As we’ve been saying every year since our first time covering in 2013, Louisville’s Forecastle Festival is one of our absolute favorite music fests- not just in the region, but in the whole country. It’s not the the biggest or flashiest event of its kind, and you’ll frequently find its performers at many other festivals, but it excels by not trying to be something gargantuan, focusing, instead, of keeping things lean and well-curated, embracing the spirit and culture of its surroundings, and maintaining one of the best laid out, most organized, and friendliest festival environments we’ve ever experienced. Going into this year, the bill was noticeably stuffed with performers we’d recently seen at other fests- and while it might not drum up the same sense of urgency for people who attend several events, that’s ok; the reason you book acts like LCD Soundsytem, Cage the Elephant, and Weezer is because they’re amazing, and the vast majority of attendees don’t hit nearly the number of events as the diehard few (and music journalists) do. The variety was still great, the ambience as good as ever, the weather cooperative (for once), and the city- one of our favorite things to explore in our annual trek- only seems more exciting and buzzing with each passing year, with new food, businesses and more to explore just outside of the festival grounds, and even more if you take the time to adventure. Needless to say, Forecastle 2017 was another exciting, triumphant year, and you can read all about it and check out our full photo set below!
Twin Limb. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Like its Tennessee cousin Bonnaroo, Forecastle has been at this a lot longer than many of its contemporaries, albeit growing from more humble beginnings, so it’s no surprise that it operates like a well-oiled machine. My fourth year attending, I appreciate the familiarity in everything from the check-in process, the layout, to even the bourbon bar in the media lounge (thanks Four Roses, you the real MVP). Parking, too, is astoundingly easy for an urban-set event, and after arriving early enough to revisit Louisville’s delicious answer to Nashville hot chicken, Royal’s, and grabbing some coffee at local chain Quills’ new NuLu outpost (I’m gonna keep shouting out all the great food and drink from the weekend, because’s Louisville’s offerings are pretty exciting right now), I made it in just in time for Twin Limb.
Though I’d watched them just last month at Bonnaroo, the fact that this was a hometown show for the indie pop trio, and that they were kicking things off on the main stage, made their Forecastle outing feel even more special. It seemed like a similar set, but they were really vibing hard, met with an enthusiastic crowd and exuberant energy, despite the afternoon heat. Louisville and Nashville talent definitely seemed to dominate the weekend, and starting it off with some of the city’s finest was perfect, and set the bar high. [PO]
We lucked out with uncharacteristically mild Bonnaroo weather this year, but while we managed to avoid the rain that often dogs Forecastle, and it wasn’t quite the scorcher it’s been other years (2014 fried us), that Kentucky heat was still sweltering, so I combatted it with the best local solution I knew- an afternoon bourbon in the shade. While taking a premature break, I watched Mondo Cozmo’s Boom Stage set from the distance, realizing that I totally had him pegged wrong; or, rather, there was much more to him than the handful of singles I’d heard. “Shine” is certainly decisively folk rooted, but much of the other stuff he played, including a random cover of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony,” had a much more upbeat, indie rock bent, definitely leaving me making note to give his upcoming debut album a spin. [PO]
Quiet Hollers. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Forecastle only has four stages, and the smallest, the Port Stage, often boasts some of the most exciting performers of all. Though not as punk as years past (which have included the likes of Bully, Diarrhea Planet, White Reaper, Speedy Ortiz, and Nothing), this year’s slate was still expertly curated and diverse, and hometown alt country-infusesd rockers Quiet Hollers did an admirable job kicking it off. A bit heavier and livelier than I expected, their reflective, captivating style sounded fantastic live, accented by flourishing fiddle and keyboards. I admittedly didn’t know much about this band before researching for the fest, but I left an undeniable fan. [PO]
Real Estate. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
I believe the last time I caught Brooklyn indie staples Real Estate was not long after the release of their third album, Atlas, so it felt perfectly fitting to revisit them shortly after its followup, In Mind. Opening with new tunes “Stained Glass” and “Serve the Song,” it’s almost like they knew I needed a catchup, and their latest material sounded especially inspired in person, brought to life by their fluid chemistry and inherent cool. Indie rock’s been in a weird decline lately, and recent festival lineups have reflected that, so I felt doubly appreciative to see such a great band, who still feel fresh and relevant, on the Forecastle slate. [PO]
Jaye Jayle. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Local artist Jaye Jayle is the solo vehicle of Evan Patterson, who also plays in noise rock outfit Young Widows. I wasn’t really familiar with the project beforehand, but was intrigued by the experimental, psych tinged sound when writing about the fest, so I made a point to prioritize their Port Stage set. Grabbing a spot on the nearby hillside, I found Jayle every bit the weird, artsy, genre-bending band I’d hoped for, and a perfect soundtrack to zone out to. Apart from the loud, droning soundcheck, the first sign that this would be delightfully weird was the fact that there was an artist on stage crafting a live painting all throughout the performance, which Patterson and his fantastic backing band launched into with effortless, hypnotic confidence. With the dissonant, hypnotizing grooves and thumping, dark style, Jaye Jayle were definitely one of the most unique acts of the day, and a great new find. [PO]
