Summer in the city

Jul 25, 2012 at 5:00 am

Dang, Louisville. Y’all bring the thump.

I know it’s two weeks behind us now, but it bares repeating: Forecastle 10 was the jam, and I think we should all take a second to say, “Hell yes.”

I’m not the type of person who goes to music festivals. Two weeks ago I could have said, with serene and perfect certainty, that hanging around 50,000 of you all in the middle of July down by the river was near the bottom of my to-do list right next to midnight swimming in shark-infested waters and asphalt paving. To say that I’m not fond of big crowds would miss the mark. My aversion to being stuck inside a fence with a bunch of yahoos has, historically, edged closer to real honest-to-god panic than mild discomfort and — much as I’d like to be spontaneous — given the choice I’ll usually take certainty over surprise. But, while my delicate constitution didn’t permit a full listening schedule, Forecastle offered surprises that I was happy to endure.

Aside from some predictable inconveniences (nasty, dark porto-johns, lack of helpful signage, questionable arrangement of stages, etc.), the festival seemed to run incredibly efficiently. Captain J.K. McKnight busted his ass for a long time constructing a solid vision out of a mirage, and this year a totally viable festival was delivered into the hands of A.C. Entertainment who will, we hope, build the franchise into something that will continue to improve.

Forecastle X will be a difficult act to follow, though, and one can only hope that A.C. understands the value of maintaining a strong local presence in future festivals. Homegrown savants Squallis Puppeteers contracted to wander around hoisting floating jellyfish puppets above a sea of humanity, corralling a kaleidoscope of fishes and stables of horsies? Money well spent. Absolutely brilliant. An outdoor mall populated by local vendors next to a bourbon bar? Yes. Do that again. Getting The River City’s Titans My Morning Jacket to help curate the proceedings? Also a very good idea. Fingers crossed for a repeat.

In spite of an unfortunate proximity to both the Red Bull Dance Party Assault Stage and the Sony Play Station Mobile Brainwashing Trailer, the Removador-sponsored local stage was a standout success. A representative sampling of Louisville’s best and brightest ponied up to deliver what you’d expect of them, namely an eclectic cross-section of musical approaches that, while varying widely, share a common intention. While there may no longer be an identifiable “Louisville Sound” like the one that existed briefly in the ’80s and ’90s, I think what we share now is an expectation of creative honesty that seems to keep this community on its toes to good effect. Our collective history as a music scene raised the bar for the present. Hallelujah.

There was an amazing feeling of cohesion and community around that stage all weekend, and, you just can’t say it enough, the level of talent that Greater Louisville produces is both remarkable and curiously persistent. I’m endlessly amazed by it, and I was fairly awestruck by the hometown headliners on Saturday night.

I’d never attended a concert as large as the one MMJ put on that night. I couldn’t tell if there were 6,000 people or 30,000; it was clearly way too many for me, so I let myself in the back gate and watched the show from the side of the stage. Their performance was, in the parlance of our time, “The Absolute Shit.” To say that they’re all-the-way good, professional as hell and total shredders would be redundant and would sort of diminish what those guys do. More than technical proficiency or stagecraft was concerned, their commitment — to their songs and to their fans — rang out the loudest. It was palpable, and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor a few times.

As I watched the guys crushing it — lost perfectly somewhere between total focus and creative abandon — the crowd in front of them stretched out and disappeared into the distance and under the freeway. “Oh. I get it,” I thought. “This is a pretty good reason to be in a successful band and likewise a pretty good reason to come and see them play. It looks like a lot of fun.”