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Louder Than Life Festival crowd at East Stage - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Louder Than Life Festival crowd at East Stage – Photo by Jason Ashcraft

The second year of the Louder Than Life festival is now officially in the books and I am officially done with this music scene until, perhaps, next year. The gargantuan-sized metal and rock n’ roll music and gourmet man-food extravaganza still has my fucking ears ringing, my clothes still half covered in mud, and that post-concert hangover feeling that I’ve not had since my 20’s. I don’t know if I am wishing that maybe I had indulged just a little more or a little less, at this point. I can’t decide.

Over 50,000 people in two short days flocked to the festival, like droves of wild animals trying to cram their way onto Noah’s arc. According to festival organizers, over 70% of these metalhead and rock n’ roll bastards came from outside Louisville’s city limits. “Bastards” being a word I totally threw in there myself, not the festival. For clarification. And we all experienced the gamut of what Louisville weather can dish out in 48 hour period. Cold, cloudy and rainy one day, and sunny and hot the next. Welcome to the Ohio Valley, folks.

Saturday, 3 October: Muddy Metal Mayhem

So, like I said, tens of thousands of these metalhead bastards spent most of the day stomping around in the mud, the mosh pits, with booze in-hand, avoiding roving packs of security and police, and generally just humping and living the typical American metalhead dream. Whiskey-bent. Hellbound. Making beasts of themselves for a few short hours. Some screaming obscenities at random passer-byers and some at the bands. Some so self-absorbed into the music that nothing else around them really existed. Everyone seemingly losing their minds to the overly-decibeled carnage of America’s most notorious metal and hard rock acts that FM radio stations, MTV and other mainstream media outlets have spent decades force-feeding their fans with.

Sevendust, one of the lesser-overplayed, and more talented acts on the docket, turned in a short, yet tight set, that included an old-school cut “Denial,” and also the newly released “Not Today” off their latest album Kill The Flaw. Just one question, though, guys: that new album title isn’t a subliminal reference to what you intend to do to a certain newly-reunited metal band from Louisville, is it? Probably not, but had to make a joke out of that. Moving on…

The biggest treat of the day came with Chevelle – who mesmerized with musical precision like only a brother-band could do – and went deep into their catalogue with cuts like “Forfeit” and “The Red.” Of course Chevelle probably couldn’t get off stage without playing “Send The Pain Below,” and so they did. Perfectly so.

Then came veteran metal horror rocker Rob Zombie. With pictures of classic horror movie characters as his stage background along with shitty, negative, certain one-word terms I’m not going to report on, Zombie lambasted his fans with his iconic groove-metal style that only he can pull off the way he does it. Somewhat surprisingly, he opened with a romping and rousing take of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band” before blistering through his own set of 20+ year solo and White Zombie cuts. I’d also be remiss to mention that he totally killed it on his take of a James Brown classic, “Get Up (I Feel Like Being) a Sex Machine.”

Sunday, 4 October: More Sun, More Fun and Interviews!

The last thing I needed on Sunday afternoon to nurse a metal-induced, late Saturday night hangover was another several hour onslaught of cookie-monster singer’s bands. Sorry, but that’s what some unmentioned Saturday acts really sound like at times.

Nonetheless, day two brought better weather, sunny skies, warmer temperatures and a more classic rock n’ roll, and overall friendly vibe. The crowd, noticeably tamer, perhaps as hungover as I was, got a dose of rock n’ roll from the likes of ZZ Top (who I regrettably bailed on), Slash, Breaking Benjamin, Shinedown, Black Stone Cherry, Kentucky Headhunters, Collective Soul and Skid Row, amongst several others.

One metal band, in particular, hailing from Louisville, and who’s in the midst of launching a new comeback tour, FLAW, also performed on this day. On the wrong stage, though, if you ask me. They should’ve been next door on the much larger East stage, all things considered. Nonetheless, they delivered exactly what they’re longtime loyal fanbase still flocks to see them for: metal with catchy melodies.

