Forecastle: It’s One Hell of a Weekend!
Forecastle: It’s One Hell of a Weekend.
When the gates opened, thousands swarmed in to escape reality and find paradise within the walls of Louisville’s biggest musical experience: The Forecastle Festival. Anyone who could afford a ticket were invited to this party, and oh was it a party! All gazed at the rock-stars completely fascinated and imaginations ran wild as they watched their idols perform. While most remained interested in those on stage, the true stars of Forecastle were the fans. The crowd was alive this weekend, and it was simply beautiful.
“Do you know where the Head and the Heart are playing?” a young Lilly Neidhardt asked. The North Oldham student sported yellow neon sunglasses, a backpack and a subtle grin. She expressed her appreciation of Forecastle’s activism goals and initiatives. Environmental and political awareness accompanied by great musical acts were enough to bring the Penny Lane lookalike downtown, even in this tough economy. “Two hundred dollars is a lot for a kid working minimum wage, but there was a band each day I wanted to see and I love Neko Case, so here I am!”
Some were lucky enough to find their way into the festival for free. “I was at the liquor store and someone yelled that a band was throwing out free passes,” said Kaitlin Vance, a server at The Corner Door. She people-watched as the crowds began to fill the fields. “This does not feel like a music festival, it feels like we are in the public. I really like this here in Louisville,” smiled Vance.
As the first hours ticked away Friday, the curious crowd soaked in all that was to be this year’s Forecastle. Owls, Abraham Lincoln, fish and sharks all ten feet tall wandered throughout the eclectic crowd. The gigantic Honest Abe was full of excitement in his response to being asked about his thoughts on Forecastle, “It’s awesome, there are so many great bands and great people. We are all having a great time!” “Wooohoo,” screamed the president as he ran off to rally the Beach House crowd.
A psychedelic marching band marched the great lawn, beating their “March Madness” drum, blowing their brass and showcasing to out-of-towners a little bit of Louisville weirdness. True wanderers found themselves inside a gigantic igloo, which blasted air-conditioning for the overheated and those looking for the sensation of manufactured breeze.
The festival layout was loaded with awesome imagery and installations. Local artists were at their finest in making Forecastle look cool. Did you really not enjoy walking through the jaws of the festival’s friendly red-carpeted shark?
Forecastle was also loaded with local businesses from Heine Brothers to Why Louisville. With so many vendors and areas to explore, the music event possessed similarities to the merchant sectors of European cities past. Like the Germantown that dragged Peter the Great from the palaces of Moscow, this festival lured the straight-edged and the strange down to its grounds, from this city and from many others.
Jeff Stum, founder of Roobie Red Tea, explained why he decided to involve his company with Forecastle:
First off, I just love music. I love getting to check out a lot of the local acts I don’t get to see much anymore due to a busy schedule. I think JK is doing a great job; I have gotten to know him and his parents over the years. This is our biggest sponsorship as a company, and we think it is a great economical opportunity for us as we get to promote our tea to people all over the country. I hope to have Roobie Red on one of those stages one day. I honestly think it showcases Louisville more than Derby; it is underestimated for what it does economically for the city.
The good-spirited Jeff then went on and explained why he enjoys our Louisville festival so much:
It’s awesome to see so many people you know in a totally different light than what you normally see them. You can really feel the sense of pride we all have in this city; you can see it in people’s eyes. I got to bring my son out to his first concert; he’s a huge MMJ fan. My first show was Sean Cassidy, so I think he’s got me beat.
Witnessing those we know in peculiar fashion is just as entertaining as many of the acts that took stage. “We got to keep Louisville weird man,” a tank-top sporting Daniel Sherry remarked, “Isn’t that what this city is all about?”
Daniel and friends, Katie Baki and Kelsi Borntraeger, made the trip out in support of the city they love. “I am just here for friends, the bands and the experience,” said an excited Baki, whose eyes were hidden behind aviator sunglasses. “I just want a damn good time,” laughed Kelsi!
Curiosity, excitement and pride filled the crowd, but Forecastle is foremost a music festival and there were a plethora of amazing shows over the three-day weekend. Atmosphere, Beach House, Bassnectar, Wax Fang, Wilco and Beats Antique seemed to dominate the crowd’s interests, but there was only one king of the weekend, and that was hometown superheroes, My Morning Jacket. When asked who they were most excited to see, the crowd seemed to respond with the exact same words over and over again, “Obviously My Morning Jacket!”
Bassnectar is currently one of the kings of the electronic-dance music scene and he put on quite the spectacle for the dance-addicted crowd on Friday night. Many come to festivals to simply dance without judgment, and avoid the bug-a-boos that plague women at bars. “I just come to dance, I love to dance,” said a beautiful Natalie Bratcher, “We should be dancing right now, enough talking!” She grabbed my hand and led this humbled journalist into the fiery crowd.
