This weekend, July 15-17, marks the return of Louisville’s annual Forecastle Festival, one of our favorite regional musical events. From its humble beginnings in 2002, Forecastle has grown to become a national festival fixture, drawing 10s of thousands of attendees each year to the picturesque downtown Waterfront Park, for three days of music, art, activism, and, of course, Kentucky bourbon. Boasting yet another impressive lineup, this year’s installment, an easy drive for Middle Tennessee residents and a no-brainer for Kentuckians, is one of our most-highly anticipated events of the season, and, per usual, we want to help you prepare with daily rundowns of our can’t-miss acts. Head here for day tickets or weekend passes if you still need ’em, and check out our 10 most-anticipated Saturday Forecastle performances below!
#10: ALL THEM WITCHES
Saturday | WFPK Port Stage | 8:15pm
Mixing influences of psychedelic rock, heavy metal and swampy blues, All Them Witches are one of the most diverse and dynamic rock bands to emerge from Nashville’s music scene. The foursome have gained a reputation for their thrilling live show, mostly built on their musical chemistry and ability to jam rather than solely relying on structured songs. They got their start in 2012 with their debut album Our Mother Electricity, but really gained momentum with Lightning At The Door, which featured standout tracks like “Charles William” and “When God Comes Back,” showcasing their Southern Gothic style of songwriting perfectly paired with rowdy guitars. The hype surrounding that album led to a deal with New West Records, who released the group’s breakout new effort Dying Surfer Meets His Maker last year. Written in the style of concept album and recorded in a remote cabin in East Tennessee, the LP is mainly inspired by the various upbringings and travels of the band, allowing them to create a sound to reflect particular places. Fast gaining a reputation as a live powerhouse, All Them Witches seem poised to become Nashville’s next breakout rock band.
LISTEN | “Heavy/Like a Witch”
WATCH | “Open Passageways” (Official Music Video)
#9: ANDREW MCMAHON IN THE WILDERNESS
Saturday | Boom Stage | 4:30pm
While many may remember him for fronting seminal emo-infused pop punk outfit Something Corporate, or subsequent piano-driven alt rock group Jack’s Mannequin, acclaimed singer-songwriter Andrew McMahon has spent the last few years amassing quite the solo reputation under his latest moniker, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. His third major venture has found a ton of radio love and major media placements over the past couple years, propelled by 2014’s fantastic, eponymous debut full-length. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness doesn’t completely buck the style of his previous groups, but showcases a more contemporary, indie pop sound and mature, personal focus, centered around themes like fatherhood and adult relationships. Undeniably one of the most talented songwriters of his generation, McMahon has defied the odds by fronting three distinctly different but equally successful musical vehicles, and, while his focus is certainly rooted in the present, he’s still very mindful of his longstanding and fervent fanbase, incorporating plenty of SoCo and Jack’s songs into the set.
LISTEN | “Cecilia and the Satellite”
WATCH | “Synesthesia” (Official Music Video)
#8: SYLVAN ESSO
Saturday | Ocean Stage | 8:30pm
The swift success of Sylvan Esso might be one of the most pleasant musical surprises of the past couple years. Amelia Meath originally wrote the hit song “Play It Right” for her previous band, Mountain Man. However, on a fortuitously booked bill at a small club where Mountain Man was playing, she shared the song with electronic producer Nick Sanborn, then playing solo as Made of Oak, and the genesis of duo Sylvan Esso sprung to life. They worked out the rest of their eponymous debut in Durham, North Carolina, before its near-overnight buzz helped make them the darlings of taste-making festivals like SXSW, Bonnaroo, and Coachella. By the time the album arrived in 2014 on Partisan Records, Sylvan Esso were already a rapidly rising force in the blogosphere, and even made their national television debut soon after. With the undeniably catchy, electro-infused indie pop tracks like “Coffee,” “Play It Right,” and “Hey Mami,” the group are quickly becoming a staple of the indie world, and their live show brings to life their enthralling, nuanced compositions.
