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 Sunday Forecastle performances below!
Sunday | Ocean Stage | 4:15pm
Made up of singer Aluna Francis and producer George Reid, London duo AlunaGeorge have amassed a ton of buzz over the past few years thanks to high profile collaborations with the likes of Disclosure, Jack Ü, and DJ Snake. Formed by happenstance when Reid, formerly of the band Colour, remixed a track by Francis’s former project My Toys Like Me, discovering a chemistry that quickly blossomed into their well-received debut, Body Music. Slower, more experimental, and laced with pop and soul tendencies, the duo’s brand of EDM sets them apart from many other artists in the scene, and thanks to singles like “You Know You Like It” and “Your Drums, Your Love,” they fast gained a reputation for being versatile and interesting. AlunaGeroge’s forthcoming sophomore effort, I Remember, is already making a splash, with breakout track “I’m in Control” further asserting the group’s synthpop dominance. Their crossover appeal makes them a compelling addition to Forecatle’s lineup, and definitely has us curious to see how their music translates live.
LISTEN | “Mean What I Mean”
WATCH | “You Know You Like It” (Official Music Video)
Sunday | WFPK Port Stage | 5pm
Formed almost a decade ago in Appalachian Ohio, and initially conceived as something of a bluegrass project for frontman, multi-instumentlaist, and only constant member Zac Little, Saintseneca have come a long way since their earliest efforts. The group’s initial lineup was a bit of a revolving door, producing some solid introductory EPs and 2011 full-length Last, but, since settling into a fixed lineup over the past few years and inking a deal with ANTI-, the band have matured and hit their stride, gravitating towards a sound that melds folk, punk, pop, and retro rock. 2014’s Darc Arc propelled the group to larger audiences, but it was last year’s Such Things, helmed by Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, that feels like a true culmination of years of musical evolution, landing as the group’s most cohesive, strongest release to date. Eclectic, expansive, and timeless, Saintseneca are one of the best under the radar bands making music today, drawing praise for their live show and engaging style. This year’s Forecastle lineup of undercard acts seems to be giving the big stages a run for their money, and Saintesenca Port Stage set is likely to be one of the weekend’s best.
LISTEN | “Sleeper Hold”
WATCH | “Happy Alone” (Official Music Video)
#8: ANDERSON EAST
Sunday | Mast Stage | 1:45pm
A lot has changed for Alabama native Anderson East over the past year. Following the release of his major label debut Delilah, he’s become one of the most buzzed about artists in Nashville. After moving to the area to pursue a degree in music engineering at Middle Tennessee State University, he dove into the local scene. He worked on his own music while juggling gigs as a recording engineer and session musician, and eventually headed to L.A. to record his self-released debut album, Flowers of the Broken Hearted. A few years later, East had a chance encounter with burgeoning producer Dave Cobb at the Bluebird Café, and a friendship was immediately forged. Soon after, they went into the studio and recorded the album that has launched East’s career into new heights. In just a few months, Anderson went from playing jam sessions at The 5 Spot to headlining sold out shows, and even made a few headlines earlier this year when his relationship with country star Miranda Lambert went public. His gritty, soulful voice drives every note weaved through the tracks on Delilah, from the pleading “Quit You” to the heavenly “Devil in Me.” As East’s presence rises, he’s becoming a popular go-to festival act, and while he still plays the area regularly, we have a feeling his schedule is only going to get busier; catch him while you can!
LISTEN | “Satisfy Me”
WATCH | “Devil in Me” (Official Music Video)
#7: UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA
Sunday | Ocean Stage | 6pm
Hailing from New Zealand though now residing in Portland, Unknown Mortal Orchestra are one of the most dynamic and unique acts to emerge from the indie rock scene in recent years. The group got their start in 2010, after anonymously uploading tracks to Bandcamp, sparking interest in the blogosphere, and eventually prompting them to claim responsibility and reveal themselves as Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Helmed by singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson, the trio released their lo-fi, psych-infused eponymous debut in 2011, quickly gaining traction in their native New Zealand. It was 2013’s sophomore effort (and Jagjaguwar debut) II, however, which catapulted the band to broader recognition, garnering praise from critics and allowing them to tour the world, including stops at festivals and a U.S. TV debut. With last year’s Multi-Love, and its infectious title track, UMO nabbed a bona fide radio hit, channeling broader experimental evolution. Though many contemporary groups harbor an affinity for ’60s-era psychedelic rock and pop, few give it as much of a modern sheen as Unknown Mortal Orchestra, finding a way to co-opt the best parts of the aesthetic, and fuse it with contemporary indie and lo-fi rock.
