We’ve been buzzing about it for months, and, this weekend, July 17-19, it finally returns: Louisville’s annual Forecastle Festival will once again take place in downtown’s Waterfront Park, boasting a stellar lineup of artists like Sam Smith, Modest Mouse, Widespread Panic, Cage the Elephant, My Morning Jacket, Tweedy, The Tallest Man on Earth, The War on Drugs, Sturgill Simpson, First Aid Kit, Desaparecidos, Gaslight Anthem, Cold War Kids, ZZ Ward, JEFF the Brotherhood, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Cherub, Diarrhea Planet, Noah Gundersen, The Lone Bellow, and many, many more. Weekend passes and single day tickets are still on sale right here, so start planning your weekend trek up north, and get excited for the fest all week long with our preview coverage! We already gave you the rundown on the ten talented Nashville acts performing all weekend, and, now, we’re helping you plan your first day at the fest by counting down our list of ten can’t-miss Friday artists. Check ’em out below!
[NOTE: This list originally included Speedy Ortiz, who were forced to cancel their appearance for medical reasons.]
#10: FLY GOLDEN EAGLE
Friday | WFPK Port Stage | 4:45pm
Psychadelic-tinged, soulful rockers Fly Golden Eagle are one of the local faves we mentioned yesterday, who we just can’t wait for the rest of the world to catch on to. Having collaborated with the likes of Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and more, the band are always an incredible treat to see live. Their debut album, Swagger, was an unbelievably strong introduction, but it was last year’s Quartz Bijou (and its even more ambitious, 26-song extended counterpart, Quartz) that really showed off Fly Golden Eagle’s full, eclectic range and nostalgic meets modern sensibilities.
LISTEN | “Horse’s Mouth”
WATCH | “Stepping Stone” (Official Music Video)
#9: COLD WAR KIDS
Friday | Boom Stage | 5pm
It’s been over a decade since Long Beach bluesy indie rockers Cold War Kids first got together, and nearly a decade since they exploded onto the scene to an unheard of level of buzz with their debut, Robbers & Cowards, winning over legions of fans and critics alike. And, while in the years since the band have remained strong, churning out some quality successive releases and becoming a live juggernaut and festival staple, it wasn’t until last fall’s Hold My Home that Cold War Kids managed to fully recapture the energy and inspiration of their debut. A couple of lineup changes in recent years seems to have helped them recapture their stride, because they’re making the most cohesive, focused, and simple yet ambitious music of their career to date, and, live, there’s never been a better time to catch the group. With five albums’ worth of back catalog, you never know what to expect, but, their recent Nashville show was stellar, and we can’t wait to see them again so soon!
LISTEN | “First”
WATCH | “Hang Me Up to Dry” (Official Music Video)
#8: ZZ WARD
Friday | Mast Stage | 3:45pm
It’s been a couple of years since bluesy pop singer and festival favorite ZZ Ward exploded onto the scene with her fantastic debut album, Til the Casket Drops, propelled by breakout singles like “Put the Gun Down,” “Last Love Song,” and “365 Days.” With her unique voice, multi-instruemtnal talents and ability to blend elements of blues, hip-hop, pop, and soul, she’s reminiscent of singers like Joss Stone, Adele, and Amy Winehouse; women who have put their own unique modern twist on a vintage sound. Prepping to release her sophomore effort, This Means War, Ward has been dropping a steady steam of stellar new singles in recent months, and will headline Marathon Music Works in the fall, just before the album drops. We still recommend adding her to your must-see list for Forecastle though, so you can get a taste of this budding star’s new tunes before anyone else.
LISTEN | “Love 3X”
WATCH | “Put the Gun Down” (Official Music Video)
Friday | Ocean Stage | 6:30pm
Canadian born, Berklee trained, New York residing pop artist Kiesza has had a long and interesting road, developing a love for music after joining the Royal Canadian Navy reserves at a young age, fizzling out on aspirations to pursue ballet, and writing songs as a means to cope with her parents’ divorce. Though initially inspired by folk and more traditional pop styles, she began to adopt a more uptempo sound while working with producer Rami Samir Afuni. Finding early buzz, especially in Canada, the electro pop singer dropped her major label debut, Sound of a Woman, just last year, and has captivated audiences in North America and abroad with deep house lead single “Hideaway.” A recent collab with Skrillex and Diplo supergroup Jack Ü called “Take Ü There” helped keep the buzz going, and an upcoming sophomore effort, plus high-profile collaborations and songwriter credits, make Kiesza one of the most unique, exciting rising pop singers to watch. She’s definitely geared more towards EDM crowds, while maintaining a pop accessibility and uncompromising, cool persona; don’t miss her!