Waka Flocka Flame. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Waka Flocka Flame
Nestled underneath of a highway overpass, the Ocean Stage has become Forecastle de-facto spot for EDM and hip hop (kind of a mini version of Bonnaroo’s new The Other stage), and while I don’t seem to find myself frequenting it as much as the other three, it always boasts some gems. I’ve been intrigued by Waka Flocka Flame since he first found fame, appealing to EDM and rock fans with his wild, party starting take on hip hop, and I knew his set would be crazy. It was definitely packed, and Waka’s DJ made the curious choice of getting the crowd hyped by playing tracks by significantly more famous perfromers, but that didn’t seem to undercut the excitement when the man himself finally emerged. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan, but I didn’t recognize the first few songs at all- though that didn’t seem to matter, as I quickly discerned that Waka is more of a an MC of turnt up-ness than a conventional performer. Jumping into the crowd, getting everyone hype, and projecting a bizarre twerking graphic mixed with catch phrases, Waka Flocka was the wild and uncontainable force I’d hoped for, and when he got to familiar hits like “Hard in the Paint” and “Turn Down for What,” the legion of fans crammed under the bridge absolutely went nuts. [PO]
Cage the Elephant. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Cage the Elephant
I’ve seen Cage the Elephant a ton of times in recent years, including just two Forecastles ago (and last month at Bonnaroo), and though they haven’t released new music, save for an excellent new live LP, since late 2015, I’ll never turn down a chance to experience their wild, unrivaled live show. Kentucky bred and now Nashville based, Forecastle is both a chance for us to brag about local talent, and a chance for them to reclaim their roots (though they’re technically from Bowling Green), something which always seems to give them an extra boost of energy. Donning the same green suit he rocked at ‘Roo, frontman Matt Schultz ran out to “Cry Baby,” a great, groovy start to another flawless show. I believe Matt is one of the greatest living frontmen in rock, and while nothing super surprising took place, he and his brother Brad did their typical dives into the crowd, cranked up a whole lot of punk energy, and channeled the great chemistry with their badmmates that’s so in sync it borders on psychic. Much closer than I was at ‘Roo, I really got a good look at their amped up production, which would have been even more dazzling in the dark, with huge arrays of lights and even some surprise pyrotechnics. Hitting a well-balanced set that included crowd favorites like “Spiderhead,” “Trouble,” “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” and of course, “Come a Little Closer,” I was also thrilled to see them play Wreckless Eric cover “(I’d Go the) Whole Wide World,” which has become a surprise hit from their live album, Unpeeled, and for good reason- they make it their own. Unsurprisingly, and yet again, Cage stole the show. [PO]
Run the Jewels. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Run the Jewels
Neck and neck with Cage as my most-anticipated performance of the day, I ran to the Boom Stage for hip hop supergroup Run the Jewels. I got to see these guys very early on in a tiny club, before they were even officially a permeant project, and most recently a couple of Bonnaroos ago in a late night set, but have missed a few chances to see them lately, and was especially looking forward to hearing cuts from their insanely good new album, Run the Jewels 3. Wasting no time, Killer Mike and El-P ran right out out, beaming and ready to bring it hard, and kicked right into new singles “Talk to Me” and “Legend Has It.” The chemistry between these guys is unrivaled, and makes me endlessly happy to see two talented MCs, repping New York and Atlanta respectively, turned unlikely bffs. Mike had nothing but glowing things to say about Louisville and the south in general, and, while the songs speak for themselves, there was certainly room for some social and political commentary. Nearing middle age, the RTJ guys are definitely products of an era of hip hop past, and that’s astoundingly refreshing in a landscape that’s become more focused on imagine, gimmicks, and beat-driven music, rather than technical skill and lyrical message. Performing a lengthy and hard-hitting full set, Run the Jewels balanced intense musical skill and and smart, woke messaging to craft one of the best and most necessary performances of the whole weekend; and, though certainly more minimalist, it conjured up memories of Outkast’s show-stopping set from a few years back. [PO]
Odesza. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
I definitely respect Odesza, and I get why they’ve become so popular, but for whatever reason, I have to confess I’ve never been able to get that into them- even though I dig the elements of their synthy, flourishing style. I was a little puzzled that they were headliners, since I remembered them playing a club that holds less than 2,000 people in Nashville about two years ago, but apparently two years can change a lot, and EDM-tinged pop is all the rage right now. Suffice to say, Forecastle knew what they were doing, and the crowd, certainly the youngest-skewing headliner audience of the weekend, was sizable. I was very impressed by how much the duo seamlessly seemed to blend electronic and organic instruments, presumably with the aid of some samples and tracks, though it was hard to discern what was coming from where. Equally impressive was their flourishing, intense light show, which added a mesmerizing extra element. I can’t say I left a bigger fan of the group, but I definitely get it more, and thought they did a great job. [PO]
Photos by Mary-Beth Blankenship.