I actually had the chance to catch up with FLAW after their set, and here is what they had to say about getting back together again and what the future holds:

And of course I also had to pay homage to another set of Kentucky music icons, the Kentucky Headhunters and Black Stone Cherry, who both hail from the hollers of Edmonton, Kentucky in Metcalfe County. Just a few hours south of Louisville. Before their sets I had the chance to sit down and interview Richard Young (Kentucky Headhunters) and John Fred Young (BSC), for a cool first time ever father-son interview between the two. Check out what I made them jabber about when asked what guitar they’d break vs. play, and who they hope becomes President:

Black Stone Cherry went on to amass a hometown crowd that better resembled what they typically play to in the UK and other European tour destinations. I mean, fucking Jimmy Page shows up regularly to their shows in the UK to hang out and watch them. This was the biggest crowd I’ve seen them play in their home state, and I‘ve seen them play countless times since 2002 when I first met them in the basement of the old Jillians on Lexington Avenue here in Louisville. Those guys were maybe 16 to 18 at the time, and being escorted by Richard Young who was their manager. Gee, how things have changed for them since those days.

Black Stone Cherry crowd at Louder Than Life festival 2015 - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Black Stone Cherry crowd at Louder Than Life festival 2015 – Photo by Jason Ashcraft

I love to see Kentucky musicians and artists exporting their creations outside of the state. The Young family of musicians has always done a fine job of doing just that, by keeping both the national and international communities aware that it’s not just bourbon, horses and fast women that come from Kentucky! But kick-ass, boot-scootin, southern rock n’ roll music does, too!

So Let’s Wrap this Shit Up

LTL is one of those festivals that when you honestly proclaim, like I remember doing in the middle of a rum-fit to some dude: that you’re “one crazy bastard,” people will be like “that’s good to hear!” And they mean it. They’re not bullshitting you. That’s what it’s all about. Being crazy bastards listening to loud-ass, rage-a-holic metal and rock n’ roll music. Together. With fancy gourmet $8 hot dogs – or some other gourmet man-food items of choice in one hand – and some sort of whiskey or beer concoction in the other. Screaming at everything and everyone around you. Pretending that one day, maybe you’ll be on that stage.

I’m guessing that’s why they call this festival Louder Than Life. And hold it in good ole’ Louisville, Kentucky, where this kind of loud behavior will be happily tolerated, no matter what you set the decibel level to, in exchange for the extra tax dollar revenue it will generate.

Welcome to Louisville, Louder Than Life! I’m sure you’ll continue to fit right in.

Selah.

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

— Hunter S. Thompson

**These interviews and coverage  also published at GonzoToday.com

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A fine night in Austin for ACL - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

A fine night in Austin for ACL – Photo by Jason Ashcraft

My pathetic excuse for the tardiness of this post is that I FINALLY said goodbye to my hometown of Louisville (but NOT Louisville Basketball) and moved to an undisclosed location, adjacent to a large body of water, deep within ACC territory. Still, varying, yet annoying shades of blue everywhere I go. 

But, right before my Louisville-Sayonara, I flocked to one of our nation’s music-meccas, Austin, Texas back in October 2014. Yep, over 75,000 people and myself, every day, crammed our way into every muddy, beer-laden, smoked-out crevice where it was necessary to see your artist of choice. And then you got random, so-called journalists like myself, approximately 200 of us, looking for something to drink, interview and write about. Astonishing, right? 

No f**king Willie, though. Maybe next time…

At least Performer Magazine’s October 2014 edition got my review out in a timely manner...

