Louisville Kentucky’s Waterfront Park, for the first time in its short-lived history, hosted the largest event it’s ever known. The Forecastle Festival, now in its 9th year, transformed Louisville’s 70+ acre downtown riverfront park into a hot and humid hippie haven drawing over 27,500 attendees. The large majority of which representing the teenage/young-adult-pot-smoking-and-liver-torturing-minimal-apparel-bearing-sustainable-living-promoting-live-music-liberal-enthusiast sub-culture.
Photo by Kate Eldridge
Who would believe that just 7 years ago Forecastle was literally a grass-roots gathering in a 13 acre neighborhood park on one small stage? Today it has quickly grown to be one of the regions must attend summer music and activism extravaganzas, not to mention a huge PR machine for all those involved. It has its own experience. But, on the flip side, the ironic characteristic about this festival – given that it heavily encourages the green and sustainable lifestyle – is that it generates a massive amount of leftover non-recycled plastic water bottles. Even in the face of 90+ degree temperatures, attendees were limited to very few free sources of water. That being said, surely show management will make a positive change in that regard for next year’s event.
The Main Stage – Photo by Staci Core
500 Miles to Memphis, the alt-country punk concoction from Cincinnati certainly lives up to their name, residing almost exactly 500 Miles from Memphis, Tennessee, that is. Aside from vocalist Ryan Malott somewhat sounding like Billy Joe from Green Day at times, their performance lacked a little of the luster that their punk-roots are usually known for. Maybe it was because of the swarm river bugs that kept invading the stage during their set. Or maybe they were uninspired by the somewhat small audience that arrived to hear them play on the East Stage. They’ll probably have a much better performance at their next gig in Louisville on August 28th at 3rd Street Dive.
File Photo of 500 Miles to Memphis – Photo by Steph Keller
Arnett Hollow, one of many Louisville-based artists charmed their significantly sizable dancing audience on the North stage, even though having a competing set time with Dead Confederate and Manchester Orchestra. Arnett Hollow gracefully blends new-age bluegrass with a world music sound, and is highlighted by a violin that sounds like its straight out of the 19th century.
Arnett Hollow onstage – Photo by Kate Eldridge
Dangerbird, yet another Louisville-based band, was a better fit for the North Stage. With an arsenal of Gibson guitars they have a bluesy and classic rock style that can, at-times, seem a little Led Zepplen-ish. Brian Gray’s vocals were diverse and his range of styles kept pace with the instrumental variations. Overall, they get a thumbs-up.
Dangerbird onstage – Photo by Kate Eldridge
Dead Confederate delivered an intense set of their emo style country-rock, set to a perfect sunset along the Louisville skyline on the festival’s East Stage. And although being from Athens, Georgia, they don’t possess an overbearing southern style. Vocalist Hardy Morris embodies childhood innocence in the way he performs with his eyes hid away from the audience by his bangs most of the set. Dead Confederate, as a band, has managed to transform downbeat rhythms into emotionally charged and high intensity songs that draw you in. They had one of the best performances of the entire event and probably deserved to be on the main stage.
Dead Confederate onstage – Photo by Kate Eldridge
Devo, the 80’s new-age style of rock inventors, surprised festival-goers with one of the most entertaining performances of the entire event. Playing quite a few songs off their new album “Something for Everybody” – their first album release in 20 years – their performance was decked out with extremely clever use of animated imagery projected on a large digital screen behind them. You just can’t help to not like a band who both lyrically and visually illustrated the sadistic human addiction to “feeding and breeding and pumping gas, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, do it again.” Yes, they said that.
Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh onstage – Photo by Kate Eldridge
Drive By Truckers, another Athens, Georgia based band playing at Forecastle, delivered a pretty decent performance of their southern style alternative rock, and a stage performance that doesn’t really to match the music’s pace. Although they lack an energetic stage presence, these guys have the ability to construct a song that makes their audience to do the moving around for them. Their Forecastle performance held this notion to be true as well.
Drive By Truckers onstage – Photo by Kate Eldridge
Lucero, the Memphis-based southern alt-country rock band has delivered some aw-inspiring performances in their day. Unfortunately, Forecastle was not one of those days. Leading their set off with somewhat of an obnoxious mic-check, they had rather an all-of-the-sudden set start, and then it all went downhill from there. It was hard to watch to say the least. Better luck next time.
Lucero onstage – Photo by Kate Eldridge
The Broken Spurs, one of Louisville’s best up-and-coming straight rock-n-roll bands – who just recently shared the stage with AC/DC in Freedom Hall – seemed slightly misplaced on the smaller North Stage, given the large crowd they drew. Rocking out on their collection of Gibson guitars, coupled with lead vocalist Adam Kramer’s Mick Jagger-ish sounding vocals, the Spurs brought their usual high-energy style, which was exemplified by the entire band’s obvious joy for playing. Never mind the “You Ain’t Shit” t-shirt that Kramer wore. These guys are quite entertaining.
The Broken Spurs’ Adam Kramer onstage – Photo by Kate Eldridge
The Pass, another Louisville, Kentucky based group, surprised with a flashy on-stage performance of their new-age style of pop rock. Playing to a pretty sizable audience, the band brought an eccentric on-stage presence and had several songs that were pretty appealing. There were times when vocalist Kyle Peters voice sounded dead-on like The Cure’s Robert Smith.
The Ravenna Colt, from Shelbyville, Kentucky was probably the top act of the North Stage drawing quite a large crowd of on-lookers. The band features ex-My Morning Jacket founding member and guitarist, Johnny Quaid, who takes up both guitars and vocals in this alt-country-blues rock band. Quaid zestfully showed his old school rock roots with songs laden with guitar solos from his Gibson SG. The rest of his band just followed his lead. Since releasing their debut album “Slight Spell” in February 2010, the band has only made a handful of regional live performances. They’re definitely a talented group so hopefully they’ll hit the road with a little more consistency sooner or later.
The Ravenna Colt onstage – Photo by Kate Eldridge
Whistle Peak, another band from Louisville was definitely a sight and sound to be heard. That is of course if you don’t mind music which sounds like it’s being auditioned for an Atari video game soundtrack or band members who dress like they just came from a Sunday night dinner reception at the yacht club. They must have been asked to play for diversity’s sake.
Whistle Peak onstage – Photo by Kate Eldridge
That’s a wrap on some of the more memorable musicians and performances, with the exception of acknowledging the Flaming Lips’ typical visual and auditory spectacle, which started with them emerging onstage from between some digitally projected – eh-hum – female “flaming lips.” Or the Smashing Pumpkins’ shocking and down-right boring set that Billy Corrigan lead and that sent some people packing midway through their set.
Having not yet been to anything like Bonnaroo or Woodstock, I get the sense that Forecastle is what it would be like, but on a slightly smaller scale. Yes, Forecastle Festival has that kind of growth potential. The music, the message, and the crowd just keep growing in both size and quality in all its distinct forms. Musicians, activists, artists, and concert-enthusiasts take note of this event. The Forecastle Festival has built a reputation for being a major social destination. If this sounds like your audience or your interest, then you’ve got to attend this festival.