*repeat repeat. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
After sampling Hi-Five Doughnuts’ delicious new brick and mortar shop, plus a return visit to Quills, I rushed in extra early to be sure to catch friends of the site and Nashville faves *repeat repeat. The first in a string of really great Music City talent, their energetic, poppy, surf-tinged indie sound and manic energy proved a perfect way to start the day, waking me up with their soaring harmonies, infectious grooves, and hard-hitting live show. Under their syrupy sweet exterior, *repeat repeat also craft songs that pack a lot of social and political commentary, making you think and dance at the same time, and they sounded better than ever, really honing their show as they prep the release of their highly-anticiped sophomore LP, Floral Canyon. It was nice to see a decent-sized crowd for the first set of the day too! [PO]
Sun Seeker. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Over on the Ocean Stage, Nashille’s Sun Seeker were kicking off with an afternoon set; impressive, since the night before, they’d hosted a record release show at Third Man which almost certainly ran late. It was actually my first time seeing the group, and I found their spaced-out, poppy blend of indie rock to be even more enchanting in person. Rocking a Liza Anne shirt, a nod to the previous night’s opener, singer Alex Benick played with a laid back, refined style, and the band seemed very appreciative to be at Forecastle for the first time. Keep an eye on them, because if their debut is any indication, Sun Seeker have a bright future ahead. [PO]
Jeffrey James. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
If you’re looking for some riveting and exciting R&B grooves, go stream the latest tracks from local artist Jeffrey James. Fans happily stuck it out through the brutal heat on Saturday afternoon to watch him steal the show on ASCAP’s takeover of the Port Stage. His band, comprised of some really great fellow Nashville songwriters and players, put on a great performance, led by Jeffrey’s smooth and captivating vocals. He’s wooed crowds in Nashville for years, most recently at The Back Corner in Germantown, and it was great seeing him have a dedicated draw at Forecastle Festival. The front row and danced and sang along while he made every moment look sophisticated, effortless and… dare I say, perfect? [RC]
Lucy Dacus. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Since first getting turned onto her a few months back, ahead of Bonnaroo, I’ve been stanning hard for Lucy Dacus, whose breezy, emotional, indie rock stylings have a similar resonance to another favorite, Julien Baker. Her Bonnaroo debut was one of my favorites of that fest, so I had to catch her again at Forecastle, even though I’m dying to see her in a smaller room. Once again, Dacus and her band sounded top-notch, effortlessly hitting every nuance and emotional beat of her phenomenal debut, No Burden. The heat of the day was stifling, so I cut out a little early to hydrate and find some shade, but Lucy was one of the best under the radar highlights of this fest as well, and everyone should be keeping an eye on her. [PO]
Joseph. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
One advantage of going to multiple events with some lineup overlap is being able to catch artists I’d previously missed, and after not being able to fit Joseph into my Bonnaroo plan, seeing the Portland sister folk trio at Forecastle felt mandatory. The Boom Stage fortunately has the best setup for hanging in the shade, so with a Four Roses drink in hand, I found a spot to plop down and watch them from afar while taking a breather. I’d actually been treated to an acoustic mini set in the Bonnaroo press lounge, so I already know the incredible harmonies and powerful performance I was in for, and their Forecastle outing even managed to exceed my expectations. Live, Joseph sound powerful and uplifting, and with huge songs like “White Flag” and “SOS” primed to get the crowd excited, they provided the midday boost of energy I desperately needed. [PO]
Farro. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
I wasn’t sure if I’d make it back to the Port Stage in time for Farro, but, fortunately, it was running behind schedule, and I managed to catch a few songs at the end of their show. The solo vehicle of ex-Paramore guitarist Josh Farro (whose brother Zac recently rejoined Paramore, and also makes music as HalfNoise), we’ve had our eye on the project for awhile, but I’d not had the chance to see them in person. Bringing a poppy, indie style and honed by his years on the road as a certifiable rock star, Josh makes for an impressive frontman, performing with an ease and enthusiasm that doesn’t let on that Farro is a relatively new project. Friendly and humble, Josh seemed genuinely apperceive of the great crowd response, even offering to hang around to meet people afterwards- not a common thing for festival bands. [PO]
K.Flay. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