(FOR THE RECORD: I have no f**king clue why the photographer shot exactly the opposite of what I intended to see and write about. Oh yeah, because it wasn’t one of my preferred photographers…)

ICYMI: Highlights From Austin City Limits Music Festival 2014

“The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.” So it goes according to the age-old song lyric, once written by June Hershey back in the 1940’s. As for weekend two of the Austin City Limits music festival, the saying was more figurative, than literal, as overcast and rain hindered the view of the big Texan sky, keeping most of the focus on the stars that graced one of eight stages at the sold out, mud-haven, mammoth-sized music festival that drew roughly 75,000 people each day. ACL Music Festival 09 Stars or no stars, not even Outkast’s Big Boi could resist the urge of getting their large crowd from chanting Hershey’s old time sing-a-long, during a mid-set break. He started it, and the audience finished it with true Texan pride. ACL Music Festival 08 Of course, just about anything a musician chants through a microphone – requiring some sort of audience response – is met with thunderous applause and raucous reception. Kind of like when Eminem, during his own set, un-shockingly asked his endless sea of fans, “How many of you out there are fucked up?”Followed by; “How many of you out there are fucked in the head?” Followed by “How many of you are both fucked up and fucked in the head?”Would you believe that literally everyone in attendance responded louder and louder as the questioning progressed? Of course. ACL Music Festival 04 This is Eminem we’re talking about. Nonetheless, give Slim Shady the credit for drawing the biggest crowd and giving the biggest, most aww-inspiring performance of anyone at the festival, hands-down. Pearl Jam was easily a not-so-distant second in terms of performance and crowd size, with frontman Eddie Vedder also regularly dialoguing with his audience in somewhat of a more rationale and humbled demeanor, but still, nonetheless, glorifying and encouraging the festival-goers choice intoxicant. His own being a bottle of wine. ACL Music Festival 03 Outkast, Pearl Jam and Eminem, all with career’s stemming from the 90’s, and having an arsenal of songs to draw from, raced through extensive hit-laden set lists that were nearly two hours each. Beck, Jimmy Cliff, The Replacements and Lorde all, too, had blazing sets worth recognizing. Although ACL seems to be known for its plethora of sounds and styles from artists of varying levels of clout and success, it is, from the perspective of this first-time virgin eye, a festival that caters to the big stars. Deep in the heart of Texas. photos by Ralph Arvesen

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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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Photo by Jason Ashcraft

You wanna know what Forecastle Festival is like? Ok. It’s a little something like this: Music. Art(ists). Ecology. Louisville-lovers. Dirty hippie dudes. Dirty hippie dames. Beardos. Rollie Fingers’ staches. Dreadlocks. Tye-dye. Bassheads. Potheads. River-bathers. Burlesque performances. Tree-huggers. Socialists. Liberals. Journalists. Hacky-sack circles. Sweaty people drinking PBR. Sweaty people making out. Sweaty people drinking PBRs and making out. Teenage make-shift obstacle hurdlers. Pervasive Mary Jane aromas. Muhammad Ali portraits in the head. The Mayor in VIP.

Yep, this is how it went down on the banks of the Ohio River when more than 35,000 people jumbled together to celebrate Louisville, right below its own skyline in Waterfront Park. And, yes, this was a city government-endorsed event as Mayor Fischer was present to once again welcome My Morning Jacket with Forecastle Festival founder JK McKnight. Whereas some city governments shun music festivals like these, Louisville’s embraces it.

Things have really evolved culturally in this town over the last couple decades, and Forecastle just may be one, if not the main, instigator of said evolution. It’s living, breathing, naked proof that people from many different backgrounds, beliefs and races can coexist together in a way that promotes unity, cultural awareness, activism and freedom with music as the unifying stimulus.

With music being one of the biggest aspects of the festival, here is the rundown of the artists ranked from best to worst in my own opinion.

My Morning Jacket

Jim James – Photo by Kate Eldridge (www.KateEldridge.com)

I don’t have a clue where to freaking begin here. Why? Because last May 2011, when the band released Circuital at Louisville’s Palace Theatre I said that MMJ gave the greatest performance they could ever give. Now here I am, again, both eating my words and again saying, “MMJ gave the greatest performance they could ever give at Forecastle.” Not to mention the best performance – by far – of the entire damn festival. Exactly as they planned to.

