Major cities often times struggle to have a defining identity. Thankfully for Kentucky, Louisville doesn’t have that problem. Although some may say that Louisville is schizophrenic. On the Dr. Jeckyl side of things, you have Kentucky Derby and the horse elitists. On the Mr. Hyde side, you have an incredible art and music scene. You’ll often see this side of Louisville proclaiming #KeepLouisvilleWeird. Thankfully for Kentucky, both cultures thrive and survive.
The latter mentality happens to be the target audience for the Forecastle Fest. This year was their 15th voyage and the lineup was more eclectic than ever. Showcasing everything from DJ’s to Rap, Folk to Rock, Pop to Country and everything in-between.
Music is certainly a large part of Forecastle, and we will discuss much of that, but I also wanted to shine a light on what makes this Festival uniquely Kentucky.
Let’s start with location. Held on the banks of the Ohio River in Louisville’s Waterfront Park, you’d be hard pressed to find a more perfect location. You have the bridges overhead to supply a little shade when needed. A cool breeze flowing from the Ohio River. A gorgeous view of Indiana. Plenty of parking lots and garages. Large lawns that provide ample room for multiple stages and last, but certainly not least…the sunsets. Oh my, the sunsets.
Most vendors were also from our great Commonwealth. First, there’s Kentucky Landing. That’s where you’ll find lots of local craft brewers, local vendors and even food trucks. Companies like West 6th, Against The Grain, goodwood, Kentucky Ale and Great Flood dispensed as little or as much beer as you’d like to partake in. While the Sushi and Lobster Roll food trucks had long lines all weekend. There was plenty of local merchandise available as well. One of the more popular vendors seemed to be the Crosley Cruiser.
While the food vendors under the bridge delivered everything from gourmet hotdogs to beer to hand-dipped jalapeno corndogs. A friend of mine, Janice Rago, who happens to be a tremendous artist, was there selling for her boyfriends company, King of Pops. Judging by the amount of popsicles that we saw, I’d say they had a very busy weekend.
The most important thing that I want to mention is the Forecastle Foundation, the activism arm of the Forecastle Fest. Not only does the Foundation make sure that the impact and footprint that the Festival leaves is at a minimum, it also does its best to help preserve biodiversity hotspots across the world. Two of which are right here in Kentucky. Both the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust (Eastern Kentucky) and The Nature Conservancy (Western Kentucky) have received donations to help preserve the unique ecological environments that make our Commonwealth so unique.
Next, we will discuss the Kentucky talent. There were several Kentucky bands/artists that played this year’s event. First up is Quiet Hollers. I, unfortunately, missed their set due to a mix up at the gate, as many media were held up because they were out of releases for us to sign. So I do apologize to Quiet Hollers for missing their set. It’s life, it happens. I do know from seeing the guys earlier this year at the Moonshiner’s Ball, that they definitely deserved their spot and from all accounts, delivered quite the set as they’re supporting their brand new release, ‘Amen Breaks’.
Bowling Green’s Cage The Elephant were one of the headliners on Friday night. I’ve been privileged to see these guys a few times over the years, but in my opinion, they delivered the best performance that I’ve witnessed to date. The band members themselves are a solid show, but all eyes are constantly set upon vocalist Matt Schultz. And in all honesty, that’s deservedly so. He brings a mix of Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop and well…Matt Schultz to the stage. Some audience members were saying they were trying too hard, Schultz especially. No, dude in the backward Reds hat and turnt shirt, that’s who these guys are.
In fact, the last set that I caught was at the Yum Center and Matt walked into the crowd on the hands of their fans as did Jesus on water in the Bible. The dude just puts it all on the line, without reservation. Musically, the band has grown so much over the years and they even won a Grammy. (Even though no one watches the Grammy’s anymore.) The fact that their last album was produced by Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys certainly helped in their growth, but the band has come a long way since their club days. Kudos on doing your thing, no matter the situation, Mr. Schultz. I get ya and I’m proud of ya. In fact, I’m proud of all of ya.
Cage The Elephant’s Forecastle setlist:
In One Ear
Too Late to Say Goodbye
Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked
Cold Cold Cold
Whole Wide World (Unpeeled) (Wreckless Eric cover)
It’s Just Forever
Come a Little Closer
Cage The Elephant:
Saturday’s headlining act hails from Breathitt County here in Kentucky. The current Frank Sinatra of Country Music. Wait, what? In the spirit of Mr. Sinatra’s emphatic and iconic track, “I Did It My Way”, Sturgill Simpson has blazed his own path to become one of the most popular artists around. This is especially true when you consider that Sturgill has rarely seen any radio play. Factor in that Mr. Simpson has little to no respect for Music Row and the Industry in Nashville and his success becomes so much sweeter for him.
