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Archive for the ‘Kentucky’ Category

Forecastle-07-17-2015-Sam-Smith-S-1

Photo by Willie MacLean

Once upon a time, in July of 2002, a grassroots-organized neighborhood gathering of music, art and activism took place in a quaint little patch of grass in the Fredrick Olmsted-designed Tyler Park. Located in the heart of the Highlands neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky, the first Forecastle was comprised primarily of local artists and musicians who all performed for free.  Drawing a few hundred people nonetheless, festival founder JK McKnight made it all work on a budget of less than $500.

Fast forward to today, and this little grassroots festival has steadily evolved itself into a corporate-controlled, behemoth midwest tourist attraction, drawing thousands and thousands of festival-goers from 49 states and 12 countries. Now fully orchestrated by Knoxville’s AC Entertainment (producer of Bonnaroo & Sloss Music Festival), Forecastle Festival will once again take place on Louisville’s Waterfront Park this weekend, from July 15-17th.

The Dwindling Local Element

As an advocate for all things Kentucky, this writer would be remiss to note how our largest home state music festival seems to play host to fewer and fewer “Kentucky” musicians and artists, as each year passes. Sad, but true. In 2015 there were five artists, including My Morning Jacket, who hailed from the Bluegrass State, but this year it’s been reduced to only three, which is another aspect of the festival’s inevitable evolving trend. On the this year’s official lineup of musical artists with Kentucky roots we’ve got 1200, Joan Shelley and Louisville Orchestra Director, Teddy Abrams & Friends, who will likely feature a variety of other Kentucky musicians during his set.

Nonetheless, there’s still plenty to revel about and be excited for as Forecastle Festival maintains its status as Kentucky’s largest annual gathering of music and art. According to official ticket sales to date, this year’s festival is expected to surpass their all-time ticket sales record set last year, with over 65,000 tickets sold. 

Here are some of my personal highly-anticipated on and offstage attractions that I will choose to jabber about, in no specific order. You can even download a FREE set of tunes from a handful of Forecastle 2016 artists.

Ryan Adams

The last time I saw Mister Ryan Adams was in 2007 at Louisville’s Brown Theatre. This was when he had the audacity to only deliver a 20 minute acoustic set, sitting in a dimly-lit half circle with his band the entire time. After about three songs, plus a cover of Alice in Chains’ “Down in a Hole,” he stepped to the mic and uttered the words “Thank you, goodnight,” and then proceeded to walk offstage. Everyone in attendance was infuriated.

Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams

Regardless of that incident, this dude is one hell of a songwriter and live performer, with a 20+ year catalog of songs to draw from. I just happened to catch him on one of those shitty nights where ole’ Ryan just wasn’t feeling it. Chances are I won’t be the only person present at Forecastle this year who last saw him at the aforementioned flub show. That’s why I will confidently predict that his upcoming set at Forecastle will be an enthralling live demonstration of his musical prowess in one of his rare festival appearances. So, how about a total rock-out with your cock-out set there, Mister Adams? Some of us have been waiting a long time for it…

The Arcs

The last time a Dan Auerbach-fronted rock-n-roll machine graced a stage at Forecastle was in 2013, when the Black Keys gave a rock-n-roll sermon for over 2 hours to a rambunctious, yet appreciate drunken mass of fans. I was happily part of that mess.

The Arcs - Photo by Richard Swift

The Arcs – Photo by Richard Swift

Auerbach returns to the Forecastle stage with his newest rendition of psychedelia/garage rock while keeping intact his trademark vocals and reverb-drenched guitars. Also a vital part of the band is bassist Nick Movshon, whose better known for his extensive work with the late, great British soul queen, Amy Winehouse.

Keep an ear out for “Put a Flower in Your Pocket” if you’re a Keys fan. It should be just as a trippy performance as the song’s video. Hopefully. Catch them early on Saturday at 5:15 on the Mast Stage.

Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr with his signature Epiphone Casino

Gary Clark Jr with his signature Epiphone Casino

Making his 2nd Forecastle appearance in only 3 years is Austin-based Gary Clark Jr., one the next soon-to-be greatest Blues rockers of our generation. He’s a festival staple across the country and his experience with the Forecastle crowd will lead to another guitar and vocal-fueled battleground experience for his audience.

Just wait till he plays “The Healing” at some point during the set. Who doesn’t need some healing from living in today’s world? Catch him on Sunday at 5:00 on the Mast Stage.

