The festival that started as a small local affair in a city park has grown over the past decade into one of the largest annual music festivals in the Midwest. This year, Forecastle Festival saw record attendance – to the tune of 80,000 people – and one of the most diverse lineups thanks in part to Ashley Capps (Bonnaroo, Big Ears) at the helm. Beyond the big headliners, dedication to local arts and eats, and an environmental advocacy slant, the other big attraction of Forecastle this weekend was the weather. Rather than the brutal July sun, Louisville’s Waterfront Park saw English weather most of the weekend: lower-70s as highs and a light mist. More of that please, Mother Nature.
But the music took precedence above all, and this past weekend was full of great sounds. And while there were certainly some higher highs, there weren’t too many lows (thank God), which made this Top 10 quite difficult to piece together. Nonetheless, we assembled a list worthy in at least our eyes.
Forecastle provided the second Slint show of their 2014 reawakening (the first was a secret show in a 200-capacity room). While it might sound surprising that Slint were scheduled at the smaller, under-the-bridge Ocean Stage, the shade and intimacy provided the perfect backdrop for their murky deconstructionist rock – as well as a fine refuge for people who couldn’t care less about Jack “Hi I Just Moved to Nashville, Check Out My Country Songs” White’s headlining set. With the original lineup of Brian McMahan, Dave Pajo, and Britt Walford, Slint covered all the bases, kicking off with “Glenn” from their post-breakup two-song eponymous EP, plowing through Spiderland, and ending with the harmonics-laden, almost anthemic, Tweez-closing “Rhoda”. Slint forever retains the magic of a band who created something new, and that excitement is palpable throughout their live show.
Kicking off the weekend, The Black Lips set the proper tone for Forecastle right out the gate during their 2 p.m. Friday slot. Sure, they might be a bit tamer these days via their latest album, Underneath the Rainbow, but the live show still packs a ferocity that first brought attention to these rowdy, Southern gentlemen garage rock tent revivalists.
Animal Collective were scheduled to play last year’s fest but had to cancel due to Dave Portner’s health. Guess he wanted to make it up by bringing his new Slasher Flicks project to Louisivlle. Having lost touch with the AC gang’s various side projects the past few years, I walked in with no expectations and came out a believer. Fans of pre-Sung TongsAnimal Collective can rejoice in the return of maniacal Avey Tare, complete with danceable beats. The new project features Angel Deradoorian of The Dirty Projectors behind a wall of Moog synths and ex-Ponytail drummer Jeremy Hyman. Easily some of the best AC-related output in recent memory, and a phenomenal, surprisingly energetic live sound.
Merrill Garbus’s insane, new live band packed the Ocean Stage with one of the most enthusiastic crowds I’ve ever seen at Forecastle. It certainly helped to draft Louisvillian Dani Markham to hit skins. Two drummers, two backup singers, an array of outfits showing love for the early ’90s, creative face paint, and Garbus’s trademark looping assembly line and ukelele brought forth the oddest and coolest dance party of the weekend.
Sharon and her band were, to my knowledge, the only act who came out on stage donned completely in black despite the afternoon sun (the first appearance of the sun all weekend). As such, this makes Sharon Van Etten the most metal of the Forecastle lineup. She also won most charming stage banter, poking fun at the tortured artist by exclaiming, “This is an older song, which I wrote when I was feeling upset, as I tend to do when I’m upset because I have a lot of feelings and am original” before launching into “Don’t Do It”. She also introduced “Break Me” as a song about windows. Sharon rules