|All photos by Jason Gonulsen
2014 was my first Forecastle Festival, which was also happened to be my first music festival of the year. There are a few more on the agenda, but they’re all gonna have a hard time measuring up to my time spent in Louisville with Jack White, Jenny Lewis, Jason Isbell, Reignwolf, OutKast, and more.
Here are 10 things I learned at Forecastle.
1. Environment is everything. It can also be misleading at a place like Forecastle. One minute you’re under a highway overpass, the next you’re seeing the most beautiful sunset ever along the Ohio River. The contrast works as long as you soak it all in. There isn’t an overwhelming amount of ground at Forecastle, but here’s the thing: you absolutely need to cover all of it to get the full effect.
2. Jack White was loud, but Reignwolf was louder. I like White’s music because it is raw, and because it doesn’t conform, but aren’t those reasons why it shouldn’t appeal to a large audience? Doesn’t matter — people love them some Jack White. I figured it would be the loudest set of the weekend, but that belonged to Reignwolf, who absolutely exploded with “Lonely Sunday.” It’s surprising sets like these that keep festivals interesting. A+ for Reignwolf.
3. We’re all in this together. I’m a pretty introverted — love my alone time and all of that shit. But that’s just not going to happen at a festival, even one like Forecastle that’s not absolutely massive. You’re going to bump into a sweaty dude at 3 PM and you’re just going to have to deal with it. And you know what? Not once did I hear a person complain at Forecastle. About anything.
4. Bourbon Lodges work at a festival. And I had my doubts. Would I really want to be sipping on bourbon at a music festival…in the afternoon? Oh, but the Forecastle Bourbon Lodge is air conditioned and provides an escape, sort of like the movie tent at Bonnaroo. Again, environment is key.
5. Slow songs have their place at Forecastle. You can even begin your set with them. Sharon Van Etten opened with “Afraid of Nothing.” Jill Andrews opened with “I’m Not Okay.” Band of Horses opened with three acoustic songs, including “St. Augustine.” Lucius opened with “Go Home.” And this all worked.
6. Jason Isbell’s “Flying Over Water” was made for a festival. My favorite opening song of any set at Forecastle. I’ve written plenty about my love for his last album, Southeastern (it was our favorite album of 2013), and I’ve seen him 4 times in the last year, but still, STILL, somehow all these songs feel fresh, especially “Flying Over Water.” “Did we leave our love behind,” Isbell sang before ripping into a solo. I’ll never forget it.
7. Jenny Lewis is back. She was smiling as she pranced out on stage in her rainbow suit. “Welcome to the voyager,” she told us. Of course, that’s the name of her upcoming album (out Tuesday), and it features “She’s Not Me,” “Just One Of The Guys,” and my favorite, “Head Underwater.” Go see Jenny Lewis this year.
8. Sun Kil Moon is a religious experience. I love slow, sad songs, and Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon takes that to extremes on the latest album, Benji. When “Carissa,” quite possibly the saddest song of the year, was performed at Forecastle, I sat down in the photo pit, let the sun hit my face, closed my eyes, and just enjoyed the damn moment.
9. Matrimony and Lucius work well together on early Sunday afternoons. They played back-to-back on the main stage, and Matrimony was having such a great time that they tried to go past their allotted time. That didn’t work, but it was great to see two up-and-coming bands kickstart the last day of Forecastle. Because the last day of any festival needs some juice to get going.
10. All festivals are not the same. I hear it all the time: all festivals are uncomfortable, not worth it, etc. And I’m here to tell you that there is no reason why anyone couldn’t have a great time at Forecastle. There is plenty of shade, places to sit, and for every headlining act, you could get a decent spot no matter what time you showed up. Kudos to Forecastle for being thoughtful, organized, and well-run. I’ll be back soon.