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    Michelle Eigenheer and Will Ford also contributed to this article.

    What started in 2002 as a little local music celebration in Tyler Park has grown into one of Louisville’s biggest events of the year, injecting over 14 million dollars into the Louisville economy and taking over basically all of Waterfront Park.

    This year’s festival took place July 17-19, facing heat indexes in the hundreds and what felt like a constant threat of thunderstorms. While the general consensus is that this year’s lineup fell a bit flat after last year’s and the festival had to fight against an unusually high river, the festival had a high turnout and a wide range of performers who all brought their very best to Louisville.

    Here’s our recap of the weekend:

    Food
    A lot of local favorites made it out to Forecastle to feed the masses. Joy Luck and Manny & Merle set up shop by the Mast Stage and Feast BBQ camped out behind the Bourbon Lodge ,while Tasty Tuxedo Treats, ‘Lil Cheezers, Holy Mole, Lexie Lu’s, Hi-Five Doughnuts and Longshot Lobsta rolled into Kentucky Landing. If you didn’t grab the award-winning Green Chili Pork Taco from Manny & Merle, you made a huge mistake.

    Art
    One of Forecastle’s continuing efforts is in art, with artists working throughout the weekend to create works in real time. Performance art plays another part – you may remember the mermaids from last year. This year, stilted seahorses roamed the festival while a popular counter culture figure made several appearances. Hunter S. Thompson’s wildly entertaining performance outside of the Gonzo Bar were easily some of the most interesting performances to see. Running around with oranges and a fly swatter, reminding everyone that the Louisville native's Gonzo spirit was alive and well at the Forecastle Fest. On Saturday, what would have been Thompson’s 77th birthday, a crowd gathered to sing Happy Birthday to Gonzo.

     

    Friday

    Beat up guitars, wailing solos, and attire that sampled nearly every decade has JEFF The Brotherhood screaming rock 'n' roll. The Nashville band is a melting pot of sound. One song they might be pounding out heavily distorted riffs and the next they’re more emotionally grounded. These guys easily found their way to the top of our Forecastle weekend list.

     

    Bell-bottom pants anyone? Houndmouth not only rocked their evening set, but also the mid-60s fashion trend with a kind of tongue-in-cheek flare. The well-known Americana group is constantly evolving into something more every time I see them. Not just with their attire, but presence as a group. Even just from their set a month ago at Bonnaroo, Houndmouth seems to lend something different. Perhaps that is why their fan base continues to grow so quickly. View the photo gallery here.


    Photo by Glenn Hirsch

    Cage The Elephant wasn’t just a set of music; it was an experience. Right off the bat, guitarist Brad Schultz took to the stage to demand that everyone from Kentucky needed to come to the stage right now because, he said, “We’re about to have some family time.” Then, he and the band’s other guitarist played an abbreviated “My Old Kentucky Home.” The fans that packed the front of the stage roared in applause with that tribute and never stopped roaring until the set concluded. A lot of that had to do with the veracity of lead singer Matt Schultz (Brad’s brother), who rarely spent any time on stage, choosing instead to crowd surf, jam out with an unwavering security guard and hoist himself on the crowd barrier to get up close and personal with the thousands who were moving about and yelling the lyrics just as loudly as he was. This was a weekend favorite. View the photo gallery here.

     

    St. Paul & The Broken Bones is a workout—at least for the band. These are a group of guys who are steadfast on their image because with a heat index of over 100 degrees, each member of the group was in a full suit. The drummer got to the skip the jacket but his shirt was still a different color by the third song. The performance of Paul Janeway, the group’s singer, is one you need to experience. His personality and dance moves have so such soul. At times, songs were hard to differentiate but the set was still entertaining.

