By: Derek Jung
After missing the previous three years, it was nice to finally return to the banks of the Ohio River in Louisville, KY for another round of Forecastle. 2013's edition was my first music festival ever, and the experience that I had there set the bar for three day marathon-style music festivals that I've attended ever since. Yes, the musical landscape has changed quite a bit even in those few years, but what I found was that the essence of Forecastle was still in great shape, even with the negative vibes that the EDM/rave culture brought to two of the stages during the festival. Below I've highlighted some of the good, the bad, and the ugly from this year's beautiful Forecastle Festival. Welcome aboard, reader.
After what was reported as an uncharacteristically rough performance at Pitchfork Festival in Chicago the night before, James Murphy and crew brought their A Game to their Saturday headlining slot on the riverfront. For an hour and fifty minutes, the field of festival goers were dancing and grooving to the band's signature sound. Between last year's headlining set at Lollapalooza and this one, the setlist was very similar, save for the addition of the two new singles from their impending new album. "Call The Police" was especially poignant, it's driving repeated riff climaxing to Murphy's exclamatory outro chorus. As always, it was a wondrous experience to see tens of thousands of people dancing together, specifically during "Dance Yrself Clean" and my personal highlight, "All My Friends".
The band also performed what Murphy admitted was their first festival encore ever, so that was a nice little piece of history to witness. I have a feeling, however, that it was unintentional. They left the stage exactly at 11, but their set was scheduled until 11:20. Nontheless, it was a great set and my favorite of the entire weekend.
Yr City's a Sucker
Daft Pink Is Playing at My House
I Can Change
You Wanted a Hit
Call The Police
New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down
Dance Yrself Clean
All My Friends
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires
Seeing a cancer free Charles Bradley smiling at a field of hot, sweaty, Sunday afternoon festival goers was immediately one of the highlights of the entire weekend. Since I saw him last at Bunbury 2016, Bradley underwent treatment for stomach cancer and had to cancel a number of tour dates in the process. But the 68 year old, nicknamed the "Screaming Eagle" for a reason, brought the soul to the waterfront, and his energy woke all of us from our heat-induced slumbers. At his age, he's still incredible mobile, and twice jumped down from the stage to sing and dance. After his rousing cover of the Ozzy Osbourne classic "Changes", he brought a dozen roses and handed them out to the crowd. A little girl on her dad's shoulders in front us got one of the roses, and everyone around her gave her high fives. The smile on her face said it all. That's a moment she'll remember for a long time, and is exactly the good vibes that I've come to expect from the festival.
Perhaps the most intimate performance of the weekend took place on the small Port stage, which was situated across a small docking area to the right of the main stage. John Moreland, a singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, took the stage in the late afternoon on Friday. I had seen Moreland open for Shovels & Rope earlier this year, and immediately fell in love with his hard cutting, deeply personal lyricism and his gravelly, Springsteen-esque voice. Seeing Moreland at the festival was a last second decision for us. His time slot was one of the biggest conflicts of the weekend; Capital Cities lined up with all but 15 minutes of his set and Cage The Elephant started on the main stage a half hour before he ended. Despite all of that, once we arrived on the sparsely populated lawn, there was no leaving him. With little fanfare and only he and an accompanying guitarist to his right, Moreland dove into his new record, the fantastic Big Bad Luv, as well as a number of songs off his older records. It was a perfect setting as the sun slowly set under the Ohio River.
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
Run The Jewels
RTJ, the hip hop duo consisting of Killer Mike and El-P, was one of my most anticipated sets of the festival. Unfortunately for me, the mix was one of the worst of the weekend. Now, maybe this is just Grandpa Derek rambling here, but the bass and low end was so loud that it was drowning out a lot of the rapping, especially Killer Mike. What's the point if you can't hear the rapping?
I enjoyed everything else about their set. Their stage presence was great, the crowd interactions were hilarious, and I have nothing else bad to say about them. But the bass-heavy mix completely ruined it for me. Joseph and I are probably going to catch them in a few weeks at Lollapalooza. Hopefully they have things balanced a little better there, but I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out sounding like Bastille last year.
Judah & The Lion
For the most part, there weren't many bad sets this year, which is a great sign that they're doing things right on the riverfront. The worst performance of the weekend was definitely from Judah & The Lion, although I suppose I should give them credit for living up to the name of their album Folk Hop N' Roll. But it was that lack of identity that really turned me off of the band's show. Much of the new album is very poppy - pop hooks, pop lyrics, pop sensibilities. Their show, however, tried a little too hard to be like X Ambassadors, and it felt forced and uncharacteristic for a group whose first two albums were mostly folk/americana. Come on, fellas. No need to be what you're not for the sake of a paycheck.
Weezer's cover of "Hey Ya" - Outkast
The Party Cove Stage
For a band with such great potential, lead singer Sam France continues to derail their live performances with his on stage antics and unstable performances. After seeing them twice, I'm still not sure who he's trying to emulate, but it's perhaps best described as a less talented Mick Jagger on methamphetamine. Despite France's best efforts to attract all of the attention to himself by yelling nonsense and being the most distracting lead singer I've ever seen, the rest of the band's performance was pretty great. That only makes his meltdowns even more disappointing. The saddest part is that as the band's material has gotten more ambitious, on Hang especially, the level of France's outrageous behavior has, as they say, gone to 11. And I make that last statement in the worst light possible. He was dressed in white face at Forecastle.
Until France gets himself under control, Foxygen live is a hard pass from me.
All in all, it was another great showing for the Louisville mainstay. Most of the changes since my last visit in 2013 were positive, especially moving the smallest stage to its current location. I'm still advocating for them to limit the amount of EDM/Rave culture that they allow into the festival, because it brings the most negative crowd of hormonal teenagers who just want to get high and fuck. For a good vibes festival like Forecastle, the two don't mix, and there are plenty of other festivals where that crowd can blow their loads, literally and figuratively. But unfortunately, I am also well aware of the economics involved. EDM is where the money is at the moment, and the festival needs to make a profit to survive. All that being said, Forecastle has done well to balance the good with the necessary evils, and I look forward to my next trip to the waterfront.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: