LOUISVILLE, Ky | by Leah Lowe | We ventured out of our normal territory this weekend to check out Louisville’s Forecastle Festival. This wasn’t our first rodeo, but the first time covering it for the Charlestown Courier.
There’s not much better than great music in a lively but laid-back festival setting, especially when its in your own back yard. On the banks of the Ohio River in Louisville’s Waterfront Park, we enjoyed bands across several stages who played along the backdrop of Jeffersonville’s riverside and Big Four Bridge as the sun set over Kentuckiana. This was said to be the hottest year in Forecastle’s 16 year history – and also drew the biggest crowd the festival has witnessed to date. Fans braved the grueling Ohio Valley heat and humidity to see headliners like Chris Stapleton, Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, and The War on Drugs.
We were only able to attend on Friday – but saw several fan favorites like Father John Misty, Modest Mouse, Hello Kitten Surprise, and Vance Joy. We also saw everything from hippies or “festival types” to parents pushing strollers, giant costume wearing stilts walkers, or folks in business attire sauntering in after 5:00. One of the things that makes this festival so unique is its wide appeal. Once you step through the main gates, you’re transported to another world – a giant party rooted in activism and creative influences – and world-class entertainment. The walk from parking is a hot one, but once you pass through security and your ears catch the first hint of a familiar guitar riff, the heat becomes an afterthought.
You may have heard some things about music festivals, particularly if you’ve never been to one – but Forecastle is more than just a giant rock concert. Favorites like Teddy Abrams of the Louisville Orchestra, Michael Cleveland and the Flamekeepers, and the Louisville Leopards Youth Percissionists all take part in drawing local crowds while introducing visitors to Kentuckiana’s vibrant and robust local music culture. The transition is seamless in this setting and most fans seem to enjoy the wide variety that the Forecastle lineup offers.
If you haven’t heard of Hello Kitten Surprise, you will soon. This Boone, NC band has a punching but laid back vibe with a captivating front man in Sam Melo, and is comprised of a musician’s type of musicians. Their songs are deep but disarming and they pour themselves into every one masterfully while making it look easy. Works like Fever Pitch, Cocaine Jesus, and Devil Like Me are percussive, symphonic masterpieces brought to life by strong and melodic vocals. They played the late afternoon set as the sun began to wane behind the main stage, and based on this performance are one of the rare bands who are twice as good live as they are on a recording.
I had heard of Father John Misty, but after watching his Forecastle set I quickly became a fan. He is a showman, an entertainer – and a consummate songwriter for our generation backed by a full-on rock n’ roll orchestra. We’d lovingly compare him to young indie Neil Diamond – if Neil Diamond were a bearded and dressily disheveled, wistfully brooding Father John Misty. I could go on about his set, but I’m just gonna leave this here:
There was a time in my life before I saw Father John Misty while sipping bourbon on the Kentucky riverside and there is a time after. Those are the phases of my life. pic.twitter.com/QEXBkqED5o
— Abbey Barrow (@AbbeyBarrow) July 14, 2018
Vance Joy was equally amazing – and he’s one of those artists who can make you forget you’re at a festival and not just a Vance Joy concert. We had planned on moving on halfway through his set to catch another act, but he was so playfully captivating that we forgot for that moment in time any desire to be anywhere but squarely in front of him.
It was a great ride – we’ll be back next year and are anticipating an even more amazing lineup.
Leah Lowe is the Publisher of Charlestown Courier and Mom to a house full of boys. She’s also a web developer, music lover, hack drone pilot, and eternal student. Email Leah at CharlestownCourier@gmail.com.