     

    There seemed to be two camps when it came to Sam Smith: those who bought their Forecastle tickets because of his headlining show and those who bought their tickets despite his place in the lineup. While there’s little debate as to whether or not this Grammy-winner has a voice that must have been gifted to him by the heavens, his sultry songs on love and breakups may not have been the most appropriate choice for the headliner of a summer music fest. The choice came under fire by some locals, and it must be said that his set seemed out of place in the wake of shows by local favorites Houndmouth and Cage The Elephant. The Sam Smith show started with a bang, but pretty quickly leveled out. It was an exciting show for the girls crowding the stage and there was a great tribute to Amy Winehouse thrown in, but it seemed like many people were leaving. Was the set a success? We may never know, given that it was suddenly interrupted just seven songs in. View the photo gallery here.


    Photo by Glenn Hirsch

     

     

    Saturday

    After the sudden onset of some nasty weather and an emergency evacuation Friday night, Saturday's gates opened late, but the show did go on and so did the heat. A sweltering 100 something degrees seemed unreal, but we have to hand it to all the festival goers for sticking it out with great enthusiasm and frequent trips to the Bourbon Lodge.

     

    Desaparecidos drifted from the music scene in the early 2000s, breaking up after their debut album "Read Music/Speak Spanish". Thirteen years later, a second record (released a month ago), and an afternoon set at Forecastle… Desaparecidos is back. Mostly known for the presence of Conor Oberst, who has worked with our very own Jim James in Monsters of Folk and of course widely known as the front man for the indie rock group Bright Eyes, most festival-goers may have been checking this set out because of him. However, Oberst offered more than a nostalgic memory, taking the time to comment on current affairs, such as  confederate flag removals. Oberst made some bold statements about how a removal of an image will not eradicate prejudice, but that we as human beings, as a community, would have to work together in a more loving way to produce a more loving society.

     

    The Wind and The Wave was a great band for a sunny (yet blazing) afternoon. With simply two guitars, drums and some beautiful harmonies, this group put on a show for the casual listener. This was a band I didn’t know much about before Forecastle, but I could see myself buying their record now and that’s not because they blew me away but because it was the right amount of pleasant. As WFPK DJ John Timmons said as he introduced them, The Wind and The Wave is from the great music city of Austin, Texas, so there’s an extra vote of confidence.


    The sketchy, fuzz that makes up the Oklahoma band, BRONCHO, is for lack of better description, kick ass! Sounding way less grungy than they look, Ryan Lindsey's vocals are what sets them apart. It's not just there, it's actively in-your-face there carrying a kind of vintage tone that is hard to get out of your head, especially the scat-like qualities notably present on "Class Historian". Easily one of my new favorites. In fact, I'm listening to them as I write this...

     

    Louisville's very own Bourbon Jazz group, Billy Goat Strut Revue, didn't play a set on any stage at Forecastle, but they did send everyone back to a time of pin-curls and Kitty Foyle dresses inside the Bourbon Lodge  both Friday Saturday evening. They were so wonderfully satisfying and a perfect pairing to all the bourbon, they definitely deserve a spot on this list, though they weren’t really advertised in the official festival lineup.

     

    Sturgill Simpson, like everyone else at Forecastle, was drinking from a water bottle on stage and yes he was hot, but he was also sick. Simpson said allergies were getting the best of him, but his set did not suffer at all and even in one spot when a song started off wrong, he stopped the group and said, “Hold on, we are in Kentucky. We are going to start this shit right.” Simpson garnered a crowd that looked like the older half of the festival as he was playing opposite Cherub, an electronic-indie duo. The thirty something were hootin’ and hollerin’ with the best of them. What some may not expect of Simpson is he likes to jam. Or maybe the band got the spotlight so he could rest his weary vocals. Either way, Simpson, who also performed earlier this year at Mercury Ballroom, showed that great country music is still coming out of Kentucky. View the photo gallery here.

