Smooth sailing! Forecastle continues strong on day two

Louisville’s Waterfront Park

Friday  •  Saturday  •  Sunday

By Bill Foster, Matt Miller, Rusty Odom and Matt Rankin

All photos by Bill Foster

Saturday at Forecastle offered a lot in terms of both quality and quantity. The Americana-heavy Boom Stage alone featured the succession of Brent Cobb, Hiss Golden Messenger, Margo Price, Jenny Lewis and The War on Drugs, perhaps the best run of performers on one stage that the festival has ever seen. Although rootsy was the theme of the day, pop and power-punk acts made appearances on the main stage, and the Ocean Stage and Party Cove remained devoted to supplying younger festivalgoers with the bleeps and bloops they hold so dear.

The most rewarding experiences on the day, however, involved the Louisville-centric Port Stage. Between discussion panels, sets by ASCAP-backed artists, a talent showcase highlighting local youth and an unequaled presentation of a modern masterpiece, virtually anyone could find something to love. It was a much more mellow scene than, say, a Glittertitz set in the Cove, but it suited the needs of several members of the BLANK crew for large chunks of the day.

The weather for the first part of the day again was uncomfortably hot, but a thin veneer of cloud cover rolled into the area as evening descended, cooling things off considerably and providing relief to the hordes of grateful attendees. As we prepare for a final day of action, please enjoy our reflections about a busy but pleasure-packed Saturday. – Matt Rankin   

Hiss Golden Messenger

In a career that has spanned more than 10 years, Hiss Golden Messenger brainchild MC Taylor has (slowly) become one of the great songwriters for an aging generation of intelligent indie-rock lovers. Taylor’s music blends every genre you can think of, with heavy influences of folk, country, rhythm & blues, soul and rock to name but a few. Taylor’s influences can be heard throughout his music and in his performance style, often delivering intelligent lyrics at the microphone before joining his bandmates for a rock ‘n’ roll ending. This set spanned his entire career and represented the diversity that Taylor brings to the indie world, both lyrically and musically. Forecastle sure knows how to build a stage lineup, and Hiss Golden Messenger jumpstarted both old and new fans alike for an hour of terrific music. – Matt Miller

Josephines

We’ve been hearing a lot about the Josephines as of late, and after seeing them live, it all makes sense. They were the first band of day two, but that did nothing to quell neither the spirits of the band nor those of the dedicated crowd. The Port Stage has been moved from the inferno of the waterfront lawn to the shaded confines that the opposite corner of the festival footprint provides. Their sound is a dark blue-jean jacket of rock ’n’ roll with Americana frills – and it works. It’s the good stuff, so expect big things from these fellas in the near future. – Rusty Odom

The Spencer Lee Band

Brent Cobb explained his humble beginnings to kick off the Boom Stage on Saturday at 2:30. Fifteen minutes later, Spencer Lee gave his “Jack and Diane” about his journey from a small town with dirt roads. On first listen, each of these front men plays with a dose of sincerity.  It’s a kind with one foot firmly in the present, full of appreciation and hope, but with the other planted somewhere in the past, with them seemingly wondering if it’s all too good to be true. That’s the read I got, anyhow. If you’re a country fan, Cobb is definitely someone to watch. If you like the blues, give Lee a look. – RO

Margo Price

Ever since Attack Monkey Productions first brought Margo Price to Knoxville with shows at the Pilot Light and opening for The Black Lillies on Market Square, I’ve watched her slowly ascend the charts and festival posters. Yesterday’s packed show on the Boom Stage felt like a culmination of the growth stage of Price’s career, as she led her tight five-piece band (occasionally augmented by husband Jeremy Ivey on harmonica, guitar and vocals) through a glorious, jammy set that was my personal festival favorite. Opening with “Do Right by Me” and “Tennessee Song,” Price was assured and confident from the first note. By the third song, a rollicking cover of Guy Clark’s “New Cut Road,” she was climbing out on the speakers and lying on her back on the stage. Clad in a “I’m the Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised” t-shirt and sporting marijuana-leaf earrings, Price was everywhere, playing piano on the unreleased “The Devil’s in the Details,” and drums on “Cocaine Cowboy.” Her band was tight and focused but played several extended jams, notably on “Four Years of Chances.” Covers of “Fortunate Son” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” got the crowd singing along. By the end, during a cover of “Proud Mary” that owed more to Ike and Tina than to CCR, Price was down in the photo pit hugging audience members and passing out red roses. This was the work of an artist who has been at this a long time and is truly hitting her stride as a live performer. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here. – Bill Foster

West End Louisville Showcase

Forecastle is as good as any festival at looking after its own. The annual Teddy Abrams soiree has always highlighted Louisville’s art, but 2018 is especially full of local flair. Orchestrated by Jecorey Arthur, the West Louisville showcase shone a light on Louisville’s west side on Saturday and it was a treat for all in attendance. The expansive and collaborative set featured two handfuls of acts. There were no real low points in the set, but the highest highs came from the challenging spoken word of Lance Newton, the youthful exuberance of the River City Drum Corp and Metez Trice, our favorite part of the set. Trice rapped over beats reminiscent of turn-of-the-century Three Six Mafia and exhibiting a flow that could take him far beyond the River City.  Everyone who saw this set was better because of it, and it led to a conversation that the best hip-hop being made right now is probably being created and performed in urban neighborhoods and on porches. The radio could stand a little more Metez and a little less mumble. – RO