In a recent interview with MMJ bassist Two-Tone Tommy, he promised that “surprises” were in store, and the first came only two songs in when the big brass backing of Preservation Hall Jazz Band joined them for a crowd-pleasing version of “Holdin’ Onto Black Metal.”

Keeping the set eclectic, they played songs from virtually their entire discography, opening with “The Dark” and busting out mesmerizing versions of “The Bear,” “Anytime,” “Smoking From Shooting,” “Steam Engine,” and crowd favorites, including“Wordless Chorus” and an Andrew Bird-accompanied version of “Gideon.”

They also logged killer covers of Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity,” The Band’s “It Makes No Difference,” and an encore performance of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” in which Jim delivered a message from George Michael himself, while tossing bananas to the audience and hilariously adjusting the lyrics to suit the occasion.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that cover perpetuated the sale of a few more George Michaels’ albums on iTunes post-show from all those youngins, who were wondering what the hell they just heard. Hey kids, just like Jim mentioned during a mid-song instrumental break, “George Michaels gets a lot of shit, but he is a fucking genius.” Truer words never spoken.

Once the banana tossing concluded, and with Forecastle’s First-mate saluting the audience from side-stage, former MMJ guitarist Johnny Quaid (of Ravenna Colt) emerged from backstage to play a rambunctious version of “One Big Holiday.” With that, the stage came alive as human-propelled animal and fish props became part of the stage show and provided the last of many “holy shit” moments for the evening.

Sleeper Agent

Now here is a band with a lot of charisma and a seemingly bright future ahead of them — that is — if they keep giving performances like they did at Forecastle. Make no mistake folks, lead singer Alex Kandel is the star in this band as she danced, headbanged and pushed her way around stage with fellow bandmates, flipping her hair from one side to the next every five steps.

Sleeper Agent – Photo by Kate Eldridge (www.KateEldridge.com)

I guess Guitarist Tony Smith figured he, too, needed to get a little wicked, electing to jump offstage and crowd-surf till he was dropped. He quickly jumped back to his feet and climbed back onstage to carry on.

The Bowling Green, Kentuckians logged rowdy live performances of “Get Burned,” “Get It Daddy” and “Proper Taste,” all from their debut album Celebrasion. If these little young Kentucky lads are to have some more big shows in their future, then all they gotta do is keep doing what they did at Forecastle. Their crowd was one of the biggest of the smaller two stages. Next time, they should get a bigger stage because I’m betting they will hold their own on a stage of any size.  

Ben Sollee

Ben Sollee – Photo by Kate Eldridge (www.KateEldridge.com)

Kentucky’s cello-rocker Ben Sollee is a one-man orchestra onstage. Offstage, he’s a seemingly passive, small-framed guy, who almost looks like a scientist or a high school math teacher. But don’t be fooled, because he once again shattered that subtle image the moment he took stage and masterfully blended elements of classical and out-right jamming styles of sound from his cello. He adds in some soulful vocals and sometimes plays with vicious intent and a lot of passion.

Not even a 10-minute late start due to a technical glitch slowed him down on his Sunday evening performance, nor did it decrease the size of his audience, which eagerly awaited him to start plucking and strumming that cello with his bow. Once he started, Sollee quickly captured his audience with his passion in both personality and showmanship. His one-hour set flew by, and I found myself having to cut-out about 15 minutes early to see another equally impressive band getting ready to start.

Clutch

“Hat’s off to My Morning Jacket for their great taste in music!” says Clutch lead singer Neil Fallon, who selfishly joked at mid-set about their invitation to play. But he’s right, especially if you’re fan of good ole’ dirty and stripped-down rock ‘n’ roll, which is a music style that’s not the norm at Forecastle.