     

    Sometimes, performers will brings their friends on stage. During Dr. Dundiff’s set, actually booked as Dr. Dundiff & Friends, the drummer/producer filled the stage with 12 bands members and about 10 rappers. Dundiff’s set was orchestrated chaos. The crowd was going berserk for this hometown group. Many people on and off the stage relished the moment as it was something the scene had been working towards for months. It all paid off, especially when My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James appeared during the finale. It’s hard to make James look small, but as elation came over the rappers all onstage together, the celebration forced him to the back and Dundiff needed to count him off to sing. Fans (including a pack of screaming girls in the front) got what they came there for: a showcase of Louisville’s  hip hop community.

     

    So close, yet so far away! The crowd for our pride and joy was intense. With the visual monitors unavailable on the Mast Stage it was impossible to see anything if you weren't five or six rows deep in the human sauna for My Morning Jacket. I suppose that wasn't all bad because really hearing them was the only sense needed. While the group brought on a good show, it paled in comparison to their previous performance. Last time they performed at Forecastle, My Morning Jacket threw bananas offstage, welcomed large puppets to dance with them, covered George Michael, Elton John, George Harrison, and The Band, and brought a handful of guests.

    As a group with a deep and popular catalog, they were diverse in their set list, playing songs old and new. A beautiful rendition of “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” and “Gideon” plus two more tracks got even better with the help of the Louisville Orchestra.  One commonality between Saturday’s set and their previous one at Forecastle is the same song that should end every My Morning Jacket show: “One Big Holiday,” a modern-day “Free Bird.” Everybody leaves happy after hearing that song.  [Ed. Did anyone else notice Conor Oberst’s cameo?] 

    View the photo gallery here.


    Photo by Elliott Carter

    Sunday

    Twin Limb has only been in its current form for about seven months. It was a female duo of accordion and percussion until producer Kevin Ratterman became a full member of the band. While Twin Limb is still fresh, even to the members of the band, they played Forecastle Sunday with a strong performance. Twin Limb had the earliest slot of the day, so many fans were trickling in throughout the performance. Singer and accordionist Lacey Guthrie has a huge voice that mesmerizes the listener and the crowd couldn’t take their eye of the performance. Twim Limb will undoubtedly be back on the Forecastle stage in the future.

     

    The Lone Bellow is having a love affair with Kentucky, with Forecastle being the band’s fourth show here since March (they’ve played Headliners, ROMP Fest and Rupp Arena, with another show scheduled at Mercury Ballroom on Oct. 25). As with their other shows on The Outsiders World Tour, the Brooklyn-based group brought high energy that’s sometimes hard to find in a folk rock group. The band bursts onto stage with their new album’s title track, “Then Came The Morning,” and they just don’t come down. Even slower, softer songs hold the promise of another high, as the band swings between folk and rock.

     

    Sam Wilkerson walked across the stage a few minutes before White Reaper’s 2:45 set on the Port Stage and was met by a group of fans singing "Happy Birthday." Twins Sam and Nick Wilkerson are freshly 21, the band is back in their hometown, their debut album released Friday and they're playing their first Forecastle - of course it was a big party. A crowd of loyal fans sang along with front man Tony Esposito and participated in a call and respond cover of sports fans’ all-time favorite fight song, "Hey." A huge "White Reaper" mascot danced on stage, fortune cookies flew through the air, Ryan Hater successfully crowd surfed and a flood of the group's friends stormed the stage to help finish the set with their excited (and perhaps slightly drunken) energy. These dudes aren't only packing catchy songs like "Shelia" and "Conspirator," but they bring the party with them, too.

     

    I once heard that it's an unspoken rule that all artists wear pants during performances, even when it is over 90 degrees outside, but not Modest Mouse's Issac Brock. Oh, no. He can do whatever he wants and that includes wearing bright pink shorts appropriately patterned with ice cream cones. Modest Mouse has never seemed like a group that follows any kind of rules ,and maybe that aesthetic is what makes the poster child for indie music so popular. It was clear that most Sunday festival-goers had come to see them. The Mast stage was packed for their 6:45 set that included songs spanning the band's long career.

     

    Cover photo by Elliott Carter

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    About Katie Molck

    Loretta Lynn is the best country music singer of all time and if you don't like pickled foods, you can leave.

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