LISTEN | “What Is Love”
WATCH | “Hideaway” (Official Music Video)
Friday | Ocean Stage | 1:30pm
Though frontman Sean Van Vleet’s vocal stylings and the group’s more melancholy tendencies might make it easy to compare them to indie rooted post-punk revivalists like The National, Empires are, by and large, a much more eclectic and complicated band than one simple tag can explain. Pulling influences from garage rock and alternative and unabashedly honoring ’80s tonality while funneling their sound into a modern package, Empires, especially on their latest and greatest album Orphan, are one of indie rock’s best underground acts, and, if there were any musical justice, the Chicago natives would be nabbing a lot more attention. Though their mainstream domination seems inevitable, you’re lucky to have the opportunity to catch them on a smaller festival stage for the time; don’t squander it!
LISTEN | “Please Don’t Tell My Lover”
WATCH | “How Good Does It Feel” (Official Music Video)
Friday | Boom Stage | 1:45pm
Dreamy, jangly, indie pop outfit Alvvays are relatively new to the scene, but they’re already making a splash thanks to their pleasant and hypnotic self-titled debut, which dropped last year. Formed by childhood friends Molly Rankin (vocals) and Kerri MacLellan (keyboards), the Canadian group have drummed up worldwide underground buzz, and have toured with the likes of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Peter Bjorn and John, and The Decemberists. We can’t get enough of their sound, and expect their career-trajectory to mirror similar-minded acts like Courtney Barnett and Best Coast.
LISTEN | “Adult Diversion”
WATCH | “Archie, Marry Me” (Official Music Video)
#4: JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD
Friday | Boom Stage | 3:15pm
Recently parting ways with Warner Bros. and regaining their independence (fortunately, they own a taste-making local label, Infinity Cat), garage rock duo JEFF the Brotherhood are largely responsible for helping elevate the attention and curate the status of Nashville’s current rock scene. Mixing elements of psychedelic, punk, metal, pop, and classic rock, the prolific real-life brothers most recently released their fantastic eighth full-length, Wasted on the Dream. An insane live force, JEFF are always a must-see, especially in the unpredictable environment of an outdoor fest.
LISTEN | “Black Cherry Pie”
WATCH | “Sixpack” (Official Music Video)
#3: THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM
Friday | Boom Stage | 6:45pm
Still riding high on the success of their fifth album, last year’s Get Hurt, which was recorded in Nashville at Blackbird Studios with producer Mike Crossey, New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem have furthered their pursuit in perfecting arena-ready heartland rock with hard rock and punk sensibilities over the last few years, a definite transition from their more traditionalist punk early efforts. While fans remain divided in favoring the raw punk edge on older releases like The ’59 Sound or the glossier, more accessible production and songwriting on more recent efforts such as Handwritten (our personal fave), all can agree that Get Hurt is the group’s most eclectic, well-rounded record to date. A live and earnest force to be reckoned with, The Gaslight Anthem have frequented Nashville in recent years, and have always proved eclectic and frenetic in concert. While, perhaps, this year’s token punk band at Forecastle, we’re unbelievably excited to see them on the lineup, and encourage you to give them a shot, especially if they’re not a band you’d normally seek out!
LISTEN | “The ’59 Sound”
WATCH | “45” (Official Music Video)
#2: SAM SMITH
Friday | Mast Stage | 9:45pm
Talk about someone that saw a crack in the door, and burst through it so hard that they are still looking for the hinges. British soul/r&b/pop crooner Sam Smith saw that crack when he was featured on the Disclosure track “Latch” in late 2012, and, a mere seven months later, he had his first number one single on the UK Chart when teamed up with Naughty Boy for “La La La.” Seven months after that, Smith won the 2014 BRIT Critics Choice Award AND the BBC Sound of 2014 Award, giving way to festival appearances and international radio play, all before the release of his debut LP, In the Lonely Hour, last year. Since then, and thanks to smash singles like “Stay With Me,” “Lay Me Down,” and “I’m Not the Only One,” Smith has achieved critical and commercial acclaim worldwide, bagged four Grammys, among numerous other awards, and has sold out shows around the globe. His ascent was swift, but his headliner status at Forecastle was well-derved. Be sure to watch him, and experience what we have firsthand: Sam Smith is the real deal.
LISTEN | “Stay With Me”
WATCH | “I’m Not the Only One” (Official Music Video)
#1: CAGE THE ELEPHANT
Friday | Mast Stage | 7:30pm
Ok, so while they’re most closely associated with Bowling Green, our pals in Cage the Elephant have more or less adopted Nashville as their second home, which is why we also included them at the top of our local roundup; don’t worry, we’re proud to share them. Recommending this band is a definite no-brainer; Nashville or not, they’re one of the most insane, rock and roll, high-energy, festival-winning live acts imaginable. Even on a huge stage, they play with the intensity of an intimate, in-your-face room, and no show is complete without stage dives, antics, and a whole lot of adrenaline. We’ve seen them so many times over the past few years, and would still never miss a single second of their show any chance we have to see them. In a day chock-full of expansive talent, the one set you absolutely cannot miss is this one.
LISTEN | “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”
WATCH | “Come a Little Closer” (Official Music Video)