LISTEN | “Hey Mami”
WATCH | “Coffee” (Official Music Video)
#7: THE ARCS
Saturday | Mast Stage | 5:15pm
Though they’ve been a band for about a year, pseudo-supergroup The Arcs catapulted to broader recognition thanks especially to their famous frontman, The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. Rounded out by Leon Michels, Nick Movshon, Homer Steinweiss, and Richard Swift, with studio contributions from Kenny Vaughan and Mariachi Flor de Toloache, the band, which was conceived a solo vehicle for Auerbach, but seems to identify now as a full group, takes a more garage rock rooted slant, with weirder, more expansive tendencies than The Black Keys. Their 2015 debut, Yours, Dreamily, seemingly appeared out of nowhere last year, offering something fresh, new, and different for longtime fans of Dan and his style. So far, the band’s live presence has been limited, but they’re dependably lining up a steady clip of festival and club dates. Surely the Keys will be back sooner or later, so see this complimentary project while you can!
LISTEN | “Lake Superior”
WATCH | “Outta My Mind” (Official Music Video)
Saturday | WFPK Port Stage | 1pm
The brainchild of producer Micah Tawlks and singer Isaaca Byrd, indie pop duo MYZICA commanded our attention with hypnotic debut single “Ready Or Not” in 2014, before crafting one of the best local releases of last year, their wonderfully synth-heavy, ’80s-inspired, eponymous debut EP. With standout singles like “Wait Just a Minute” and “We Started a Fire,” MYZICA have garnered national press and won over the blogosphere, helping reinforce the strength and allure of Nashville’s diverse, fast-growing pop scene. With a growing list of high-profile placements, an increasing national presence, and a debut LP, Love & Desire, on the way, MYZICA feel like not only one of the most exciting bands to emerge from Nashville in recent memory, but one of the most exciting pop groups period, destined to resonate with a wider audience thanks to their unparalleled pop hooks and wistful nostalgic appeal. Sure, we’re biased, but Nashville is kind of ruling Forecastle this year.
LISTEN | “Love & Desire”
WATCH | “Wait Just a Minute” (Official Music Video)
Saturday | WFPK Port Stage | 7pm
Philadelphia rockers Nothing are among the best at way they do, harkening back to classic shoegaze with modern indie and noise rock tendencies, all the while cranking things up unbelievably loud to help reinforce their weighty, emotionally dense thematic focus. More tragedy and misfortune has befallen this band, and specifically singer Domenic Palermo, than most anyone should be able to reasonably endure, but, throughout struggles, they’ve only found more fuel for their pair of fantastic LPs and string of EPs. Formerly the vocalist of punk group Horror Show, Palermo did a stint in jail for aggravated assault (self-dense), briefly taking a break from music before fronting Nothing. While on tour, he was mugged and badly injured, their label, apparently funded by the infamous Martin Shkreli, folded, and his father abruptly passed away, all in a short span of time. Pretty heavy, huh? Whether music is their coping mechanism or just a necessity, Nothing play with an urgency and sense of endurance few bands can match, and their live show is intense, to say the least. Venture over to the intimate Port Stage and see what we mean.
LISTEN | “Vertigo Flowers”
WATCH | “Bent Nail” (Official Music Video)
#4: DANNY BROWN
Saturday | Ocean Stage | 4:15pm
Though plenty of rappers get labeled “alternative,” Danny Brown seems to embody the notion, growing, ever since the breakout success of 2011 sophomore effort XXX, to become one of the most interesting, critical beloved, and unpredictable forces in hip hop. Over the past several years, Danny has has helped bridge the gap between mainstream rap and the weirder, off-kilter, and refreshingly unique subset of artists bucking conventions and paving new ground. Raised and wholly influenced by Detroit, Brown always harbored dreams of becoming a rapper, but it wasn’t until a failed few years of small-time drug dealing and a subsequent incarceration that he began to get serious. Early G-Unit associations helped Danny get his start, but his style and image didn’t mesh with that crew (he’s been rocking skinny jeans and rocker clothes since before Kanye helped make it cool at a widespread level), and, subsequently he signed to A-Trak’s more alternative and hip minded Fool’s Gold Records. A talented and technical rapper, Brown’s flow is as free-spirited as his image, wavering from high-pitched, intense screeching to more conventional and cool rhyming. Where he really shines, however, is in his far-reaching gift for smart, gritty, and relatable lyricism, coupled with a sharp and unbeatable sense of humor. Though his last album, 2013’s Old, took a more serious tone, Brown’s range remained intact, and just one glance at the impressive and diverse array of guest artists (Purity Ring, A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX, Schoolboy Q) perfectly illustrates the state of his career. Known for wild, engaging shows and a presence that’s equal parts rock star and rap star, Danny Brown in a must-see live force, and with a long-overdue new LP slated to finally drop this year, a chance to hear new music should be more than enough reason to prioritize his set.