Clutch – Photo by Kate Eldridge (www.KateEldridge.com)

Filling the Boom Stage’s lawn with a couple thousand people, Clutch played cuts from their entire catalog. Opening with “Gravel Road” and closing with “One Eye Dollar,” Clutch delivered a set that spanned their 20-year career in music, including high-energy versions of their more popular hits like “50,000 Unstoppable Watts” and “Electric Worry,” yet strangely left out “The Mob Goes Wild.” Damn. Maybe next time.

Ochestre Poly-Rythmo

These Afrobeat and funk pioneers were probably one of the most under-anticipated acts playing in the entire festival. These guys have been playing together for decades but added a hip international flair unlike previous years. Although they’ve been jamming out since the ‘60s, this was only their second trip to the U.S.

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo – Photo by Jason Ashcraft

About an equal amount of time was shared between instrumental play and the soulful French-African vocals of lead singer Amenoudji Joseph Vicky, who spoke to the audience during and in-between songs.

After his performance, I actually had the chance to speak with Vicky on things like the meaning of his music, who some of his musical influences are, and even got a little political, quizzing him on his thoughts on President Obama and our country’s political system.

Speaking in his native French tongue and with a little help from Poly Rythmo’s interpreter and U.S. Manager, Elodie, Vicky was candid and entertaining to listen to. I just wish he had broken out a peace pipe on me. Oh well.

Moon Taxi

This is one band I hadn’t actually planned on seeing, but that I just happened to stumble upon while waiting to see Cabin at the next stage over. I gotta say I’m definitely glad I did, because the guys were totally balls-out rock ‘n’ roll with enough energy radiating off the stage to keep their audience growing through the set.

Now I didn’t recognize any of their original music, but they belted out one mean cover of The Who’s “Teenage Wasteland,” which stopped a few would-be passerbys dead in their tracks as they made their way to the stage.

Cabin

Cabin with Ben Sollee – Photo by Kate Eldridge (www.KateEldridge.com)

One of several Louisville-based indie rock acts took the stage on a muggy Sunday evening to a rather shy and undersized crowd. Lead singer Noah Hewett-Ball has a calm, cool and collected demeanor onstage that seems to carry over with most of their music as a band.

One of their more catchy tunes they played, “A Lie Worth Believing,” just happened to bring out cello extraordinaire, Ben Sollee, for a little eclectic addition to an already catchy song. Much to the modest crowd’s appeasement, Keyboard and Violinist Sarah Beth Welder wasn’t shy about admitting that “I got to knock something off my bucket list by playing with Ben Sollee.”

Lucero

The country punk rockers make their Forecastle return, this time with less bugs up in their grills. Yep, the last time they played Forecastle in 2010 Lucero was swarmed by big river flies that spoiled their performance a little. Not this time, though, instead they were swarmed with a steady fan base.

Frontman Ben Nichols’ gritty and countryfied vocals charmed the couple thousand fans, who weren’t in short supply of being fond for alt-southern sounds that makes Lucero iconic.

Lucero – Photo by Kate Eldridge (www.KateEldridge.com)

Promoting their latest album Women & Work, Nichols and band jammed out the title track to an eager audience. And it wouldn’t be a true Lucero show if they didn’t play “Nights Like These” and “Kiss the Bottle,” which Nichols refers to as his “jaw breaking song.”

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

The pride of New Orlean’s zydeco-jazz music culture stormed into Louisville — almost literally. Staying true to Preservation Hall’s reputation of never hosting a performance in the rain, the day’s storms cleared out of Louisville just in time. Some things never change, I guess.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Jim James – Photo by Kate Eldridge (www.KateEldridge.com)

Just as everyone anticipated, Jim James took the stage for a cabaret-like sing-a-long with Bourbon Street’s brass kings. And somehow at the end of that boisterous performance, James was holding a broken mic stand. Figure that one out for me.