It’s been awhile since I last caught indie rapper K.Flay, and it seems like she’s only gotten bigger and buzzier since, as evidenced by the sizable afternoon crowd. I say “rapper” because hip hop is the genre with which she’s most frequently associated, but K.Flay’s sound really defies genre conventions, and she’s clearly pulling equally from the indie rock and pop world. Rocking a dope, old school FIDLAR shirt, decked out all in black, K had more confidence and swagger than the last time I saw her, roaming the stage like a bona fide rock star and navigating a mix of old familiar tunes and some new stuff I hadn’t spent as much time with. Forecastle’s first day was notably lacking in female representation, but Saturday was chock full of badass ladies, and K.Flay definitely had one of the coolest performances all day. [PO]
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
I know Nathaniel Rateliff has been on the scene for awhile but I, like a lot of people, didn’t het hip to him until his eponymous 2015 debut with The Night Sweats. I haven’t given him a ton of attention beyond frequent playlist faves like “S.O.B.” and “I Need Never Get Old,” but I’m generally a fan of the soul revival Rateliff is a part of, so I was excited to finally catch a bit of him live. Rateliff was an absolute magnetic presence, and it was obvious that he’s been doing this a lot longer than he’s been in the spotlight- his show was tight and engaging, a real timeless, wonderful, and warm affair. I wanted to watch more, but we spotted a good window for a break, and snuck out to escape the heat by sampling a nearby local ice cream shop, Louisville Cream. Though it might be blasphemous to say as a Nashvillian- I have to admit, it definitely rivaled Jeni’s. [PO]
Judah & the Lion
When I saw Judah & The Lion on the bill, I made a note to make sure I didn’t miss their set. I’d seen them play house shows in Nashville over the years and had been beyond impressed to hear they joined twenty one pilots on their nationwide tour. What I wasn’t expecting though, was how much their shows had changed since the Belmont house show days. This was one for the BOOKS – a genre-bending set that had the crowd shouting and dancing along.
The first thing I noticed was their style. Each member was incredibly unique. Judah looked like a mix of American Apparel and street style, while others looked straight out of an East Nashville vintage shop. Once they started playing, it all made sense. Their Americana sound has evolved to include alternative rock – hence the “Mr. Brightside” cover – and even hip hop influences. The energy level was consistently at 100, which was impressive in of itself, and that was even before Judah took it up a notch and completely sliced open his hand. Each time the festival crew bandaged it up, he tore it off and kept jumping around. Rock and roll forever, right? These guys are playing The Ryman in September and I’d highly suggest snagging a ticket before it’s sold out. Their set at Forecastle has me convinced that they are not a show to miss. [RC]
Sturgill Simpson. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Feeling like a brand new person after a little ice cream and A/C, and beyond thankful to see the sun beginning to set, I grabbed a good spot for the man himself, Nashville’s Sturgill Simpson (who, I know, hails originally from Kentucky, but he’s ours now, Twitter trolls). To say Sturgill’s had a huge past year would be an understatement; now a Grammy winner and everyone’s favorite country crossover act, he’s one of the biggest Nashville success stories in recent memory, and deserves every bit of it. Opening with “Brace for Impact,” Sturgill definitely reinforced what he’s such a singularly unique and profound talent, able to mesmerize with a mix of personal and philosophical, wrapped up in a classic, timeless country aesthetic, dazzling with tunes like “Turtles All the Way Down” and “Welcome to Earth (Pollywag).” A beacon of everything that’s exciting about the new Nashville country scene (which, I know, flys in the face of our site), Sturgill is a hell of a great songwriter and performer, and a perfect go-to for bringing some country flair for any rock fest. [PO]
Beach Slang. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
A lifelong punk fan, I’m always in search of a fix at every fest, and Forecastle delivered hard with Beach Slang. I’ve been obsessing over this band since they emerged out of nowhere, met with an insane amount of hype for their string of earliest songs, and loved both full-lengths they produced in rapid succession. When last I saw them in Nashville, lineup problems had forced singer James Alex to temporarily operate as an acoustic act, and while that was a cool experience, I’ve been jonesing to see them full band again. The new lineup sounded stellar, and Alex, committing to his typical dressed-up stage look over personal comfort (did I mention it was friggin’ hot?), was firing on all cylinders, conjuring his unmatched ability to deliver emotionally charged, gut-wrenchingly honest songs with a sort of raw punk, Replacements-esque bent. The energy and resonance was just what I needed, and on a purely visceral and emotional level, they were my favorite performance of the day so far, sounding more focused and technically sound than ever. Bummed about the scheduling conflict, I left early for Vince Staples, but had it been most anyone else, I would have watched every minute. [PO]