Jimmy Eat World

Be honest. You were here just for “The Middle.” You got it. Sure, they were clean-cut, fun and engaging. There was a nice cover of “The Authority Song” in there somewhere. They made you wait until the last song for the hit, but they played it, you jumped up and down and all was right with the world. – BF

Jenny Lewis

In planning my itinerary before the festival, I had anticipated catching just a snippet of this show. However, I found myself enjoying the set so much after a couple of songs that I stayed almost for its entirety. Culling tracks from her entire discography, Lewis and her excellent backing band were in fine form as they delivered hits, deep cuts and new material to the sizable crowd gathered around the Boom Stage, Lewis herself was in an amiable mood and proved to be an engaging performer. Her iconic voice, so great on recorded works, was equally powerful in a live setting, remaining robust throughout her hour on stage. I had forgotten just how much I loved her music until hearing some selections from 2006’s “Rabbit Fur Coat,” and I was somewhat reluctant to leave the proceedings before they were completely wrapped up, but Houndmouth beckoned from the Mast Stage. – MR

The Forecastle Symphony Performs Terry Riley’s “In C”

Margo Price’s masterful set on the Boom Stage had been the highlight of the weekend right up until the moment the 20-odd players involved in presenting the dense modern composition stepped up to the modest Port Stage on Saturday evening. Spearheaded by Teddy Abrams, the music director of the Louisville Orchestra, the deep-listening session was transcendent. Depending on the conductor, the piece can vary in tone, sounding claustrophobic, neurotic and hurried in one iteration and joyful, relaxed and optimistic in another. This particular version fell into the latter category and came across as organic, measured and wholly magnificent. Weaving individual parts into a complex, cohesive wall of sound that swelled and surged, the musicians’ interplay was something to behold throughout the hour-long performance. The tranquil, tree-lined setting added to the spectacle while simultaneously providing ideal natural conditions in which to concentrate, zone out or do both, depending on one’s perogative. – MR

If you’ve been to Forecaslte in the past, you should know the name Teddy Abrams. He’s a staple at the river party, and in 2018, he has taken his presence to a higher level, curating two sets on the delightful Port Stage. The first came Saturday night when Abrams brought a taste of Big Ears to Forecastle with a little West Louisville flair. Abrams manned one end of the stage while cellist Ben Sollee provided the other bookend. Between them was a diverse collective of over 20 people, all keeping time with the cicadas, the birds and everything else that comes with the outdoors. It was glorious. – RO

Houndmouth

Back in 2011, Houndmouth formed just a few miles across the river from where they would play for a massive main-stage crowd less fewer than seven years later. This was truly a hometown show for the band, and they seemed to cherish every minute of the always-popular sunset show. Although it’s sad to see Katie Toupin (vocalist/keyboardist) no longer with the group, Caleb Hickman’s harmonies and the addition of dual saxophones bring new life to the band, creating a fuller sound that is meant for a main festival stage. Preparing to embark on a nationwide tour, the band debuted songs from their new album, “Golden Age,” due out August 3, including “Coast to Coast,” which displays the band’s growing maturity and increasing skill of writing meaningful lyrics that resonate with many types of music fans. As the band powered through their biggest hits, the crowd never waned, singing along to every word from the opening line of “Penitentiary” to the closing “My Cousin Greg.” Houndmouth’s success is not by accident and we expect their festival presence to only increase over the next few years. – MM

The War on Drugs

What accolades and plaudits could be bestowed upon this group that haven’t already been applied? Somehow upping the ante with regard to musicianship, togetherness and general quality since its last appearance at Waterfront Park three years ago, the Philadelphia band was the perfect act to close down the Boom Stage on Saturday night – although it could be argued that their extended yet seamless jams would have been better suited to the more spacious environs of the Mast Stage and the Great Lawn surrounding it. Still, the gathered throng couldn’t care less where they were after the one-two punch of “Red Eyes” and “Under the Pressure” from the seminal 2014 album “Lost in the Dream;” the couplet was beautifully rendered and left many in attendance bobbing and swaying with delight. At just 11 songs, the show was too short for a band with the stature of The War on Drugs’. It’s somewhat surprising that they’re not quite considered to be in the highest echelon just yet, but it’s easy to envision the band being the number-one billing on festival lineups in the near future. – MR

Chris Stapleton

Taking to the Mast Stage on Saturday night and opening with “Midnight Train to Memphis” after longer than a half-hour delay due to technical difficulties, Chris Stapleton powered through a nearly two-hour set of the lyrically powerful, guitar-driven brand of country music that has skyrocketed him into mass popularity over the last few years. Stapleton is a great bridge headliner, bringing in huge fans of today’s country music that would normally sit out a festival such as Forecastle to discover other acts such as Margo Price, Jason Isbell and more. There are many unique elements to his songs and show that together create an atmosphere and experience that are hard not to enjoy. His lyrics are intelligent and relatable, delivered with a powerful voice that commands the attention of anyone who enjoys any of the classic country singers. His supporting band (all from somewhere in Kentucky) are incredibly talented musicians, some of which he has performed with for a long time (and obviously so). Although hits such as “Tennessee Whiskey” and “Nobody to Blame” were crowd favorites, it was the more personal, deeper tracks that stood out. “Death Row” is a dirty, blues-driven story that nearly silenced the crowd, and “Fire Away” may be the best country ballad written in the last 10 years. Stapleton is living proof that great songwriting is the foundation for sustained success and can even get you a headliner spot at one of the country’s best festivals. – MM

Margo Price
T-Pain
The War on Drugs
Hiss Golden Messenger
Elliot Root
Front row at T-Pain
Jenny Lewis
Hiss Golden Messenger
Party Cove

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