Ravenna Colt

Johnny Quaid – Photo by Kate Eldridge (www.KateEldridge.com)

Who would’ve ever known that frontman Johnny Quaid actually had something more exciting in store than his own band’s performance at Forecastle? Not even me. Just a few hours after a bit of a mundane performance with his band Ravenna Colt, Quaid joined his former bandmates in My Morning Jacket onstage for what had to be the highlight of his night.

Ravenna Colt has some decent songs, thanks to Quaid’s obvious ear for sound, but their presentation needs some work. Many of their songs don’t warrant an energetic performance; the band just didn’t seem to be inspired by the music they were playing.

“South of Ohio” is one song they played that warrants a feather in his hat, but a bleak crowd seemed to detract from the performance.

GirlTalk

From Bruce Springsteen to Outkast to Black Sabbath, etc., etc. All laced with a steady backbeat. Ok, this guy reminded me of this loud-mouth, yet like-able, drunken club DJ that I used to work with in college in Richmond, Ky.
This dude pressed a damn button every so often on his laptop, yelled through his microphone “How y’all doing?” a few times and then staggered around like a boozed up ADHD patient all night — sometimes being away from his “instrument” for extended periods of time. Sure, he was a fun guy who “breaks out the jams” and entertains the chemically induced masses. But let’s be clear; I never considered this drunken bastard “talented.” Know what I mean?

GirlTalk – Photo by Kate Eldridge (www.KateEldridge.com)

Final thoughts…

It’s safe to say that this year’s Forecastle Festival topped everyone’s expectations, even my own. I admit that one of my first worries with all the amped up hype was that there would be an equally amped up Police force and security team ready to spoil the fun. As it turned out, however, and much to everyone’s appreciation, that wasn’t the case. They were seemingly respectful of the fans.

Photo by Jason Ashcraft

I mean, let’s face it; you can’t have the police dragging away a bunch of teenage and 20-something potheads for passing around doobies. Not when the Mayor just came off stage from amping them up and hanging out in VIP. That wouldn’t look good, now would it?

In all seriousness, well done LMPD and Axis Security! You see? You guys still brought home the same amount of pay, maintained the safety of all festival-goers and didn’t have to break a sweat or someone’s arm while doing it. Hopefully, you guys now realize that all those pot-smoking, music-junkie hippie kids aren’t really interested in bringing harm to anyone or anything. Nah. All they really want to do is get another polish sausage to suffice their munchies, dance in circles to a My Morning Jacket or Dr. Dog song, and maybe learn how to burn a few less fossil fuels in their daily lives. So, thank you for allowing this to happen. Peacefully.

** This review also published at LouisvilleKY.com and PerformerMag.com

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“I love you Chris Cornell!” some random guy yelled out in a sudden and rare instance of crowd silence.

“Thank you buddy!” Cornell quickly replied while trying to eyeball his affectionate fan.

“So, what do you guys want to hear?” Cornell asked.

And somewhere muddled in the flurry of audience requests that ensued, I’m pretty sure Cornell developed most of his setlist at that given moment that he would perform over the next couple hours.

Cornell’s been sporting a Jesus Christ look lately with a fairly long dark beard and stringy shoulder-length dark hair. It’s kind of a different look for him. Regardless, the grammy award winning Soundgarden/Audioslave founder and frontman spent the next two and a half hours treating fans to his hit-filled “Songbook” collection from a wildly successful 25+ year career in music.

I can’t really decide which moment or what song stole the night or was liked by the audience the best. There was just to many solid performances given by Cornell, with each of them rivaling in showmanship and vocal vertex.

From the opening song, which I thought was some sort of tribute to Elvis Costello (but actually was a cover of Nick Lowe’s Peace, Love & Understanding), to a flawless depiction of “Seasons,” or the heart-felt and smooth crooning of “Sunshower,” to when he hit his vocal pinnacle on “Fell On Black Days,” to the unyielding performance of “Hunger Strike” that evoked a standing ovation from the crowd, Cornell’s enthusiasm for playing never once faded.

