Lara: I was just trying to get out the door yesterday, when my neighbor showed up at the same threshold, asking about my lawn. He cradled a dirty weedwacker. A piece of grass stuck to his upper lip.
I said, “OK, I’ll give you the money up front.”
He perked up. “Cool. So you’re going to Forecastle?”
That is the question that Louisvillians and, likewise, Kentuckians have exchanged over the course of several previous weeks. Whether passively in conversation, or aggressively, because you were in a bad mood, we must know. Are you going? Are you there to see Teddy Abrams and Friends make Forecastle history with the Louisville Orchestra. Are you leaving before Ryan Adams closes the festival?
LEO is here to supplement your experience with these single-day recaps. Five writers, including myself, are on the spot all weekend to ensure every base of the experiential Forecastle coverage front is covered from here to the end of the shore.
I arrived about 4:22 p.m., and it took me almost half of Tourist’s set at the Ocean Stage to finish my popsicle and locate the Media Tent. I essentially entered the grounds with no plan except to follow whatever sounds drew me to a stage.
I couldn’t see the “Stay With Me” co-writer on stage at first — the crowd amassed before him and it appeared to be the biggest draw this time of day. Tourist knew he was there to start the ignition, to get the youth hyped by unraveling thick beats onto the sticky afternoon. Looking across the bobbing heads and vape clouds, I tried to picture Slint playing under this bridge as they did at Forecastle in 2014 — a short-lived daydream. The sound of four stages set up across Waterfront Park cannot help to collide, so I decided to catch the rest of Caveman, who were loving their audience at the Port Stage.
Caveman was hyped to be up there, despite an early set time. Live, the hairy, Brooklyn-based band have an elastic pop-rock sound, playing mostly songs from their recent summer release, Otero War. But their enthusiasm could not remedy the one detraction of playing at the Port Stage, as a fellow LEO freelancer put it — “It’s a pain in the ass to get to.” Most of the crowd left early, migrating towards the Boom Stage where Phosphorescent was just getting started.
But the start was far as they got. Only a few songs into the set, the announcement came to evacuate the grounds. The sight of lightning redirected us to Joe’s Crab Shack, where I found comfort in an el Jimador and soda for $6.65. The gates reopened a little before 6:30 p.m., and most set times were pushed back about an hour and a half past the original times.
The good: 1200, Caveman, Phosphorescent, Bully, Beer prices at Joe’s Crab Shack, Gonzo Tent
The bad: The weather, the evacuation
The ugly: Bauuer
Pokemons caught: 1 Goldeen, 2 Tangelas, 2 Rattata
1200 inadvertently set the stage ( pun truly not intended) for day one of Forecastle.
Of course, Jecorey Arthur was invited to perform at this year’s Forecastle Festival because the rumbling of his talent has reached a fever pitch since he first start performing around town in 2014. But a festival of this size and reach will also relegate the local artists to the early day slots if you’re not Jacket, Slint, or Houndmouth. So at 3 p.m., 1200 ends up opening the whole thing, and his dichotomous approach to art — a mix of classical and hip-hop, high art and populism — cultivated the mood of a roller-coaster day.
Per the set, I don’t toss around the adjective important lightly, but 1200 is important — an uncompromising artist who balances activism and light-heartedness, intense performance and humor and bass-heavy bangers with a live band and a youth choir —a sense of surrealism to a set accessible to all. Yes, he’ll chat with a mannequin head impaled upon his microphone stand in some sort of soliloquy before jumping about the stage and imploring the audience to bounce. There’s a reason Jecorey was on the cover of LEO the week of Forecastle, and he stormed out of the gate with an incendiary set, exposing a new audience to his artistic contradictions.
And contradictions certainly fit within the larger narrative of Forecastle 2016, a festival that continues growing while others nationwide are shrinking, and one that grapples with its activism, hippie-dippy roots (sustainability partners, utilizing clean energy and waste-footprint mitigation) while having a sponsor like the TSA welcome you at the gates. Keep Louisville Weird — and sometimes Draconian.
Speaking of doom, Waterfront Park absorbed some turbulent weather right at 5 p.m. I’m convinced that Caveman’s 4:15 set at the Port Stage is responsible for summoning the storms, with an aerodynamic set of anthemic, introspective rock a la The War on Drugs, or Martin Courtney on a day he’s feel particularly sad sounded, that absolutely awesome and expansive across the Harbor Lawn — perfect for the dark clouds barreling over the Ohio.
While Caveman was able to finish up, the storm cut right into Phosphorescent’s similarly-moody, early-evening concert. “Song for Zula” sounded magical as the storm cleared up, so Matthew Houck shall be forgiven for breaking a cardinal rule of cool by wearing his own band’s shirt on stage.
To my knowledge, the park cleared out quickly and without any major incidences, so kudos to Axis Security (unsung heroes of the festival) on handling things smoothly. As anytime Forecastle evacuates because it’s held in July, and that’s the weather we get here, there’s a swift and intense local economic impact to surrounding businesses. We sought shelter at Joe’s Crab Shack, and it was poppin’. They were pouring up Falls City for only $3 — a welcome relief from $6 PBR — so we got to hydrate on the cheap. Considering the pop-up party that appeared out of nowhere, Joe’s staff were quick and friendly. So if Forecastle clears out again this weekend, which based on the forecast is totally possible, Joe’s is a good refuge.