Vince Staples. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
If Forecastle was booked six months later, I feel like Vince Staples would have been main stage for sure. His new album, Big Fish Theory, might not be grabbing the national attention of Jay-Z or Kendrick, but from a critical standpoint it’s one of the most beloved records of 2017, hip hop and beyond, and for my money, I think it’ll go down as one of the best hip hop records of the decade. Yes, it’s really that good. With his crossover potential, willingness to experiment sonically and push beyond conventional hip hop production, and his intelligent, artsy, conceptual, and socially aware lyrical focus, Vince feels like a superstar in the making, and I wasn’t sure how all of that could be confided to the Ocean Stage. If I had to speculate, I’d guess if things were booked six months later, Staples also would’ve had a higher asking price, because for this outing, he kept it entirely minimal, onstage alone with just a mic and huge, dynamic, glowing backdrop. It’s very rare to see rappers alone on stage like this, and that’s because few have the technical chops and charisma of Staples (the last time I saw someone do a show like this was Kendrick a few years back). Though not flashy, he nonetheless delivered an impassioned and ferocious performance, keeping the crowd in the palm of his hand with perfect renditions of cuts from his two full-lengths and EPs, plus some stuff I didn’t know, presumably features and mixtape tracks. “Big Fish,” “Yeah Right,” and “Norf Norf,” especially, ripped hard towards the end, and I left kicking myself for missing Staples’ Nashville headliner earlier this year. [PO]
LCD Soundsystem. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
I spent a good amount of time gushing about LCD Soundsystem after Bonnaroo last year, and the sheer elation of their unexpected return has not worn off. Sure, they still haven’t released a new LP, but it’s finally coming, and soon, and all signs indicate that it’ll be amazing, perhaps even their best. Since last we checked in with the Brooklyn dance punk modern icons, very little has changed (save for the completion of said album). They’re on summer two of their comeback tour, largely relegated to festival outings, a handful of big shows in scattered markets, and the occasional Brooklyn mega residency at tiny clubs (which I’d kill to see), and even their setlist has barely changed- they’re a band with so many complexities that spontaneity isn’t part of the program. I could see not being excited about another headlining set so soon if I was just a casual fan, but casual fan I am not, and I couldn’t have been more excited, especially not knowing when I’d see them next (that changed by the end of the set, coincidentally). I was also dying with anticipation to see “Call the Police” and “American Dream” performed live for the first time, the former perhaps my favorite song of the year so far.
Opening this time with “Yr City’s a Sucker,” before again tackling a weirdly re-worked “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House,” everything I loved about Bonnaroo was back, though perhaps even a bit more refined and comfortable after another year of touring. Even on the gigantic stage, they nearly looked crammed, with keyboards and percussion and bodies everyone, all meticulously recreating every tone and nuance of their impressive catalogue-spanning work. The giant disco ball emerged again, and, closer than I was last summer, I really got a good look of their dynamic backdrop, which seemed to subtly chance to meet the mood of each track. Recently learning of David Bowie’s admiration for James Murphy made so much sense, as I’ve often viewed Murphy as a Bowie-esque figure for the modern area, albeit less flashy, and his effortless cool and transcendent stage presence were on full display. From the synthy hooks of “Someone Great” to the groovy, dance ready tones of “Home,” to the reflectiveness of “New York I Love You,” the emotional range and musical complexity of an LCD show is unreal, and hearing “Police” and “Dream” finally gave me chills.
After a spectacular ending of “Dance Yrself Clean” and the ever epic “All My Friends,” I headed out, knowing they’re not a band who play encores, but, to my surprise, I heard from the distance the band re-emerge, claiming it was their first festival encore ever, then randomly tackling “Yeah.” Though it would’ve been cool to stick around for, a message flashed on the screen announcing that a Nashville show in October would soon be officially announced (!!!), and I felt content in my decision to make a break for nearby restaurant Feast for a late night barbecue dinner; man I love Louisville. [PO]
Photos by Mary-Beth Blankenship.
