was hanging out in the artist trailers because I’m a [email protected]&KING BAWSE LIKE DAT). This tour is clearly about the new tracks. Isaac Brock’s classic sound is still alive, but some of that rawness has melted and given way to flowy new production, some of which can be attributed to the band’s working relationship with James Mercer of The Shins. That said, I could still hear older hits like Float On drift into the sky, reminding the crowd of the time Modest Mouse was just starting to grow in popularity, before they were playing prime time spots at major music festivals. As their reverb-drenched chords began to melt away, the booming bass of RL Grime at the Ocean Stage quickly grabbed my attention. His trap-heavy set featured a who’s who of this year’s most popular EDM artists. Some of the bigger reactions came for tracks like Tell Me, an RL Grime/What So Not (featuring Flume of last year’s Forecastle lineup) collaboration and his remix of Knife Party’s Boss Mode, among others. It was a full blown ratchet fest, and probably my top show of the weekend. Which brings me too – where the F&@K were all of the straight EDM acts? That’s one thing Forecastle was seriously lacking this weekend, and I hope this is improved upon at next year’s festival. It’s necessary if they want to compete with other multi-genre lineups in the area.
RL Grime’s trap set was the only full EDM show of Forecastle weekend.
Widespread Panic closed out the night with their signature jam-laden tracks, providing friendly exit music as we headed out just a little bit early on the last night. Overall, Forecastle despite the heat, wind damage and somewhat inconsistent lineup still brought plenty of fun and excitement to Louisville’s Waterfront Park. There’s no doubt they’ll be back with more surprises next July, and hopefully, a lot more bass (right?) .