Tuesday, July 18, 2017

2017 Forecastle Festival: Making Up For Lost Time


"Saw the Stones one time," my Uber driver said.

I'm on the way to my fourth consecutive Forecastle Festival in Louisville, and the stories keep coming. I sit back and listen.

"See, back then it was different. People I knew, they started climbing that scaffolding near the stage while the show was going on. I look up, there's my friends waving to me. We were taking Xanax, which is exactly not what you should be on when you want to climb stuff."

I ask if it was during the first song.

"No," he says with a laugh. "No, this was somewhere in the middle, I think. There's a live recording out there, and you can hear the security tell them to get down."

He drops me off near the gate and drives away.

What was it really like back then, I wonder. And how does it compare to now?

I haven't seen any fans climb anything during a show, but there are performers who do: St. Vincent, twentyonepilots, to name a couple. Of course, Eddie Vedder once did that, too. And so did Matt Shultz of Cage the Elephant.

Those theatrics are secondary to the music, but of course they no longer create mystery. Everything is recorded now, posted instantly to social media. There is no folklore, no evolving story to tell. And it's changing with virtual reality, which may or may not take over. (I really dislike virtual reality, but that's a story for another post.)

My point is, if you want a real experience, there is Forecastle, the music festival that started as the underdog and has grown into a beaming force for the city of Louisville and music fans anywhere. It's still here, thriving, and waiting for you to get on board. Don't wait for the world around you to change: get it on your 2018 calendar now.

And with that, here are my top 6 sets from this past weekend not named LCD Soundsystem, Weezer, Spoon, Sturgill Simpson, Nathaniel Rateliff, or Cage the Elephant. (Those were all top notch as well.)


Known for it's danceable, powerful electronic vibe, Phantogram was that and more at Forecastle. Sarah Barthel took a moment in between songs to give awareness to suicide prevention. Barthel lost her sister last year to suicide, and her words to the audience made an impact: "It's okay to say something." In short: if you see someone who may need help, even if you just feel it, it's okay to speak up. Barthel then stood near the back of the stage and delivered an absolutely amazing performance of "Destroyer," which ripped out my insides and left me leaving the photo pit a little more aware of my surroundings and the love that everyone around us deserves. "Was there something that you wanted to say," she sang. Thank you, Sarah.

Adia Victoria

I had never seen Adia Victoria perform before the weekend, but I'm certainly glad I didn't miss her set this time around. She is a gifted songwriter and guitarist, full of emotion that she lets drip out slowly, and then, when the time is right, lets it explode all at once. Find her album, Beyond the Bloodhounds.

John Moreland

My favorite songwriters say whatever they want, and John Moreland is no different. While not your typical festival performer -- Moreland sits while he plays and sings -- he was perfect for the afternoon festival-goer who was there to listen. And what songs! "Love's a violent word," Moreland sang. "Don't you forget it." That's from a song called "Old Wounds," off of Moreland's latest album Big Bad Luv, which is definitely one of the best of 2017.

Conor Oberst

Another artist who I had never seen live, either in solo form or with his bands Bright Eyes or Desaparecidos. The songs I heard were staggering, especially "Time Forgot," which featured a false start because of an out-of-tune guitar.

Boarding a train to take my memories back
Make up for time that I have lost
I'll never know if I'm delusional
I just believe that I am not
I'm going to work for my sanity
Give it everything I got
Though so far I have cheated death
I know someday I'll get caught
Just living

Funny how real life coincidentally mimics the song about to be performed.

Mandolin Orange

Okay...yet another band I had yet to see. I guess this was the Forecastle for me to make up for lost time. Mandolin Orange drew me in right away with a beautiful song called "Hey Stranger" from their latest album, Blindfaller.

Hey stranger
There's danger down the line
You'll find heartache and trouble
And all your good time

They had me under their thumb within seconds.

Charles Bradley

The Man. What an inspiration. He just had to cancel tour dates last October with an announcement stating that he had to take time off to beat stomach cancer. Apparently, he kicked its ass. Bradley performed in the sweltering heat, but did not rest on any laurels: he looked more alive than ever, smiling, dancing, howling. What a treasure to see him again.