COIN. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Forecastle definitely seemed to fly by this year, and as we dove into Sunday, I took a little extra time to relax in the morning, grabbing brunch at Please & Thank You, and returning for anther Quills’ coffee and Hi-Five doughnut (noticing a pattern?). Sunday was a serious scorcher, but I was more than happy to brave the heat for Nashville locals COIN. We’ve watched the indie rockers grow from a promising Belmont band to a breakout radio fixture, and yet it still amazes me to see them on big festival stages, with legions of fans enthusiastically singing along. Just like their Bonnaroo performance, they were high energy and fine-tuned, their ability to work a crowd and fill a huge stage only getting better and better. Bangers like “I Don’t Wanna Dance” and “Talk Too Much” are seriously primed for anthemic singalongs, and I couldn’t be more proud of watching COIN become certifiable rockstars. [PO]
Aaron Lee Tasjan. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Aaron Lee Tasjan
I planned to go from COIN to Whitney, who were one of my favorites of the day, but was bummed to learn that they were forced to cancel last minute due illness. With a gap in my schedule, I rallied some friends and returned to Louisville Cream for one last scoop, in a successful attempt to undercut the afternoon sun. We ventured back in time for Nashville’s own Aaron Lee Tasjan, who, with his edgy and eclectic folk sound and unabashedly personal presentation has crafted some of the best local albums of the past few years. It’d been awhile since I’ve seen Tasjan play, and he sounded better than ever, delivering elaborate explanatory setups, engaging the crowd, and generally bringing a Ryan Adams-esque sense of serious talent and lighthearted demeanor. Glancing around from the Port Stage, the Sunday crowd seemed particularly sizable as well. [PO]
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires
I’m so happy to see the great Charles Bradley back in action after a health scare, and at Forecastle, he played with a more renewed and urgent spirit than I’ve ever witnessed before. Handing out flowers to the crowd, dazzling with his soulful, powerful pipes, and generally working the stage like the legend he’s so deservingly become, Bradley and the band were flawless. Cuts like “How Long,” “Nobody But You,” and “Where Do We Go From Here?” seriously soared, and Bradley, a figure out of place in time, felt absolutely transcended and magical, and gem of an addition to any festival bill. [PO]
Foxygen. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
“Have you heard Hang yet?” “Cool.” While that silly Google Home commercial has totally captured my attention whenever I think about Foxygen lately, the weird placement doesn’t change that they’re an incredible band (and Hang is, in fact, cool). Returning to Forecastle after four years, the duo and their great backing troupe sounded the best I’ve ever seen them, opening strong with fan favorites “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic” and “San Francisco.” Painted white, rocking a floppy hat, heart-shaped glasses, and a shirt tied across his chest, singer Sam France looked like a theatrical performer, especially next to a similar stylized singer and dancer, and his magical, psychedelic, jovial energy and hypnotic vocal prowess was captivating. I’ve long been a casual Foxygen fan, and I knew they were good, but I forgot that they were this good. I found myself enjoying their experimental, flamboyant, and timelessly poppy performance more than just about anything else all weekend. I meant to wander off to LANY, but I couldn’t pry myself away from Foxygen; here’s hoping for another Nashville club show soon! [PO]
Rumor has it that the LA alt pop act LANY requested to change their Friday main stage performance to Sunday’s shaded (fortunate for us weary festival goers) Ocean Stage. That’s right. They CHOSE to not be on main stage, so that their dedicated young fans would be able to attend on a weekend. Many, we presume, drove FAR. If this endearing move doesn’t give you even more reason to love the three-piece act, we’re not sure what will.
When they took the stage with their dreamy ’80s synth tracks, it was game over. For the next 45 minutes, LANY performed from their recent debut full-length as well as their previous EP. The hit “ILYSB” had the entire festival area singing and dancing. Thanks to its prominence on Spotify over the last year and damn catchy chorus, I’m pretty sure everyone, including the moms in the back, knew every word. I may be a little biased, but LANY was a highlight show of the weekend for me. Frontman Paul Klein’s blissful stage presence and interaction with the swooning front rows, paired with their simple lyrics and ethereal sound, cinched this as a show I won’t soon forget. [RC]
Big Thief. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
I wasn’t able to make it to Big Thief’s recent High Watt show (fortunately, they’ll be back to Nashville soon), so I was eager to see them at Forecastle. I found a shaded spot on the hillside near the Port Stage, and planted to see the buzzy indie rockers, whose recent sophomore LP Capacity is one of the coolest releases of the year. With their laid back style and forlorn sound, which is remarkably good for such a relatively new group, they were effortlessly amazing, largely letting their songs do the heavy lifting with a balanced, dazzling set. Adrianne Lenker is a really intriguing frontwoman, able to really come across with a lot of authenticity and vulnerability, making her and the band a great modern torch-bearer for the long-beloved Saddle Creek label, appropriate to ponder, as I next ventured to watch the man who put it on the map, Conor Oberst. [PO]
Conor Oberst. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Conor Oberst was once lauded as our generation’s Dylan. Hefty praise for a then early twenty-something. There’s still an argument to be made for that, but perhaps in the same way that sons become their fathers, resist though they might. I’ve seen Conor numerous times. Unabashed fanboy with no qualms about it, and one thing I’ve come to learn is to not go to a Conor Oberst concert with expectations. He doesn’t give a fuck, and he’s going to give you the performance that he’s experiencing at the time, not what you’re expecting. He won’t play the hits, because what does that mean to a guy whose every song feels like a deep cut? That’s why we love him right? In that sense, Conor has become his tangentially metaphorical father, Bob Dylan. Sometimes his show will be everything you ever wanted, and other times you’ll be left confused as to what you just experienced but you roll the dice because you love him, you love what he writes, you want him to continue making music, and when he’s on… it’s goddamn reverential.