LISTEN | “First World Problem”
WATCH | “Multi-Love” (Official Music Video)
#6: WHITE DENIM
Sunday | Boom Stage | 4:45pm
One of the most interesting acts to emerge from the eclectic Austin rock scene, and now celebrating a decade of existence, White Denim are always a fun, unpredictable, and enthralling live show. Initially the result of the merger of two other projects, though their lineup has shuffled a bit over the years, White Denim somehow manage to mix elements of psychedelic rock, punk, indie, jazz, experimental rock, progressive, and soul, all without feeling overblown or clunky. Though very DIY in their early days, the group have grown to amass a sizable cult following, and have shared the stage with the likes of Tame Impala and Arctic Monkeys, all the while continuing to produce some buzzworthy records and push their music to new directions and genre explorations. Arguably, the band found their stride with 2011’s fourth album D, and continued to grow in recognition with critically-beloved 2013 “barbecue” effort Corsicana Lemonade. It’s new LP Stiff, the group’s first time working with an outside producer and first proper live, analog album, that captures the spirit of White Demin’s fast, heavy, uncontainable early sound fused with years of experimentation. A band with something to offer for truly most anyone, make them a priority anytime you can.
LISTEN | “At Night in Dreams”
WATCH | “Holda You (I’m Psycho)” (Official Music Video)
#5: GARY CLARK JR.
Sunday | Mast Stage | 5pm
Returning to Forecastle after a memorable outing in 2014, blues rock virtuoso Gary Clark Jr. spent the two years since crafting his latest album, last year’s The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, and embarking on high profile tours with the likes of the Foo Fighters. Raised in Austin, Texas, Gary first took up the guitar in his pre-teens, and cut his teeth around greats like Jimmie Vaughn, working his way through the vibrant local bar and club scene and developing a reputation as a blues powerhouse. With a timeless jazz, r&b, soul, and rock and roll inspired sound, characterized by earnest, engaging songwriting and distorted guitars, Clark has managed to transcend any genre-specific scene, making him prime for festivals all around the world. After an early bout of praise and placements, Gary’s major label debut, Blak and Blu, dropped in 2012, earning a spot on countless best-of lists and hurdling him into the mainstream eye. Since then, he’s been working tirelessly to cement his legacy as a modern great, and, though we’ve seen quite a few times lately, his live show never gets old.
LISTEN | “Grinder”
WATCH | “Bright Lights” (Official Music Video)
#4: WASHED OUT
Sunday | Ocean Stage | 8:30pm
Despite famously providing the theme music for IFC pacific northwest-skewering comedy Portlania, Washed Out’s Ernest Greene actually hails from Georgia. The former aspiring librarian’s story began as many musicians of the modern era’s have: he was discovered through MySpace through music made in his bedroom. Swept up in the chillwave movement of the late ’00s, Washed Out’s breakthrough EP, Life of Leisure, benefitted from a huge dose of “right sound, right time,” and his subsequent debut album, Within and Without, brought some much needed substance to a scene that was quickly attracting copycats, chasing the next “cool” movement. Bloggers and scenesters in the know unanimously praised the lo-fi tendencies, vintage synth affinities, shoegaze sensibilities, and sweeping, hypnotic calmness of Washed Out and his contemporaries, such as Neon Indian and Toro Y Moi. Where chillwave stands nowadays is quite different, and, though it may not be as in vogue with the hipster crowds of today (whether hipster-ism is even in vogue today is a different discussion), and many of the lesser-than bands who jumped on the bandwagon have fallen by the wayside, but Washed Out remain as viable, musically relevant, and inspired as ever; likely due to the fact that they were a catalyst for a musical trend, not a symptom of it. With 2013 followup LP Paracosm, Greene explored new territories, bringing a more accessible polish to his production and channeling elements of psychedelia and dream pop, as well as putting his hip hop tendencies on full display. Clearly a talent deserving of recognition beyond a trendy label, Washed Out is an act that still stands to surprise and evolve, and should be at the top of your for Forecastle.