LISTEN | “25 Bucks” ft. Purity Ring
WATCH | “When It Rain” (Official Music Video)
#3: LOCAL NATIVES
Saturday | Mast Stage | 7:15pm
After a year-long breather, buzzworthy LA indie rockers Local Natives returned earlier this year with the promise of new music; their first album since breakout sophomore effort Hummingbird in 2013. Formed over a decade ago and largely longtime friends, Local Natives’ earlier years were spent living and writing together in a house in Silverlake, a creative period that would shape their 2009 debut Gorilla Manor. Met with almost immediate acclaim, that LP, plus blog buzz and celebrated outings at events like SXSW, command a strong early audience, and landed the group high-profile tours stateside and abroad. By Hummingbird, and thanks to singles like “Wide Eyes” and “Heavy Feet,” Local Natives had become not only a fixture on the festival circuit, but also heralded as the next Arcade Fire or Vampire Weekend. Combining elements of folk, psychedelic, and pop, with earnest and personal lyricism and a live show honed by years of constant touring (we watched them climb the ranks of Nashville venues ourselves), Local Natives are one of the best, most consistent, and most relevant groups in the indie rock scene. Inherently a top festival pick, it’s upcoming album Sunlit Youth, and the fact that we haven’t had a chance to see them in a couple of years, that propels them so high on our list.
LISTEN | “Wide Eyes”
WATCH | “Villainy” (Official Music Video)
#2: DR. DOG
Saturday | Boom Stage | 6:30pm
Pennsylvania mainstays Dr. Dog have gone from a lo-fi alt/indie band to embrace of a more psychedelic, retro, poppy sound over their constantly evolutionary decade and half of releases (nine full-lengths now). Not only have the group pushed and updated their artistic vision and musical direction, but, never content with just being great, have strived to hone and improve their live show over many, many years of nonstop touring (and countless festival appearances). As a result, the band have really become a musical force to be reckoned with, and, if you’ve been following us for awhile, you know that they’re one of our favorite live acts. Dr. Dog’s albums are a perfect harmony of old and new, progressive yet grounded, melodic and focused, and full of top-notch, fun rock songs. Their show takes these great songs and adds a new dimension to them, with sharp, larger than life delivery and more effective emotional weight, balancing refined impressive musicality with feel-good, danceable aesthetics. Though their sound has ebbed and flowed, this year’s The Psychedelic Swamp, a revamp of their long-lost unreleased debut, perfectly brings Dr. Dog full circle, bridging their rawer, early sensibilities with more expansive new work. Longtime fan or newcomer, we urge you to see them in action to truly appreciate everything the group have to offer, and promise you this: there’s nothing else quite like a Dr. Dog show.
LISTEN | “Broken Heart”
WATCH | “Shadow People” (Official Music Video)
#1: ALABAMA SHAKES
Saturday | Mast Stage | 9:30pm
Still riding high on the success of their Grammy award winning 2015 sophomore album Sound & Color, local(ish) southern blues rockers Alabama Shakes are prepping to return to Forecastle for the first time since 2013, in the midst of a seemingly never-ending tour cycle. Formed in 2009 in, duh, Alabama (Athens to be exact, between Huntsville and the Muscle Shoals area), the Shakes’ career really exploded after the release of their 2012 debut Boys & Girls, and its inescapable breakout lead single “Hold On.” After a few early years of playing dives, the young band began trekking to Nashville to record at Andrija Tokic’s Bomb Shelter studio, where they independently crafted their first LP. As a few tracks began find their way online, the group soon landed a record deal, and, before long, the album simply spread like a wildfire, earning Grammy nods (and a performance at the 2013 awards) and going on to achieve Gold certification. By the time the Shakes retreated to record their Grammy winning second album, this time with producer Blake Mills at Nashville’s Sound Emporium, they had already become certifiable superstars, beloved by critics, big enough to headline festivals, and staples of radio and television. Anchored by the unbelievable talent of frontwoman Brittany Howard, the Alabama Shakes are, simply, one of the best bands making music today, and their unparalleled live show propels them to the top of our must-see list.
LISTEN | “Hold On”
WATCH | “Sound & Color” (Official Music Video)