Bright lights and “trippy” visual shows lit the 10,000 plus crowd up to the beat of heavy kick-drums and explosive sub-bass. The crowd was blasted with unfamiliar and strange sounds but that did not prevent anyone from breaking-it-down with wild dance moves. Many took to vertical dancing as beautiful women hopped on the shoulders of their manly counterparts. The vertical dancers held hands, smiled as they grooved higher than ever before. Bassnectar’s dance party certainly sparked feelings, emotions and movements that only lay deep within us. It was quite the sight and quite the experience to be in the middle of such a wild crowd.
Saturday night’s show with the Louisville legends, My Morning Jacket, may have been the biggest concert in our city’s history. MMJ’s show was more than a concert, it was a therapeutic, it was escapism, and it was a spiritual experience. Music has become a religion for many and it was easy to see that at Forecastle. Thousands gathered to sing every word, dance to every song and celebrate like never before without worry of facing judgment, prejudice or pretentious attitudes. My Morning Jacket is proof the world can love things Louisville; just one of the many reasons this city’s people love to celebrate with its biggest band.
“I hear they are opening with One Big Holliday man,” screamed one tie-died fan.
“This is why I bought my ticket baby,” shouted another fanatic, pretending the band could hear him amongst the other 15,000 people or so…
My Morning Jacket rocked out for around two hours with many surprise songs such as opener “In the Dark” and Elton John cover “Rocket Man.” Daniel Martin Moore joined the stage as well as MMJ’s original guitarist, Johnny Quaid, who was inspirational on the band’s album It Still Moves. Even Andrew Bird joined the fun as he invoked tears from the eyes of many as he layered violin to the sounds of “Gideon,” a fan favorite.
As the last note rang out on the triumphant closing song, “One Big Holiday,” the exhausted, overheated and weary legged crowd gave out its biggest cheer yet. We did not want it to end, even though most of our bodies could not have carried on any longer. Sacrifice, love and community came alive on the Waterfront Saturday night, and it was truly something remarkably special. It was truly beyond words!
The heat came out in full force Sunday, but that did not stop many from the enjoyment of Forecastle’s last day. Many local celebrities showed themselves. Scott Carney of Wax Fang enjoyed a PBR with buds. The mayor strolled through the installations of local artists with Patrick Hallahan and JK McKnight, before being caught by less polite photographers and journalists.
Jaxon and Sarah of Louisville’s The Ladybirds volunteered to work the beer truck for a variety of reasons. “I am happy to help out but we are going to have a lot of fun down here. Check out Kings, Daughters and Sons,” the iconic bassist said.
Sarah shared her love for Neko Case and how it was nice to work for a free entry. “I wanted to be here, represent the Ladybirds, help out and just see a lot of great bands,” she explained with a grin, “The whole Louisville music scene family is here; I have been here twenty minutes and have seen twenty people I know, it is pretty crazy!”
Some music fans gain fame from their loyalty, fashion, demeanor and involvement in the crowd at Forecastle and other festivals. Ali Besten, a music-fan goddess and maybe Louisville’s most well known bachelorette, has crowd surfed over a hundred times and been lifted by the hands of thousands, if not millions. The experienced veteran of Forecastle had many thoughts to share on MMJ and Forecastle:
MMJ’s loyalty to the city is awesome and the band always has tricks up their sleeves. This is the most professional, innovative Forecastle I have been to yet, so I hope they keep it up. I loved the days when it was on the Belvedere because it was smaller and more personal, but this is so awesome. You have your Heine Brothers on your left, your Baby D’s on your right, along with a lot of awesome local bands such as Houndmouth. It’s pretty awesome!
Ali is right about Forecastle’s innovation, but in reality it is just an even further example of the tight bond between all things local here in Louisville. This festival could not survive with just JK McKnight and Holly Weyler; it takes hundreds of businesses, volunteers and music fans to make the event possible. If you worked, volunteered or bought a ticket, feel proud because you are a reason for this festival’s survival.
Yes, there were corporate sponsorships and no, there was not a keynote speaker reminding us of our environmental degradation here in the U.S., as there were in Forecastles past…
…But the festival exceeded all expectations in being a down-right Louisville showcase, for Louisvillians and for the people around the world who were intrigued enough to visit. As the sun began to set Sunday, the city never looked more beautiful, full of people and spirit; the crowd watched the last act, Wilco, and savored the last seconds of paradise their hard-earned dollar had bought. When the band’s set ended, the escape from reality was over for all; it was time to return to “ordinary” life, with only the experiences and memory living inside our hearts.
It was simply one hell of a weekend.
-Michael Hannon Tierney
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