Forecastle Festival 2012: A Retrospective

Happy 10th birthday to Forecastle Music Festival. I’m deeply honored that we were able to celebrate with you as you showed your people how much you’ve matured in a few short years. You must be on dog years; what would that make you…70? That makes more sense.

The forecast(le—had to, there’s only a two-letter difference) said there would be rain all weekend. It was only about a third right, thankfully, although any way the sky fell, we’d still have a blast.  How could we not, given the awesome set up and even awesomer lineup? Bassnecter, Wilco and My Morning Jacket were to be the main headliners of the weekend, supported by dozens and dozens of other bigger and smaller names in the music biz.

Located at Waterfront Park, Forecastle shrunk from the urban surroundings of Louisville, but stood tall against the Ohio River. Five stages were scattered about, with food vendors, art vendors and Green movement partisans weaved in between.  Like most other music festivals, Forecastle made it a point to support the environment, despite all the littered 16 ounce (and $6–yuck) PBR cans and cigarette butts. It’s the thought that counts.

Forecastle began a little later in the day compared to most music festivals, which we found we preferred; by the end of the night we weren’t wishing for a bed and a meal more than the headliner. All in all, the days went by fast—too fast—but after the last band of the last day, we headed home towards Ohio with utter joy at our backs. –HC

Friday, July 13: Trial and Error, With Little Error

The Head and the Heart

After paying $10 too much for city parking, paying $5 too much for an okay meal at a sports bar, and roaming the streets of Louisville, Amanda and I finally wandered into Forecastle. With the spirit of true rookies, map in hand and eyes darting back and forth across the grounds, we made our way to the Boom Stage for The Head and the Heart. Neither of us were avid listeners of the band, but with folky instrumentation, lively harmonies and optimistic lyricism, it proved itself to be a warm welcoming to the festival. –HC

Atmosphere

Before arriving at Forecastle I was pretty excited to see Atmosphere’s set. I’d heard of him from friends a few weeks ago and from what they said, it was hip-hop as hip-hop is not usually done–which I was intrigued about. One listen of a track with the line “every woman looks better in a sundress” and I thought to myself “this is in fact hip-hop as hip-hop is not usually done and I can totally get behind this.”

False.

Atmosphere is in fact hip-hop as it is usually done–misogyny and all. Onstage banter such as “Earlier I smelled rain, but now I just smell weed and vaginas” and “Kentucky ladies, let me see you shake your boobies” doesn’t exactly make me want to listen to your set; it makes me want to get the hell out of that pit and head to the other stage to catch Beach House.—AN

Beach House

I’m a recent Beach House convert and they were definitely on my list of must-see acts. Dream pop doesn’t always translate well to a festival atmosphere–especially when the sun isn’t even fully down yet–so I was prepared to accept that. What I was not prepared to accept was the crowd. It seemed like everyone in my section was more intrigued with taking each other’s pictures with their iPhones (Myspace exclusive!) than actually watching the band–or listening for that matter, as questions after “lost friends” Molly and Lucy (yes, very covert boys, very covert) droned over the layers of deserving indie rock. But no matter, Beach House played their little hearts out, heavy on cuts from their latest release Bloom, and while their light show was lost in the light of dusk, their set made me eager to catch them again at an indoor venue.–AN

Sleigh Bells

I wanted to see some of Sleigh Bells just to say I did. Honestly, the obnoxious instrumentation usually loses me fast, but seeing them live, even from 100 yards away, while the sun was going down and the people were just getting pumped up made it way more enjoyable. Luckily the only full song I caught was the only one I really like, “Rill Rill,” but I quickly moved on to JEFF the Brotherhood where Amanda and I got as punk rock as we could. –HC

JEFF the Brotherhood

After hanging with painfully unenthusiastic crowds all of day one I was starting to give up on the promise of Forecastle. I wanted enthusiasm. I wanted feeling. I wanted energy. So, naturally I headed straight for the stage that some random overheard Forecastlian claimed would be hosting a punk band. JEFF the Brotherhood was not a punk band–more like Midwest shoegaze/pseudo psychedelia–but screw it, close enough. Hannah and I fought our way to the front of the pit (and she without shoes, no less!) for what ended up being one of the most entertaining shows of the festival for me. Punches were being thrown, crowd surfing nearly perpetual, and fireworks were going off in the background along the riverfront. Decent. Completely decent. And as for the young man who gave me a heartfelt hug after I miraculously found his glasses, unscathed between the crushing bodies, you, sir, are welcome; glad to be of service.–AN