Believe it or not, a fight that broke out by some good ole’ redneck boys (this is still Kentucky, you know) during a performance of “Like A Stone.” What a bad song to fight to I may add. Must have been over a girl I’m guessing. 

Even Cornell had to stop playing because of the audience’s noticeable distraction and the security waving flashlights.

“You’re interrupting my song, dudes. Just relax and sit down,” Cornell jokingly, yet seriously requested.

And right after the rest of the audience graciously applauded Cornell for calling out the feuding fans, he picked right back up where the fight stopped the song, and finished gracefully.

A dedication to a performance of “Wide Awake” was extended to Hurricane Katrina victims, which was pretty noble.

Not forgetting this night was the 31st anniversary of John Lennon’s murder – even to the hour – Cornell belted out his acclaimed version of “Imagine,” which evoked an eery silence during the song. I kind of wished he had someone on piano for that song. It was beautiful and well-timed nonetheless.

Cornell closed with a blistering take “Blow Up the Outside World,” (my personal favorite Soundgarden tune) leaving his guitar on the floor as he walked off stage waving. The guitar strings kept emitting a low and wavy hum from his last and final strum which left a sense of euphoria to his exit. Several people were still singing the song’s chorus, including myself, as we all began filing out to the street.

What a damn good show.

*Photos by Jason Ashcraft

**This review also published at Louisville.com

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Over the years Dwight Yoakam has been known for putting on massively entertaining live performances. After last Friday’s performance at Horseshoe Casino’s Showroom, that reputation is likely to carry on.

Yoakam came onstage just after 8:00 pm, and was decked out in a all denim ensemble with his traditional spandex tight jeans over what I’m sure were suede cowboy boots. He had a diamond pleated ace-spade-club-heart denim jacket, and his typical tan cowboy hat, which kept his eyes tucked away from everyone but his band mates. He’s one mysterious, and somewhat “classy” redneck dude if I may say.

He opened with a few songs that I didn’t recognize by name, but were recognizable by ear. Regardless of trying to figure out the song names, I focused more on the band’s stage antics and performance style of Yoakam and band. Bassist Jonathan Clark, almost immediately after arriving on stage made friends with a pretty little blonde about three rows back as he struck flirtatious poses for her while she snapped away on her camera.

Lead guitarist Eddie Perez (formerly of The Mavericks) also played with a lot of animation. Almost always in a constant state of motion, Perez added in many exclamatory moves that corresponded with instrumental change-ups and the notes he was hitting on his Fender Telecaster. The guy could just flat-out play and was an asset to the ears as much as he was to the eyes.

As for Yoakam, he just pretty much danced and strutted his way around the stage with guitar in-hand and striking as many of his iconic take-a-picture-of-me-now guitar poses as he could.

Five songs into the set came his 2005 hit “Blame The Vain” which finally stimulated the crowd to make some noise and sing along.

But I was still mainly focused on the actual performance style and stage antics that Yoakam and band brought to the stage. Like when Yoakam broke a guitar string at mid-song, his bandmates immediately recognizing it almost as if string breaks are rehearsed situations, and they carry on instrumentally with the song until Yoakam has changed out a new guitar.

And then, contrarily, an out-of-tune guitar was discovered after the start of “Little Sister.” For a brief moment I thought Yoakam was going to erupt into Doyle mode, as his tech took a little grief for handing him the wrong guitar for the song. Keeping his cool, Yoakam immediately got back to business and proceeded with playing the song.

Yoakam also gave a twangy and bluesy performance of “This Time,” a crowd-pleasing version of “Honky Tonk Man,” and an almost unrecognizable take on Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” which I didn’t even realize it was till the end of the song.

High energy versions of “Guitars, Cadillacs” and “Fast As You” came to be the set closers once Yoakam and band kinda half-ass walked off stage after playing the songs. The crowd, not accepting that this was the true end of the show, kept yelling and screaming for more. Of course Yoakam and band knew they were coming back for an encore, and so did the audience. But that’s the formality of a live performance, right? It’s not an actual encore until the band walks offstage and then reemerges again shortly thereafter. And that they did. Anxiously grabbing their instruments again, Yoakam finally introduced his band by name and then played “Since I Started Drinking Again,” which perpetuated me to order one last drink for the night.