Like all great longterm loves, you eventually reach the “cut the bullshit phase,” and that’s where I’m at with Conor. Love his music, but not afraid to say that his Forecastle performance was not my favorite. It was a solid, enjoyable set, perfect for the heat and the summer festival setting. Conor and his band, plucked together from various members of the Felice Brothers and other friends, seemed to have a relaxed charisma, the kind you might have when you rally for a Sunday afternoon party following a Saturday night that you know should have ended it at 1 a.m., but you kept going, telling yourself it’d be fine but already regretting it. That may sound bad, but it’s meant in a fun, charming, afterglow sort of way. It was an enjoyable set that felt as if they’d been out in the sun with us all day too. It was humanizing, relatable, and helped make Conor’s comments on forgiveness, being there for each other, and kindness seem truly genuine, eluding to something on his mind quite personal, but not quite ready to be shared. The song selection came mostly from his two most recent solo records, Upside Down Mountain and the recent Salutations/Ruminations, with a dash of Bright Eyes tossed in, most notably “Old Soul Song” from 2005’s I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. Conor wisely avoided too many acoustic ballads and leaned on the raw, ragged talents of his band, evoking a ramshackle charm reminiscent of the Band. This wasn’t Queen at Wembley, but it wasn’t supposed to be. It was hot, it was sweaty, it was beautiful and sincere. In essence, this was Conor Oberst, a little older, a little wiser, and just happy to be there. [AS]
After catching about half of a personal Conor Oberst set, which felt like a great representation of the soul-searching he’s been doing the last couple of years, and with a couple minutes to kill before the great PJ Harvey, I decided to book it to the Port Stage for a bit of local Adia Victoria- seriously, the Nashville representation had to be at an all-time high. I’ve seen Adia before, but it’s been a good while, and in the interim she’s only gotten better. Bringing her unique, southern gothic blues flair and personal and poetic style, Victoria commanded the stage, backed by a lean band that left plenty of space for her artistry and impressive guitar and vocal work to shine. Though I only had time to catch a few songs, Adia was absolutely dazzling, a truly unique artist and versatile performer. I’m sometimes bad about making a point to catch locals enough at home, but it’s way past time to get to another full show. [PO]
PJ Harvey. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
PJ Harvey actually ended up being one of the biggest performers with few other festivals on the docket, randomly enough, and as a result, she was among the acts I was most looking forward to. My first time seeing her, I really didn’t know what to expect, especially as a fairly casual fan. Decked out in black, saxophone in hand, the English experimental rocker was stunning and cool and intense; a singular, profound artistic force bringing so much to the stage I could barely process it all. A lot of the set came from last year’s The Hope Six Demolition Project, which I neglected to listen to beforehand, but by the later part of the performance, I was delighted to hear favorites like “Down By the Water,” “50ft Queenie,” and “To Bring You My Love.” Both in sound and style, PJ was so ahead of her time that songs she wrote decades ago still feel contemporary, and I was totally mesmerized in the presence of such a legend. Her placement on the schedule might have been a bit odd, as many of the Weezer fans I’d observe later probably weren’t hip to her weird, artsy sound, but the diehards were certainly out in full force, and I found Harvey to be one of the most epic, stunning, and gratifying performers of the whole festival, likely to remain one of my favorite Forecastle sets ever. [PO]
Spoon. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
Without a doubt, Spoon were my most-anticipated band of the festival. I’ve gone through phases over the past couple years where they weave in and out of the soundtrack of my life, each time recognizing and appreciating their artistry on a deeper level. From “discovering” new grooves that were there the whole time that are for no other word, straight nasty, to appreciating the subtleties they so expertly layer in. Those subtle elements are awe-inspiring because they must know that hardly anyone will consciously pick them out, yet they understand that without them, the song simply doesn’t work. Spoon are geniuses who’ve been labeled as indie rockers for too long. Fuck that, these guys are Rockstars, capital R. If I wasn’t already convinced, I undoubtedly would have been after their Sunday afternoon set.
