Syd: The Port Stage is home to the underdog, the kind of modest indie who has yet to make a big wave, but bands who’ve certainly made a splash or two. Ages and Ages has that kind of poppy ease that grants them a wide accessibility.
Be it by design or happenstance, there is something imminently approachable about Sturgill Simpson’s music. He’s a neighbor and face at the store, incredibly recognizable, even if you don’t know him. You want to have a beer with Simpson and get to the bottom of it, whatever it is, because he somehow seems to have that wisdom. Maybe that’s just the whiskey talking, filtered through a veneer of country nostalgia and a genre built on folksy wisdom. It comes across in Simpson’s music, which feels earnest and hard-earned. There is plenty of AM country gold there, a rollicking, boot-scootin’ throwback to simpler times. Simpson doesn’t just make sad sack beer drinking music though, and there’s a depth to his music that’s in all too short supply in modern country. All told, Simpson has some curveballs, channeling greats like Waylon Jennings or George Jones right next to ZZ Top.
And holy shit! —talk about kicking out the fucking jams! Beach Slang might be my new summertime boppers. First off, they sounded great, maybe better than anyone else that I’ve caught this weekend. While that is not entirely up to them, there is something to be said about just having good gear and knowing it inside and out. Most importantly they’re just really well-balanced sonically, which is a rare feat.
[Editor’s note: Michael continues his “24”-themed countdown to PJ Harvey on Sunday.]
Michael: 28:45:15. The summer festival hump day kicked off with the distinct, balmy vocals of songwriter Lucy Dacus, aka the pleasant alternative to folks who find Courtney Barnett a bit annoying. Climate change is real, folks, because for the first time in Forecastle history, the weather didn’t feel like God’s punishment for our hedonistic July weekend of eating drugs and sucking face, of which there seemed to be plenty of by the time LCD Soundsystem got to “All My Friends.”
27:55:00. Local Jack Harlow seems to be doing pretty well for himself, and represents maybe the largest gulf I’ve seen in some time between sight and sound. Sonically he sounds like a dude that’s gonna run up on you with his boys. Visually he looks like a guy who will lose it if you accidentally ding the corner of one of his Animal Collective records. Shirt all tucked it. It’s wild, man. He got a lot of tanned East End girls throwing their hands up. Seems like a nice kid. I hope he does well and makes money.
26:10:00. The Bourbon Lodge has leveled up for 2017. The air conditioning works very well, and it has an actual floor inside. It feels like a real oasis. I got to meet Brent Elliott, the new master distiller for Four Roses. He roved about the crowd chatting whiskey and answering questions. We sometimes forget that bourbon is a bit of a headliner at Forecastle, too. And it’s not outrageously priced for a festival. The Gonzo Bar, featuring artifacts of the late native son Hunter Thomspon, Remington typewriter included, will pour you a 100 proof Old Fo for $7. Ain’t mad!
23:45:00. You don’t have to like country to like Sturgill Simpson. As a matter of fact, it’s probably better that you don’t give a hoot about country to get on board with Simpson. A former Kentuckian and frontman for Lexington’s Sunday Valley, Sturgill — along with Chris Stapleton, Steve Earle and a small, esteemed corral of similar artists — basically exists as a walking, giant middle finger to Nashville. He’s been vocal about how Nashville’s corporate export is garbage in interviews, and he backs it up with fiery live tent revivals, which a lot of the country bore witness to during his recent appearance on SNL. The dude is a beast. Though marred with some technical difficulties he laughed off and a more stripped down live band, Sturgill took care of business for 75 blistering minutes.
22:30:00. I appreciate less is more. Vince Staples is thoughtful and detailed about his live aesthetic — incandescent orange, bright and stretching across the entire platform, Vince in all black and backlit, not taking a single breather as he gallivanted across every square inch of the Ocean Stage ripping though selections of his recent excellent album Big Fish Theory. Yet again, the festival’s smallest stage, originally reserved mostly for EDM, couldn’t handle all the people who wanted to see the show. Hip-hop is kinda big, folks. Move it to the bigger stage!
21:30:00. Can we talk about the production crew at Forecastle for a second? Whoever was in charge of the live video feed during LCD Soundsystem: bravo. Rhythmic cuts between angles. Prismatic filters. Retro, slightly psychedelic flourishes in real time. This was just the work of some AV guys. This person knows something about film. There was no bad view of James and Company with this excellent video work. Someone please make sure these comments pass across their desk. It’s easy to crack wise on LCD Soundsystem a bit. They retired with much fanfare, five nights at Terminal Five, to resurface less than five years later at Coachella, a joke someone tweeted back in 2012 that came true. And yet, what an incredible live band. They’re human machines in terms of tightness. And for the, ahem, older millennial like your boy here, LCD Soundsystem soundtracked college parties and making out and going on jogs and a garden variety of formative memories. Hearing “Thrills” and “Yr City’s a Sucker” and “Dance Yourself Clean” on a damn fine pleasant evening on Louisville’s waterfront. Murphy’s stage banter was endearing, too, regaling the crowd with how he loved playing house shows in Louisville back in the ‘90s and loved the city so much he almost moved here. That was fittingly right before launching into “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” I agree, NYC is a pain in the ass, filthy and fine. Saturday’s headlining set was perhaps one of the best one in years.
17:45:00. My body, which is my temple, likes abuse, so I’m going to the afterparty, especially when it’s to see the polite Canadian kings and queens of soaring, harmonious, intelligent and perfect pop music The New Pornographers, a veritable supergroup whose melodies are as sweet as Tim Horton’s glaze (I texted that joke to Headliners’ Billy Hardison yesterday and was steadfast in making sure it made it into this publication). No, there was no Neko Case (Kathryn Calder is a very fine stand-in for those legendary pipes) or Dan Bajar, but that would’ve been almost too much for my dumb idiot brain to absorb. AC Newman, the consummate flawless songwriter, touched on every single album of The New Pornographers’ discography at least once, even though their latest, White Out Conditions, is great too because they’re perfect. Another treat for folks born in the ‘80s ready to pump their fists to the music that’s been with you through a whole heckuva lot. It was so worth staying up until 2:30. Now, I’m going to bed forever. Bye.
Scott: LCD Soundsystem is the sort of headliner that will make a fan out of you, even if you’ve never been one. They pack people in, make them dance and turn a outdoor festival into a giant night club. They fall somewhere in the triangle of Talking Heads, David Bowie, and Nine Inch Nails, just a watered-down version of each, which is still a huge compliment in my eyes. I’ve never been the sort of devotee that goes to see their going away tour in a movie theater, but, damn, they are whole lot of fun.
Beach Slang, who played right before, were everything they’re records sound like — fuzzy, reckless, Replacements-like punk —and that’s the perfect sun-setting pick-me-up that a three day festival needs.
Lucy Dacus kicked Forecastle off earlier in the day with style, and Saturday ended with an electrifying set — a pretty consistent eight hours.