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Sleeper Agent

We chose Sleeper Agent over Bassnecter (gasp!).  Having just interviewed their keyboardist Scott Gardner, I felt it only necessary to catch their set, which ended up being one of the most energetic I saw. Sleeper Agent was grateful for its dense crowd undeterred by Bassnecter’s booming bass across the way. Frontwoman Alex Kandel twisted and turned and sang her little heart out, as all her backing men (although equally as important) manned their respective instruments with garage pop integrity, disregarding any “too cool for school” kind of attitudes you might find in your typical garage band. At one point, Kendal and co-singer/guitarist Tony Smith, made their way into audience territory. Smith crowd surfed with guitar still in hand and we did our best to keep him in tact but untamed. It was clear they were honored to be playing at a festival they had been attending as guests in years past. If I could make an educated guess, they made Ky. Proud that night. –HC

Bassnectar

Bassnectar was bass-y. The people loved it. They rattled right along with him. –HC

Saturday, July 14: Raincastle

Wye Oak

After mid afternoon monsoons postponed the opening of day two, Wye Oak took the stage an hour late to a modest but enthusiastic crowd. After thanking the audience for braving the weather, the duo launched into their set. Some sound issues drowned out Jenn Wasner’s vocals in the beginning but eventually everything got figured out and their performance was completely solid. The tracks all sounded much more experimental than their relatively tame album versions, which was interesting, and Andy Stack truly deserves some recognition for being able to play drums and keys cohesively and simultaneously. He looks about as nerdy as a young Ira Glass but that man has some coordination. Closing with their well known and popular tune “Civilian” was also a good, albeit somewhat expected, decision.—AN

Justin Townes Earl

Justin Townes Earl is your typical bad boy of alt-country. Songs about addiction and cheating along with heartfelt comments about his mother, fused together with pure folk rock catchiness. Easy on the ears, easy on the eyes, and easy on the dancing feet of the crowd who, at least in my section, seemed to know all the right words and all the right moves to every tune.—AN

Dr. Dog

Around 6:30, the sky had opened up, letting a little evening sunshine in on the next, highly anticipated band, Dr. Dog. From the goodness of their hearts, they played their happy-go-lucky songs (any solemn lyricism aside) from many of their works. The dual vocals shared by Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken sounded even better live, being able to actually see the dynamic in progress. Playing some of my personal favorites, like “From,” “The Breeze,” and the band’s infamous cover of “Heart it Races” (originally by Architecture in Helsinki). For that song, an unknown girl came out and played acoustic guitar with them. I’m not really sure what her purpose was since her instrument was blanketed by all the other wonderful sounds, but maybe I’m just jealous.

Shoot!

It was at this point I lost my cell phone and my friends. Without either of those (plus a shy personality), I was forced to enjoy the rest of forecastle solo. That wasn’t such a bad thing, though. –HC

Andrew Bird

Having recently seen, I was prepared for this set to be largely rehashed. He did play many of the same tunes, though this time accompanied by a backing band, and while it was not nearly as mesmerizing as his headlining set I managed to catch at Nelsonville Music Festival it was still worth catching. Thanks to the weather for holding off and actually seeming to divert around Forecastle and thanks to the large man who caught me when I passed out from heat exhaustion and dehydration in the middle of the crowd.—AN

Girl Talk

I have no patience for artists that make their art solely by cannibalizing the art of others; those who do have the patience or the drugs likely enjoyed this set a lot. –AN

Washed Out

Having just seen Andrew Bird a few months ago at Nelsonville Music Festival, and a non-fan of Girl Talk’s big mouthed take on mashing songs together, I chose to see Washed Out at the Red Bull stage instead. As the hefty crowd waited for the chillwave dream band, I overheard a conversation about the price of Molly and whether or not the seller was ripping them off. That seemed rather typical for the kind of people waiting for this kind of band, but when it came down to it, Washed Out was the only mild Ecstasy we needed.

People weren’t fist pumping and bouncing as much as they were for the previous DJ, Adventure Club, but they swayed accordingly to each synth and beat. Glimmering, Washed Out played the hits like “Eyes Be Closed” and “Feel it All Around” and the more unknown tunes that still carried intrigue. –HC

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Bonobo

Another difficult but obvious decision to make was to see Bonobo’s DJ set over My Morning Jacket. My dad has recently named himself a fan of the latter, so he buys us tickets to see them any chance they come within 200 miles of Cincinnati. Not to mention, two and a half hours of more jam time than song time gets a little monotonous for me. Not that the band is at all dull during its rock out sesh. It’s just that I don’t do drugs.

I don’t know Bonobo too well; he was a recommendation that I went for on impulse. But I can now call him one of my favorites, especially when it comes to getting down. Danceable yet curious, Bonobo reminded me of an artist from my college town Athens, called Blithe Field (check him out). –HC

My Morning Jacket

I had never really listened to My Morning Jacket (I realize my Spin subscription can be revoked by my choosing to admit this fact) before Forecastle but judging from the packed crowd, I was definitely in the minority. Favorite sons of Louisville, these boys were clearly the most anticipated act by most of the crowd who I had overheard talking them up for the bulk of the day. I missed the beginning of their set, trying in vain to locate a phoneless miss Hannah Cook, in the dark, amidst thousands of people, but luckily they were slated to play for 2 1/2 hours so I caught the bulk of it.

