Louisvilles biggest music festival was just a dream of founder JK McKnight over a decade ago in a small urban park. What started off in a backyard grew to a larger park, to an arts center, then finally blossomed into one of Americas best and well-liked music festivals. This year, again with help from Bonnaroo mastermind Ashley Capps, Forecastle invited back many of its previous big headliners (The Black Keys, Big Boi, The Avett Brothers, and Flaming Lips), breakthrough acts (Killer Mike, Night Beds), and a slew of local artists (The Pass, Freakwater) to concoct a cross-genre, wide-appeal lineup.
In the press conference prior to Friday’s kickoff, Mayor Greg Fischer said to be mayor of this city “you gotta love Forecastle.” And that is true – Forecastle is packed with local flavor beyond just the local talent peppered throughout the lineup – from the giant puppets roving the crowd to local food vendors, as well as the giant Bourbon Lodge, packed with the state’s most beloved elixir.
The music backed by Louisvilles beautiful Waterfront Park makes Forecastle a unique experience with many memorable moments. It was tough to whittle all the acts and sideshows down to a select few, but here are the moments that will have us remembering Forecastle 2013 and chomping at the bit to experience whats in store for next year.
Kurt Vile’s champion set
Saturday afternoon saw the evacuation of some 30,000 people when a storm with high winds flew just south of Louisville. Considering Waterfront Park is an easy two-hour drive from the stage collapse disaster in Indianapolis last summer, organizers played it safe almost to a fault. Luckily, the evacuation only delayed most artists between 45 minutes and an hour from the original scheduled time. Shortly after six in the evening, Kurt Vile commanded his post, and while the disruption catalyzed myriad sound issues, The Violators plowed through like champs. Kurt and the boys balanced selections from all his three major releases, from the stirring and trenchant “A Girl Called Alex”, to the bucolic electric psych folk of “Jesus Fever”, to closing out on the driving, hypnotic, fist-pump-inducing “Freak Train”. Every baked-out-their-gourd festival-goer nodded along with fervor to Vile’s hour-long, cross-catalog set. As well, Vile’s nod to Andrew WK in his new get-up is a great style.
Squallis Puppeteers’ Cyborg S. Thompson
Squallis Puppeteers are an absolutely awesome local non-profit that collects talented artists for educational endeavors geared toward both children and adults. Last year, Squallis rolled out a variety of whimsical animals, American presidents, and, if my memory serves correctly, this Easter Island-lookin’ homeboy. For Forecastle 2013, Squallis roved about the crowd with… even more animals, but more impressively, a 15-foot tall Hunter S. Thompson. At night, with glowing red eyes and fluorescent hems, he turned into creepy Cyborg Hunter, and I’ve never been happier to not hold a public office. Please check out this organization, as it’s a shining example of how art directly impacts lives.
The Flaming Lips: Two for Two
Over the past decade, The Flaming Lips have become the cardinal festival band. You haven’t legitimized your fest until the Lips have redecorated your stage with confetti and fake blood. However, they’ve done the same show for roughly that long as well – Wayne rolling out in the bubble, the animal costumes, big hands, etc. So Saturday night’s performance offered a nice surprise in the form of a new – and, dare I say, creepier – live show. Like the colorful Willy Wonka, there always seemed a bit of a darkness to Coyne’s Technicolor wonderland, and presiding over the crowd on a metallic pedestal holding a (not real) baby hooked to tubes was a bit unsettling. The epileptic lights were still present, of course, as well as various stage props. But the spectacle was more subdued, much like the setlist, which kicked off with “Look… the Sun is Rising” and “The Terror”, as well as a slower version of “All We Have is Now” and a sparse, celestial take on Devo’s “Gates of Steel”.
About 100 very lucky folks via a Music Allies contest were treated to a second, even more different Lips show the next morning for a special, invitation-only performance at The Muhammed Ali Center in downtown Louisville. The hour-long celebrated the third decade of The Flaming Lips with a retrospective set replete with storytelling, jokes, and Wayne Coyne cookies.
Houndmouth Has A Happy Birthday
With Houndmouths quick rise to fame also came an energetic crowd busting at the seams to cheer on their hometown band. The show started with the entire crowd singing “Happy Birthday” to Houndmouths bass player, Zak Appleby, who bowed and threw his hat into the singing crowd. It was the perfect start to a great set with Houndmouths talent charming and proving they deserved to be on the main stage at a major music festival.