Yoakam’s two hour performance would finally conclude with a hard rocking version of “Long White Cadillac,” which he strummed out to perfection on his Epiphone Casino guitar. Some of Yoakam’s stage antics during this song’s performance left you wondering if the song was actually about a car. Hmm. Good ole’ Dwight.

* This review also published at Louisville.com

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Last Saturday’s monsoon-like thunder storm parted ways and went around Fort Knox. At least so it seemed as I made the trek down Gene Snyder Freeway en route to one of the U.S. Army’s most iconic military installations to see Kansas and the Doobie Brothers. With each passing mile the sky became more clear and the wind more calm. The show must go on.

Arriving at Fort Knox’s main gate traffic was quickly directed right into Godman Airfield where you were actually allowed to drive right down the main tarmac some several hundred yards. “What the hell?” I thought to myself as I pushed my gas pedal to the floorboard and took advantage of the desolate airstrip before me.

A massive stage was positioned right next to the air traffic control tower and air hanger #1, which helped give a bit of an authentic vibe for seeing a concert on a military base.

As expected, MP’s were just about everywhere you turned and ushering people along like cattle in between a maze of yellow barriers. Once led into the stage area those yellow barriers then became blockades several hundred feet in front of the stage and was reinforced by a neat row of MP’s behind them. The production staff was still finishing their sound checks. Then, over the PA system, a stage announcer says “All right folks, were gonna open the barriers up here in a second. Please make your way to the stage in an orderly fashion.” Yeah, right. As soon the barriers were removed a mad dash of several thousand people equipped with folding chairs, beers, and hot dogs ensued as everyone vied for a front row seat. Not hardly the “orderly fashion” requested.

Kansas, not Dilana, led off the night to an eager crowd who had just stampeded their way to get an up-close glimpse of the classic rockers.


Kansas – photo by Ross Lister

With a pinkish twilight of the sun setting as their stage backdrop, Kansas took their audience through their somewhat limited, yet popular, handful of hit singles that the original Kansas had written in the late 70’s and 80’s. “Carry On Wayward Son,” “Point Of No Return,” “Fight Fire With Fire,” and of course the song that made Kansas a household name in classic rock “Dust In The Wind” were amongst the songs performed. The best part of Kansas this day and age? Violinist David Ragsdale. He’s one bad mofo on the fiddle.


Kansas – photo by Ross Lister

The crowd was good and “primed” by the time the Doobie Brothers were set to take the stage and had only logged one skirmish that MP’s had to break-up. Once the Doobies appeared onstage the crowd erupted in anticipation as the band opened with “Jesus Is Just Alright.”


The Doobie Brothers – photo by Ross Lister

The Doobies are known for their perfect mix of harmonious vocals and blazing guitar solos by both Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons, two of the band’s original and founding members who are still the heart and soul of the band. Their performance on this night offered no shortage of the Doobies iconic style as they performed songs from their early days like “Takin’ It To The Streets,” “Black Water,” and “Long Train Runnin”.


The Doobie Brothers – photo by Ross Lister

They also threw in a mix of newer songs from their 2010 album World Gone Crazy with the title track, “Chateau” and “Nobody” which came with an impressive guitar solo by Johnston.

The only regret for the night was the sudden and untimely canceling by Lynyrd Skynyrd due to an ailing Johnny Van Zant. Hopefully they will schedule a make-up show because I’m sure I wasn’t the only person in the crowd that was just dying to have a valid reason to scream out “Play some Skynyrd man!” Maybe that chance will still be in store in the not-so-distant future.

*Photos by Ross Lister & Jason Ashcraft

** This review also published at Louisville.com

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