I’ve been residing within a Spoon bent for the past ix months or so, ever since the first single from their latest, excellent release, Hot Thoughts. I’ve worn the grooves on that record, so to speak, “Do You” and the titular track from They Want My Soul are absolutely on my summer jams playlist, and “I Turn My Camera On” is that jam you go to when you wanna feel cool and sexy, but you know you’re actually neither. Needless to say, I had some lofty expectations, all of which were met and then some. First, Britt Daniel is a hell of a frontman. A unique, lanky, angular figure, you’d be forgiven for not thinking he has “moves” but I’m here to tell you; dude’s got moves. But this isn’t a case of a frontman and everybody else, because what made Britt so great was that every other band mate was just as charismatic and engaged. Jim Eno might be one of my favorite drummers now based on nothing other than facial expressions alone, the same going for Alex Fischer on guitar and keys. Bassist Rob Pope, besides providing the aforementioned straight nasty grooves, swapped back and forth with Britt on being the straight man in something of an indie music Abbot and Costello act. I loved it. Did they play every song I wanted to hear, no, but they played a lot of them. As for the songs I didn’t have on my mental playlist, I now love them even more and they will absolutely be on my wishlist when I see them again at ACL in October. At festivals you’re willing to post up and wait, choose to opt out of other performances you’d otherwise love to see, for just that one magical moment of hearing your favorite song, or those spontaneous live moments that will never happen again. Spoon was the only act that I posted up to ensure a good viewing spot, and I’m so happy I did. [AS]
Rayland Baxter. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
After running from PJ on the Mast Stage to see some of Spoon on the Boom Stage (their crowd was massive and their show was one of the most-inspired I’ve ever seen them deliver; I’m loving this new album cycle), I continued the schedule conflict mad dash and hurried to the opposite end of the park to see Rayland Baxter close out the Port Stage. Rayland hasn’t hit the Grammy accolades of Sturgill or found the country breakthrough of Stapleton, but he’s still an integral part of Nashville’s alt country scene, a thoughtful singer-songwriter able to play within the genre without staying beholden to it, crafting, at their core, simply great songs. I only caught the tail end, but Rayland and band were a wonderful sunset soundtrack, delivering laid back, heartfelt eclectic tunes to the faithful who’d stuck out the fest to the end. It was nice to see yet another Nashville talent, in fact one of Nashville’s brightest talents, as the weekend wound down. [PO]
Weezer. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship
I’ve written at length about Weezer from their appearances at headlining affairs and other fests. Like a lot of people, I love them while maintaining a frustrating relationship with them, because I hold their debut and Pinkerton on a pedestal that nothing they’ve crafted since has matched. And I know those standards are unfair, and have come to grips by basically separating them mentally into two different bands. They’re generally great live, though the quality has varied from show to show; when they’re on, they can be really on, and even when they’re not, they’re still at least a well-oiled, hit-filled machine. With such a huge and varied catalogue, the song selection can also significantly affect my opinion of a Weezer show (and thus, something like a Pinkerton anniversary show is one I’d always be biased towards). This Forecastle set was… fine. It was enjoyable, the selection was fairly balanced, and the band sounded decent, though the mix was bizarrely quiet, to the point where I couldn’t hear it well when I walked to the back halfway through. I’ve seen shows where they’ve been really enthusiastic and engaging, and this was a bit more subdued, as in they went through the motions perfectly fine, but seemed a little less present.
I’ll always love seeing “My Name Is Jonas,” “The Sweater Song,” and “Say It Ain’t So” played live, and a cool medley in the middle touched on some other tunes I can’t remember them playing as often. A couple songs before that, they tackled a cover of Outkast’s “Hey Ya!,” which, though a funny, quirky, Weezer move, was a bit weird. Oddly, their latest single, “Feels Like Summer,” sounded more energetic and packed a louder, brighter sonic punch than just about anything else, and maybe that’s where their heads are right now; focused on something fresh after a pretty crazy tour schedule. We snuck out as they were finishing up, but hearing “Buddy Holly” and “El Scorcho” faintly from afar was as solid an ending to a weekend at Forecastle as any. All and all, I’d say it was another successful and incredibly fun year, and I can’t wait to make the voyage again in 2018. [PO]
Photos by Mary-Beth Blankenship.
[AS] Adrien Saporiti
[PO] Philip Obenschain
[RC] Rebecca Cicione