I grabbed a cocktail at the Gonzo Tent, and folks, the festival did this one right. Many of the attractions can be a little corny, but this bar and recreation of Hunter’s living room is honestly pretty cool — replete with a typewriter, index cards of quotes, and a hat rack featuring some of Hunter’s iconic dome pieces. Even better, the prices are very reasonable for a festival — $7 bourbon pours, $9 cocktails. So basically you can upgrade from a PBR to a call whiskey for just a dollar more. That’s value, baby.
Unfortunately, my experience engaging with the Gonzo brand was sullied when I was accidentally was exposed to Baauer. I use the word exposed because it felt like being exposed to something toxic, but instead of receiving some cool super powers like the Hulk’s, I just got a headache. It’s seriously the most annoying thing I’ve ever heard in my life, and I have an appreciation for Merzbow. Maybe the kids aren’t alright. Luckily, that fever-dream/nightmare was quickly dissipated heading toward the Port Stage.
Last year, because of last minute-circumstances (Speedy Ortiz’s cancellation), Alvvays closed out the Port Stage during the golden hour and created magic. This year, Bully recreated the magic when their set time was pushed back after the storm, and they tectonically rumbled the Harbor Lawn as the sun set over the Ohio.
What a cool fucking band. Combining elements of sludge sorcerers in the vein of Babes in Toyland and L7 with the pop hooks of Bikini Kill and tuneful-muscular shoegaze a la Swervedriver, Bully on record is cool, but Bully live over a massive festival PA is devastating. Ripping into “I Remember” and “Trash” from their full-length Too Tough early in the set, Bully tamed the crowd, and let ‘em know what time it is. The sky was on fire when Bully took hostage of the Port Stage, and so was their set, with diving rods turned toward the heart of the sun. If it’s not obvious from the above copy, Bully was so good. Go see them all of the time.
Since its release, Forecastle also marks the first major American music festival since the release and subsequent cultural shift surrounding Pokémon Go. I had intended to make this a cornerstone of my coverage this year, and, to my total and complete surprise, no one was playing it. Just me, the journalist, like a big, dumb idiot (I’m Team Valor by the way — holler at your boy “Luvs2Cry”). I suppose if you’re spending a few hundred bucks for the weekend, maybe you might be encouraged to keep your phone in your pocket.
Scott: If 1200 (aka Jecorey Arthur) played every week, I’d try to catch it every time — it’s always different and magnetic. This time around he brought up a youth choir, a bunch of students from various area schools, and they added a really interesting layer to his high-energy hip-hop, not only by producing new depth to his songs, but it’s also yet another way that he gives back to the community. (My LEO cover profile of him this week revolves around his preparations for this set, and how he bridges the gap between art and activism). During the show, he mentioned that one of his friends was helping set up and heard someone say that no one was going to turn up for the 1200 set, which kicked off the festival at 3 p.m. on Friday, but people definitely showed up. There was even plenty of room for Jecorey’s less aggressive version of a mosh pit, the ‘Oz Pit,’ where he has everyone circle around him and then rush in and dance after a countdown.
After his set, he told me that Forecastle was to be 1200’s last live performance, but that yesterday’s set reenergized the project, and he no longer has any plans to retire. So, shout out to every one who showed up to that set. You saved us from losing an important part of the local music scene.
One of my favorite parts of music festivals is wandering into a band for which I had no prior reference point, and leaving with something new to dig into. Yesterday, that was Caveman. I went on a recommendation and left really impressed. Their sharp, melodic and waves of dreamy music is both catchy and atmospheric. Because I caught that set, I’m currently listening to their record, CoCo Beware, right now.
Nik: Friday at Forecastle was a light bag. 1200, Liz Vice and Caveman were the big shows for me, but they were some of the first shows of the day. So what do you do until Evacuation-Castle ends? That’s a bit of a joke on my part, and a bit of an overreaction on Forecastle’s part, but completely understandable with how the weather has been this year and how Mother Nature tried to smite Sam Smith off stage last year with gale force winds. So after a quick retreat to Haymarket (thanks homies!), I returned to Forecastle a little bourbon curious. Not curious enough for the grating noises Baauer was making, so I went and saw Moon Taxi, because, like them or not, they always put on a solid show. My biggest surprise was Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals. I had never listened to them prior but was blown away. I get why so many people were that jazzed about them reuniting. Woof. What a show.
Anna: Forecastle day-one was definitely a success. While the rain and being evacuated was a bummer, it just gave us a chance to go jam in the car with some nice cold AC blasting for a few minutes. So I wasn’t complaining too much. When we were allowed to go back in, that’s when the fun really started. My two buddies and I scurried over to Grouplove and were able to get pretty close. I’ve seen them a few times before, and they’ve never disappointed. This time was no different. After dancing like fools, we made the decision to skip out on Moon Taxi and stay at Mast Stage in the hopes of getting as close as we could for The Avett Brothers. Moon Taxi is one of our favorite bands, but we have seen them a few times, so we didn’t feel like we were missing out too much. We scooted up and jammed out to Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals, and then it was time for Avett. Let me start this part by saying that The Avett Brothers are my all-time favorite band. I could go into the myriad of reasons for this, but I’m sure no one really cares. So you can imagine my excitement and, let’s face it, full-on emotional freak out, I had when I found myself in the front row. Literally hands-on-the gate — they could have played horribly, and I could have gone deaf in the middle, but I still would have said it was the best show of my life. I love their new stuff, but I was nervous I wouldn’t get to hear much of their old tunes that made me fall in love with them in the first place. This wasn’t the case. They mixed in a few oldies like “Shame,” “I Would Be Sad,” and “Talk on Indolence.”