When I settled into my spot to the left of the stage they were launching into a cover of one of my all time favorite George Harrison songs “All things must pass” so naturally I was on their side right away. Their originals made me want to listen more when I got back to the world of ultimate reality and their covers made me want to sing along while I was still in the fantasy land of that which we call a music festival. Particularly enjoyable was their cover of “Rocket Man”–during which a floating paper lantern that appeared to be headed on a disastrous course directly for the (likely very flammable) stage banner was diverted by the wind at the very last second and cheered toward the sky with an “OHHHH!” from the crowd, like the sound of a basket in just before the buzzer, who promptly went back to singing sir Elton. A lengthy but fully transcendental headlining set.–AN

Sunday, July 15: Grand Finale

Walk the Moon

Cincinnati’s Walk the Moon played in the background while we took the early parts of this day for festival shopping. A few short conversations with hippie dippies and $35 later and I walked away with some solid handcrafted jewelry and no more appreciation for Walk the Moon than when I had arrived.

Lower Dens and Cloud Nothings

Our main day-time attraction would be Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, but until then, prog-rockers Lower Dens were on the Starboard stage and Cleveland’s punksters Cloud Nothings on the Mast Stage. Lower Dens were pretty weird, speaking in terms of their sound, and Cloud Nothings were a little too brash for my liking. I left on a note, if you want to even call it that, when the frontman was purposely making his guitar sound as abrasive as possible. Thank goodness for Mr. Bradley’s soul over on the Boom Stage.

Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires

The Extraordinaires introduced Charles with proud, funky music fit only for the Screaming Eagle of Soul himself. He walked out decked in an all-silver, sparkly suit, flashing that luscious dark chest of his. It was so hot, and his belly grew sweatier with each pelvic thrust and dramatic fall to the knees he took. Just when I thought he might pass out, he took a little break to change into an all-black jump suit—the bravest of choices.  He pushed through all the heat waves and 63-year-old joint pains and gave us his utmost energy. He “took us to church,” so to speak, preaching boldly that love, above all else, is the one and only thing we can undoubtedly believe in. It must be true, because I loved Charles Bradley right then and there.

Ending with “Why is it so Hard,” a tale of Bradley’s greatest hardships, he was helped off stage to personally address the people in the crowd. I was in the front and an arm’s length away, but shied away only momentarily before Amanda shoved me forward, and I practically landed in the arms of Charles Bradley, his sweaty cheek on my sweaty check, his sweaty arms around mine. And before our embrace broke–that heavenly embrace–he turned his head and kissed me on the cheek. I left that set a believer, I swear to you. –HC

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Beats Antique

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Beats Antique. All I knew about them was that every hippie kid I have come into contact with in the past year is pretty much all about them. Having caught their set at Forecastle, I can say that sounds about right. A duo from Oakland, Calif., Beats Antique is pretty much exactly what you would expect from Oakland, Calif. Simultaneously inspired by both global sitar instrumentation circa George Harrison’s hare Krishna rashashanana phase and dubstep, Beats Antique is a fusion of electronica and world music, complete with a belly dancer and pseudo-political speeches. I support the Belly dancer, she was awesome. I could do without the pseudo-politics. “Who’s ready to join the revolution? Your vote counts! Are you going to be out in the streets come November?” they asked between beats. I have no problem with politics fused with music. I don’t even hate Bono as much as most people. What I do have a problem with is vague questions about nothing in particular inciting cheers from a crowd that isn’t even sure what they are cheering for. And considering the fact that I didn’t see a single recycling bin all weekend and there was an absurd amount of trash in front of the stage after their set, the speaker who introduced them by saying “Forecastle is all about activism, it starts right here” might want to reevaluate his words.—AN

Wilco

I love Wilco. I don’t care if they have become the cliched indie band that every college kid claims to love. I love Wilco and I absolutely loved everything about their set at Forecastle music festival and luckily so did the rest of the crowd. Everyone sang along to “I am Trying to Break Your Heart.” They played one of my favorite songs “Handshake Drugs,” and they gave it everything they had, just as they said they would when the crowd started to boo after Tweedy announced they could only play a few more tunes given time restraints. Particularly impressive was Jeff Tweedy’s ability to play the entire time while wearing a full suit on what was perhaps the most humid night of the entire festival–Mr. Tweedy, we salute you for many reasons, that being among them. Also deserving of a salute was Woody Guthrie whose 100th birthday was the weekend of the festival. “We usually play a lot of Woody Guthrie songs,” expressed Tweedy towards the end of their closing tune, “but tonight I think we should all sing happy birthday to him together because, well, that just makes more sense.” The crowd obliged and it was a beautiful closing moment to Forecastle 2012. –AN

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