Forecastle Festival, in its 14th year of existence, stands to be one of the great music festivals in the country. Rolling Stone has gone as far as calling it “One of the coolest festivals in America.” Forecastle is not only incredible based upon the musicians that the city of Louisville is able to draw to the riverfront complex, but it also serves to be one of the best representations of Kentucky in festival form.
Everywhere you walk within the enclosed area along the river screams Kentucky. Upon entering the gates, you’re greeted with the Kentucky For Kentucky/Kentucky Kicks Ass booth, offering their wares branded with “Y’all” and various obscure towns in Kentucky (Rabbit Hash). There’s the inflatable Forecastle Derby, giant walking Hunter S. Thompson and Colonel Sanders marionettes and booths selling bourbon slushes (Four Roses Yellow Label & Tropical Red Bull… Try it, you’ll love it).
So with the atmosphere set for a very (hot) Kentucky weekend, it was time to get the music going on Saturday afternoon. I arrived to the grounds right around 3:00, which was just enough time to get settled over at the Mast (main) Stage, as Shakey Graves was getting ready to start his set.
Of all the acts that I was most looking forward to see, Shakey Graves was right around the top of the list. Not knowing much about Shakey Graves before listening to The Rattle Hour w/ Tanner Griggs. His song, Dearly Departed, is probably the one that you have heard most pop up in your Pandora stations if you listen to similar artists. In the dead heat of the Saturday afternoon, Graves took the stage opening with a bouncy guitar riff to start his song “Roll the Bones”, which set the tone for the remainder of his set. Shakey Graves’ americana sound garnered great reaction from the crowd who clapped and bounced along with the songs.
When you listen to the first 4-5 songs in the Spotify playlist below, you get a sense of those bouncy lines in the opening parts of the songs. Shakey Graves was able to get the crowd to sing along to most of the songs he was singing, realizing that he had a following show up at Forecastle. Graves’ set was a great start to the day, because it encouraged the festival goers to have a ton of fun, regardless of how hot it was.
Shakey Graves Forecastle Setlist
After Shakey Graves, we ventured around to try and find some food. There were approximately 16-20 food vendors located under the overpass of the interstate, along with many other booths scattered among the festival grounds. In trying to hone in on a single place to eat, along with finding a Reverb water station to refill our water bottles, we heard an intriguing beat coming from the other side of the underpass. We made our way over to the ‘Ocean Stage’ where we were greeted with the sounds of Danny Brown.
I will be the first to admit that I have never heard of Danny Brown. I just now listened to his most streamed song on Spotify and I’ve never heard it before. I know like two rap songs total: Cut It (because it’s hilarious), and a song which I call the Uncle Phil song (which is apparently J. Cole’s – No Role Modelz) However, I have a penchant for enjoying hip-hop performances in a festival setting. I’m not really sure why, but it’s fun. I think if Danny Brown had been the closer, still on the stage under the overpass, but was playing as everyone was headed out from Alabama Shakes, that would have made for an awesome ending to the night.
I bounced back and forth between a couple of stages over the next few hours. In meeting up with some people, I started hearing a song that I would listen to back in college. Turns out it was Dark Blue by Jack’s Mannequin. As I got closer to the stage, I found Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness playing on the Boom Stage. McMahon was the lead singer for Something Corporate, along with Jack’s Mannequin. He played mostly songs from his Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness album, but pieced in songs from Jack’s Mannequin, including Dark Blue, Holiday From Real and Bloodshot. It was a nice throwback to something I used to listen to 8-9 years ago, and if you closed your eyes, McMahon sounded just as good now as he did back then.
Andrew McMahon’s Forecastle Setlist
After finally connecting with friends after about 4 hours of being at Forecastle (It’s not hard to find people you know, but sometimes hard to find the exact people you’re looking for), we followed them over to Sylvan Esso, whom they were very excited to see. Let me reiterate, for future trips, the Ocean Stage under the overpass is where some of the coolest acts end up, and Sylvan Esso is included in that list.
Sylvan Esso is a collaboration between Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn in a sort-of “electro-folk pop” act, and they deliver one heck of a show. I recognized their song “Coffee” from the “Get up, get down” chorus. I find Sylvan Esso hard to describe in their sound, but when I think of the performance it just makes me smile… so I think that is a positive review on the set. You can’t help but just move and dance during Sylvan Esso’s, especially when they started playing H.S.K.T. (yes, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes). Sylvan Esso is in the process of putting together a new album, and played some new songs during their set, which will not appear in the setlist below. But, if you’re a fan of Sylvan Esso, I can assure you, you’re going to like what is coming out.
Sylvan Esso’s Forecastle Setlist
I’ve been wanting to see Alabama Shakes since they really hit mainstream scene back in 2012-13. Alabama Shakes should have been the front-runner to win the 2013 Grammy for Best New Artist, but got taken over by the steamroller that was Fun. So, finding out that the Shakes were going to be in Louisville for Forecastle made this a must attend event for me, and they did not disappoint.
First, the difference between Friday night’s headliner (Avett Brothers) and Alabama Shakes is somewhat apparent in their two different styles. While the two groups fall under the “americana” category of music, the crowd interaction that you will see varies greatly. A band like The Avett Brothers is going to bring a show with a lot of band breaks for the crowd to sing lyrics, clap along, etc. For Alabama Shakes, what we received on Saturday night, was 90 minutes of straight soul. The tempo of their music is not so that you’re going to get a big crowd to jump up and down and croon with the lyrics, but rather sway in the amazement of the sound that the band is able to produce.
Brittany Howard is INCREDIBLE. Unless you were right up on stage, you could see people watching the giant screens to either side of the stage to just watch her work. The vocals she is able to produce, and the way in which she moves her mouth to make that happen is something I’ve never heard or seen before live. I hope that during this time of Alabama Shakes’ popularity that she gets some major exposure, because there is no singer quite like her, and there might not be another one like her for decades to come.
Alabama Shakes Forecastle Setlist
All in all, despite only attending one day of Forecastle, the event proved to be a mighty success and a great representation of the state of Kentucky. If you get the opportunity in the future to attend Forecastle, jump at the opportunity, because you will not be disappointed.