Playing as a four-piece, Sturgill becomes the clear cut star that many have been waiting for. Playing lead guitar and handling vocals while being the clear band leader is no easy task, but rest assured Mr. Simpson makes it look easy.
With a voice as smooth as Pappy Van Winkle’s Bourbon, an attitude as brash as Kurt Cobain’s and the determination of a junkyard dog, Sturgill had the Kentucky crowd eating out of his hand. His crowd was seemingly the largest of the day and deservedly so. As many songs were morphed into extended jam sessions, Sturgill’s steelish blue eyes became latched upon drummer Miles Miller and the audible captivation of the Forecastle patrons continued.
Sturgill has grown into his own as an artist. His path has been a long one, but one that has been fruitful and has set him up for the longevity that many artists will never see. I for one am proud of Sturgill, but I believe that I’m just as proud of the people of our Commonwealth for recognizing Stu’s talent and rewarding him with what appeared to be the largest crowd of the weekend.
See for yourself from this instagram post by the Forecastle Fest.
Sturgill Simpson’s Forecastle setlist:
Brace for Impact (Live a Little)
It Ain’t All Flowers
Turtles All the Way Down
Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)
The Promise (When in Rome cover)
Just Let Go
Railroad of Sin
Water in a Well
Living the Dream
I’d Have to Be Crazy (Willie Nelson cover)
Call to Arms
Many, many artists impressed us over the two days we spent at Forecastle. I was able to capture some of the sets, but as you can imagine, shooting the sets from the crowd are quite difficult. Artists like K. Flay, Mondo Cozmo, Waka Flocka Flame, JD McPherson and many more were highlights, but for my money, the four that I’ve included below blew me away.
First up was the South Carolina outfit NEEDTOBREATHE. The Christian band features siblings, Bear and Bo Rineheart, who’s undeniable harmonies create a Southern sound that’s steeped in the Church. Their energy was infectious and their set was received overwhelmingly positively, which was a bit of a surprise given the liberal mindset of most in attendance. More on that later though.
Capital Cities were the biggest surprise for me. Not because of their music, but because of the lower than expected attendance of their set. I made my way up to the side of the barricade with relative ease. That didn’t slow Capital Cities from providing an incredibly upbeat, polished and professional set that brought those in attendance to a fever pitch. If you missed Capital Cities, well…go ahead and kick yourself. I’ll wait. Ha!
No one at Forecastle seemed to have quite the buzz about them that Run The Jewels had. I can’t say that I am a huge rap fan, but I can say that I am a fan of Run The Jewels. Killer Mike and El-P create an old-school approach that is otherworldly at times. I made my way back to the same corner of the barricade where I had seen Capital Cities for a much more crowded, hot and unbelievable performance. It’s hard to say what is so magnetic about RTJ, but trust me when I say that their set was one of the best performances that I have ever witnessed. So raw. So real. So engaging.
Run The Jewels:
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats need no introduction. Their star has been rising incredibly fast the past few years. All of the commercial success began with their track, “S.O.B.”. That song closed out their set and brought quite possibly the most unique moment of Forecastle 2017. Nathaniel brought to life the old saying, “the band took us to Church.” Bringing the music down during a concert is one thing, but also bringing the band and the crowd down to their knees before having them all jump up singing the chorus is another. That’s certainly a moment that I’m sure many won’t soon forget.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats:
As I left on Saturday night, I ran into two oddly placed street preachers. They were spreading their beliefs, which is fine in our country, but then they began to try and use passers by as examples to match up their beliefs to the scriptures. It provided some tense moments that were totally uncalled for. Not only from the street preachers, but the passers by as well. Acts such as those displayed are what turns many against religion, while the mockery from those who disagreed were also uncalled for. Thankfully though, Louisville Metro Police were always close by and no one did anything stupid.
Take a look around Forecastle. You may even see a photo of yourself!
We weren’t able to make it out on Sunday, I do apologize for that. It was a situation that was out of my control. There were many artists that I wanted to see, none more than Charles Bradley, Foxygen and Weezer. Hopefully those artists will be repeat offenders at Forecastle and I can catch them another year, but for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed our coverage of Forecastle. Hopefully we get the opportunity to cover the Festival for years to come and we hope to see you there at this uniquely Kentucky event.
Keep up with the Forecastle Fest here.