[Read our March 2016 review of Gary Clark Jr. by our own Miss Autumn en Austin]

1200

1200

1200

Also known as Jecorey Arthur, he is a music teacher for a local school by day, and up-and-coming hip-hop artist by night. There’s not much more of a positive role model coming from his west end Louisville roots. But this boy will ignite your senses with his genuine delivery of real-life inspired songs, and heartfelt authenticity. He’s a “real” musician whose capable of reshaping the overall perception of his style within the uninformed popular thought, so make sure you give him a listen on Friday at 3:00 on the Ocean Stage.

The GONZO Bar

You know, not because I’m freaking biased towards Hunter S. Thompson and virtually anything GONZO, but this will be one of the coolest damn spots to get a bourbon or other GONZO libation of choice. Thompson, a Louisville native, and creator of GONZO Journalism, was also a rabid bourbon connoisseur, amongst quite a few other mind-altering substances of choice.

Gonzo Bar Forecastle Festival

Gonzo Bar Forecastle Festival

Celebrate the GONZO spirit while you enjoy a new feature to this year’s bar – a Grant Goodwine curated “traveling madhouse” of inspired art by Thompson and his longtime British illustrator, Ralph Steadman. Great DAZE!!

Anderson East

Rhythm and blues and soul rockers with dashes of country are definitely crowd-pleasers at Forecastle. This year’s festival will feature one of that genre-orgy’s up-and-coming rising giants, with Michael Cameron Anderson, professionally recognized as Anderson East. 

Anderson East

Anderson East

Yep, this little young Alabama lad can sure as hell man a mic and rock a stage with more heartfelt intent than some of the seasoned veterans around him. And when he’s done doing all that, he parks his boots under Country Music Queen, Miss Miranda Lambert’s bed. How about that?

You’ll have to shake off that Saturday night hangover kind of quickly as he opens the Mast Stage on Sunday at 1:45. Oh yeah, make sure you wish him a happy birthday if you’re in attendance because he’ll be celebrating his 28th.

The Bourbon Lodge

The Bourbon Lodge

The Bourbon Lodge

A celebration of Kentucky’s most famous export, other than horses and world-renowned musicians: bourbon, curated by The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a non-profit organization that promotes and publicizes all the major bourbon distillers throughout the state. You’ll learn about the history and cultivation of bourbon directly from the distilleries who’ve made it a world class export. And of course, be aware this is usually the only non-VIP air-conditioned oasis within festival grounds. So why not give all those sun and heat-relief seekers first class access to Kentucky’s brown hell water? Good call.

Kentucky Landing

Kentucky Landing

Kentucky Landing

This is the corridor where most of the incoming art will be found, along with mixed in festival retailers, many from Kentucky. It’s definitely the calmest and quietest section of the festival ground, and is great place to people watch. Grab a bite to eat. Or drink a craft brew. Or catch a nap. Whatever floats your boat.

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Forecastle Festival 2014 Mast Stage - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Forecastle Festival 2014 Mast Stage – Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Forecastle Festival did it again. It grew in both size and clout. Swelling from 30,000+ in 2012, to nearly doubling that figure this year, with just over 60,000 who flocked to the banks of the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky. Unified by music, art and activism (amongst other things), something is definitely happening here that transcends other festivals like it across the country. What exactly that is, is still annually defining itself, but nonetheless, it’s evolving and happening rather quickly.

Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Photo by Jason Ashcraft

However you see it, by the first time virgin eye, or as one of the Forecastle faithful, it’s just one big gleeful, heartfelt celebration by tens of thousands of people casting their differences aside, and sharing a lot of things together. Conversation. Beer. Bourbon. Moonshine. Food. Left & right-handed smoke-ables. Each other’s significant other. Art. Activism. Everything.

Everyone rushing around to take in the sights and sounds of a 60+ musical artist roster equally diverse.

That said, onto the music. Only a few I’ll make record of. Where to start?

With Kentucky, of course. You know, because I’m not freaking biased or anything. In my show notes for Dwight Yoakam’s performance, I half-drunkly only scribbled “Holy Shit.” Either because of the performance or the number of moonshines he inspired me to consume during it. Perhaps both. Mister Yoakam is a legend here in Kentucly. He’s the closest thing to a real-life living and breathing rock n’ roll honky tonk juke box, if there ever was one. Both his sound and his style is iconic in the world of music.  Only Yoakam can end his career spanning set with a blistering cover of Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds” and make the random virgin-eared bystander believe he wrote that damn song himself. Yep, call me biased, but if you were there that night, then you know it’s true.

