To believe in a dream, what sacrifice means: Reflections from the Forecastle Festival

by JK McKnight

More than a year of planning, thousands of hours of work, hundreds of volunteers, 60 bands, artists, businesses, organizations, sponsors, speakers, panels, films, sports, rain and sun. Reflecting on the past year, and all the hard work and effort that went into producing Forecastle’s Waterfront debut, is like removing your heart, placing it in a blender, and hitting start.

There are no clear emotions. It was a complete life experience, from one extreme to the other. From the highs of locking down national headliners, artists and environmental orgs who have never set foot here before, to the downs of having everything you’ve fiscally earned plucked away by everyone you know and don’t — I’ve never seen, or felt, anything like this.

Did it have an impact? Altogether, more than 5,000 people made their way to Louisville three weekends ago for five of eight events we hosted in July — all promoting the active lifestyle and creative spirit. With good weather, we would have hit 10,000, but I have no regrets. We came together as a community — from the corporations who sponsored the activities, to the waterfront homeless who worked on trash duty — we created something smart, unique, sophisticated, creative, unparalleled and original.
It was sharp. Watch it grow.

Having returned from Outdoor Retailer last Wednesday in Utah (more than 1,300 outdoor companies), you see the environmental movement reaching a new crest. While it still hasn’t motivated your average American to change his/her habits, it’s firmly planted in their minds. A year ago, only one in three companies at Outdoor Retailer had a sustainability program. Now they all do. And it’s not limited to Patagonia and Mountain Hardware. From BP to GE, businesses are adjusting. From concert venues to airports, our world is adapting. I’m inspired to embody the spirit by hosting a sustainable event that links people across the Midwest for a weekend of education and entertainment.

Beginning in 2008, Forecastle will expand to a complete, three-day experience on the Waterfront, while changing the name to include a conference. Shall we say, The Forecastle Festival + Summer Symposium.
For environmentalists and outdoor sports enthusiasts, it will be a place to network, demo the latest gear and enjoy the music, art, activities and downtown scenery.

For independent musicians, it will be a place to meet face-to-face with promoters, label executives and industry insiders, listening to panels focusing on career topics: songwriting, recording, studios, airplay, publishing, marketing, branding and touring.

For artists, there will be workshops focused on sustainable mediums, concept, design, technique and process, with panels shining light on career paths in the creative industry. There’s more than enough information out there on how to go from point A to B; what we need is people who have been there, done that. Questions, answers.

There are 10 million people within three hours of our skyline, and no reason we can’t accomplish this complete regional conference. Outside of the Northeast and Southwest, you won’t find a larger conglomeration of people in our country. I’m told over and over again, day in and day out, that this is what our city needs. I certainly agree.

The lessons learned and connections made will have an immediate impact. I’ve seen it firsthand with our environmental organizations and businesses. Now it’s time to focus on the independent musicians and artists, who will meet people in a neutral environment, able to facilitate their career.

In my 26 years of existence, I have found nothing harder, or more personally satisfying, than walking away from a lucrative future in medicine for a bare one in the creative industry. I just hope people appreciate the ideals many of us starve for — to enhance and purify the world we occupy. You sacrifice everything, tear yourself down to bare necessities. You work twice as hard for half as much. You fight, you bleed, you push yourself to physical and mental extremes to find out who you are as a person. As the sun sets west over the Forecastle Ship, I have one message left:

Do not waste time. You’re here for a reason. Do something.

Contact the writer at
[email protected]