A Forecastle lineup breakdown: calculated risks, sure-things, hometown heroes and second-wave hopefuls

Last year’s Outcast-Jack White-Beck-The Replacements headlining group was a juggernaut. It was this perfect storm of nostalgia, maintained relevance and levels of buzz that were probably impossible to actualize. It made the festival’s reputation shine a little brighter — especially with the dense middle part of the line-up — and, if you’re someone, like me, who kind of looks at music festival lineups primarily as a competition, it was another (large) step out of Bonnaroo’s shadow. The Sam Smith-My Morning Jacket-Widespread Panic-Modest Mouse 2015 group, which was released Tuesday, didn’t really have same initial punch — at least for me — but it is one thing: very smart.

A lot of it falls outside of my wheelhouse, but a music festival’s line-up is much bigger than my subjective opinion, which, sometimes, no matter how obvious that is, it doesn’t click right away. But, once I got all the self-righteous bullshit out of my system, I came to a few conclusions: 1) Festival-goers seem to be getting younger, I seem to be getting older. 16-24 is as important as 25-35. (On the other end, as festivals become more all-around expensive and VIP friendly, the 40-plus crowd also needs to be a heavy part of the equation), meaning  2) Forecastle is not going to be able to put together a cohesive core of musicians that seem to be almost universally beloved every year, so it probably makes sense to attack different demographics, especially with an anchor like My Morning Jacket. 3) If we way-too-far-down-the-rabbit-hole music nerds were hypothetically able to create the line-up, we would probably fuck the thing up beyond repair.

So, here’s a quick breakdown of the headliners, plus a few prospective mid-rangers that we hope are added in the second wave announcement:

 

Sam Smith 

This could have been a public relations nightmare. Right before the line-up was announced, Sam Smith was in the midst of dispute with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne over the similarities in his song “Stay With Me” and the “Full Moon Fever” classic anthem “I Won’t Back Down.” Instead of feeding the hawks of the Internet and becoming defensive, Smith settled quietly, paying up and having his rep release a simple statement: “Although the likeness was a complete coincidence, all involved came to an immediate and amicable agreement in which Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne are now credited as co-writers of ‘Stay With Me’ along with Sam Smith, James Napier and William Phillips.” Well-played. Stop it from blowing up. Avoid the wrath of the Internet. Keep the trolls at bay. And still make a truckload of cash.

Why it makes sense… 

They got a pop star, who avoids some of the looming stigmas of pop stars. He’s on the radio, but has a wider range of fans than just the bumble-gummers. It’s like booking Lana Del Ray, without have to deal with all the irrational haters … although I would have preferred Lana.

The drawbacks… 

That first slot carries a lot of weight. People are going to be polarized about it. It’s a different look than Wilco, The Flaming Lips or Jack White. It twists the identity and maybe not in a good way.

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My Morning Jacket 

The hometown hero book.

Why it makes sense…

It’s a sure thing.

The drawbacks…

It’s a sure thing.

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Widespread Panic 

The sounds-about-right book.

Why it makes sense…

Jam bands draw at festivals, but Widespread Panic is a good fit for a festival like Forecastle because beyond the blistering guitar work there’s the Southern rock sensibilities, which makes a run at both the Americana and hippie crowds.

The drawbacks… 

They’re a second-tier band in a headliner’s slot, assuming that these bands are locked as headliners.

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Modest Mouse 

The best book.

Why it makes sense…

It’s only their second date surrounding their forthcoming album (out March 3), so, first and foremost, it throws a serious jolt of excitement into the line-up. Plus, they’re a band with a crazy cult following and will have a ton of press trailing this album. Not to mention, their deep, solid catalogue of records.

The drawbacks…

The next day’s hangover.

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Our mid-range, second-wave hopefuls

First, a shoutout to the other local bands on the lineup: Houndmouth, Twin Limb and White Reaper. They all unquestionably deserve this. There’s a lot to like in the center of the first wave of announcements. Portugal The Man. First Aid Kit. Sturgill Simpson. King Tuff. Speedy Ortiz. But, the middle could use a few more heavy-hitters to tip the scale. Here are a couple that we hope have a chance of getting added.

 

Sleater-Kinney 

The obvious choice considering they’re this year’s comeback band that people seem to care about much more the second time around. Not that that’s a bad thing. Sometimes it takes a band calling it quits before people can reflect on the material and give them their due. The new album, “No Cities to Love,” solidified the hype, making them a no-brainer book for festivals of every level. The demand has to be high, so the only aspect that probably matters is whether or not they want to do the festival circuit.  Currently, the last live date on their website is May 29 in Barcelona. We can only hope.

The War on Drugs 

The War on Drugs is probably one of the best values that could be added. By value, I don’t mean price. I have no idea what it costs to book them. But, in terms of a band that can be plugged into a late afternoon set and carry about the same amount of hype as a headliner, that, to me, is a value.

Vince Staples 

This lineup could use some more quality hip-hop. He’s young, hungry, talented and rising. It’s a good time to add him.

Father John Misty 

His brand of smart-ass/bat-shit crazy country-flavored psychedelic folk is something people will show up for, while others will wander in, get caught in moment, then leave and text all their friends. In other news, Father John Misty has created the first mock-streaming service, with satirical promotion/design and a train wreck of a low fi, scrambled version of his forthcoming album, which will be released on Feb. 10. (Check it out HERE; it’s funny stuff.)

The Drive-By Truckers

They recorded “Southern Rock Opera,” “Decoration Day,” “Pizza Deliverance” and “The Dirty South,” plus a handful of other albums that range from solid to classic. Their venerability and gritty live performances have earned them a loyal following, especially with the alt-country crowd, which is a highly visible corner of the Louisville scene.