Dwight Yoakam - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Dwight Yoakam – Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Even Jack White felt so obliged to acknowledge Dwight Yoakam’s musical reputation by dedicating a cover of Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” to the denim-diamond-cladded Kentucky icon of Rock n’ Roll Country. Of course, with Jack’s routine dark twist that only he could belt out in his own rhythmic fashion. In addition to his own solo material, there were heavy doses of past projects; the White Stripes and Raconteurs, a handful of covers, all delivered in pure rock n’ roll perfection, with a necessary dose of bizarro.

Andre 3000 of Outkast - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Andre 3000 of Outkast – Unknown Photo Source 

Outkast can probably take credit for officially drawing the largest crowd to surround any stage over the entire weekend, as they literally ripped everyone a new, yet familiar, hip-hop asshole. Yes, that was a bonafied compliment for the Atlanta-based alternative trio who enjoyed the largest and most diverse fan-base, blurring the age spectrum. Generation X & Y, along with the Millennials, just couldn’t get enough and all were equally entertained to a brazen 90+ minute set spanning a 20+ year catalogue.

Band of Horses - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Band of Horses – Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Seattle-based Band of Horses turned in a set that was as mesmerizing as it was entertaining. Frontman Ben Bridwell has a voice that will transcend his band into the ages. That voice embodies the range of emotions and intensity you experience while seeing them live. The downright tight musicianship coupled with stellar songwriting will someday justify their headlining of these festival’s of the like. Period.

The Replacements - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

The Replacements – Unknown Photo Source

The Replacements, who brought an endless buffet of Gibson guitars, also showed they had shit tons of eagerness to perform again, this time with Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong to fill on some rhythm responsibilities.

“God, please write this set for us,” lead vocalist Paul Westerberg pleaded upon claiming the mic and stage. Ask, and ye shall receive, shall we say, for a summation of everything thereafter. Only one cover was logged, which came by way of Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene.”

JJ Grey - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

JJ Grey & Mofro – Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Swamp-blues rockers JJ Grey & Mofro also gave a raucous rock n’ roll performance that was message-filled and loose, shall we say.Ole’ JJ himself occasionally took mid-song instrumental breaks to share what was on his mind with his ever-endearing fan base who praised every word that was uttered from his lips. The most memorable of the night came by way of their set’s closer “Everything Good is Bad.”

Ray LaMontagne and band - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Ray LaMontagne and band – Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Ray LaMontagne’s psychedelic southern circus of sounds started calmly, but built with intensity and a recognizable progression thanks to a highly talented and multi-tasking band. Ray’s natural vocal rasp is not only immediately recognizable, but grants him his own sound and give’s a meaningful feeling to his music.

Jalin Roze - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Jalin Roze – Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Louisville’s current hip-hop ambassador, Jalin Roze, amassed what was probably the largest crowd at the Port Stage saw all weekend. The up and coming Roze broke the norm of his fellow hip-hop compadres, and came with a full live band, brass, strings and keys included. Throw in his masterful manipulation of the English language without butchering it, and you’ll understand that this kid is well on his way. Somewhere.

Even Louisville’s Mayor Greg Fischer, apparently taking the weekend off to join the army of forecastle’s growing citizen journalists, took to the Twitter-sphere to document his Forecastle experience. Way to go Mayor on getting in the photo pit, apparently, too. Or were you in VIP all day?

Image courtesy of Twitter

Image courtesy of Twitter

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that on Friday, July 18th, marked what would have been the 77th birthday of Louisville native Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, who was recognized in a sort of mild manner overall, but whose 15’ tall human-powered puppet made it’s return from last year. It’s both a crowd pleaser and selfie-inducer.

Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Photo by Jason Ashcraft

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point out that – as we consider what Forecastle is and what it will be – good ole’ Hunter once infamously proclaimed, “When the going get’s weird, the weird turn pro.”

In toady’s world, indeed it’s weird. And it’s safe to assume the continued evolution of something like Forecastle is a bit of living proof HST’s proclamation of such, wasn’t just another one of his many rage and substance-laden rants. He was right, again. It’s happening everywhere, geographically, but it’s also happening here with a little more intensity. Right here in Louisville, Kentucky. America’s midwestern heartland. Exactly where his own ideologies first formed. Seemingly ironic.

That said, and jumping ahead to Forecastle 2015, Hunter would’ve probably just said, “Buy the ticket. Take the ride.”

— This review also published at PerformerMag.com

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