LISTEN | “It All Feels Right”
WATCH | “Amor Fati” (Official Music Video)
#3: DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
Sunday | Mast Stage | 7pm
Formed in 1997 in Bellingham, Washington, Death Cab for Cutie initially began as a solo side project for frontman Ben Gibbard, before soon morphing into a proper band. Earning regional buzz, they inked a deal with indie label Barsuk Records by the time of their formal debut, Something About Airplanes, which laid down the prototype for their emotionally laced, indie rooted, pop accessible sound, under the self-sufficient production guidance of guitarist Chris Walla. Death Cab’s first brush with broader success came with third effort The Photo Album in 2001, with single “A Movie Script Ending” especially finding attention in the indie world, but, inarguably, it was 2003’s Transatlanticism, and subsequent 2005 major label debut Plans, that propelled the band to stardom, earned critical and commercial praise, and helping them become a mainstay fixture on the radio, in film and television, and on worldwide tours and festival circuits. Three more LPs, in addition to EPs, live albums, and more, have followed, with the group exploring broader sonic heights, maturing and personal subject matter, and darker and more melancholy soundscapes, all the while finding consistent success and well-received singles. The last few years, especially, have been something of a transitional period for Death Cab. Amidst celebrating the 10 year anniversaries of their two best-known (and, arguably, best) releases, the group announced the departure of Walla, a fixture not only for his guitar work but his role behind the scenes. Before his exit, the founding member contributed to writing and playing on, but, for the first time, not producing, their latest and eighth album, last year’s Kintsugi, which serves as a perfect sonic bridge between the band’s past and present, while helping set the template for a new chapter. It’s a pivotal time in the group’s existence, but one that seems to have brought embrace of nostalgia front and center while also igniting a spark looking forward. Old fan or new, you’re sure to leave satisfied.
LISTEN | “Black Sun”
WATCH | “Title and Registration” (Official Music Video)
#2: SPEEDY ORTIZ
Sunday | WFPK Port Stage | 8:15pm
Speedy Ortiz topped our most-anticipated list for last year‘s Forecastle, which, unfortunately, they had to cancel. With an added year of anticipation, and simply due to the fact that they’re so damn good, the Massachusetts indie rockers are a top pick for essential viewing once more this time around, not just one of our most-anticipated artists of Sunday, but of the entire weekend. Formed in 2011, and briefly a solo vehicle for frontwoman Sadie Dupuis, Speedy Ortiz quickly morphed into a full band, and began to build buzz throughout the blogosphere with 2012 EP Sports. 2013 Carpark Records debut Major Arcana really helped the group gain traction, and last year’s Foil Deer, their best and most fully realized record to date, earned endless critical buzz and broader recognition. Having toured with bands like Thurston Moore, The Breeders, Stephen Malkmus, and Hop Along, Speedy Ortiz combine grunge pop, indie rock, and alternative, anchored by Sadie’s deeply personal, smart, and socially conscious writing style. Known not only for their fantastic shows and intriguing songs, but for championing a push for safer spaces and more inclusiveness within the indie scene, Speedy Ortiz are without a doubt one of the best, most important rock bands to emerge in recent years, and seem only to improve with each release, finding crossover appeal within the punk world, emo scene, indie-hipster crowd, and, deservedly, the mainstream as well. If substantive, weird, smart, and catchy rock is your thing, this could just be your favorite performance of the fest.
LISTEN | “No Below”
WATCH | “Raising the Skate” (Official Music Video)
#1: RYAN ADAMS
Sunday | Mast Stage | 9:30pm
Though ranking Speedy Ortiz #1 was tempting, we have to give headliner Ryan Adams the edge, if, for nothing else, his stunning back catalogue, unrivaled performance style, and surge of increased recent relevance (who else could get away with unironically covering an entire Taylor Swift record in the style of ’80s post-punk?). After cutting his teeth as a punk teen in the ’90s, Adams, born and raised in North Carolina, found his first taste of widespread success as a member of alt-country act Whiskeytown. Setting the sonic template for his earliest efforts, he left the band to pursue a solo career at the start of the ’00s, and immediately found critical and commercial acclaim with 2000 debut Heartbreaker and ’01 followup Gold. An incredibly prolific, eclectic, and celebrated crop of albums would follow, cementing Ryan’s legacy as one of the most gifted artists of our generation, and experimenting with alternative, folk, and even punk. Though his personal demons often manifested in haunting, heartbreaking song, Adams personal journey led to peace and happiness by the late ’00s, and, following a run with permeant backing band The Cardinals and a brief break from music all together, he’s continued to innovate and push his artistry to new heights in recent years. Since his 2014 eponymous 14th album, a definite career high point, Ryan has been touring fairly nonstop, recently joined by a backing band he’s calling The Shining. Now an in demand producer (Jenny Lewis, Fall Out Boy, Butch Walker) and a true musicians musician, beloved by his peers and legions and fans, Ryan Adams seems to be at his healthiest, most at ease, and most refined, constantly reinforcing the notion that he’s one of the most skilled musicians on the planet. His tour stop last year at The Ryman was the best we’ve ever seen him, and we have no doubt that his Forecastle performance will go down as one of the greatest in the festival’s history.
LISTEN | “Lucky Now”
WATCH | “So Alive” (Official Music Video)