Forecastle Festival 2013 – Recap

Taking place on the shores of the Ohio River in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, the Forecastle Festival returned for its 11th year. Forecastle is smaller in scale than many of the summer’s other festivals, making it easy to move quickly from stage to stage. Even when artists like Flaming Lips and Jim James’ sets overlapped, festivalgoers could get from one main stage to the other in under five minutes, maximizing the amount of time spent seeing this year’s notable lineup. Despite two evacuations (one which included a couple of drops of rain, the other of which included a ton of rain), soaring temperatures and an Animal Collective cancellation, 2013 still proved to be Forecastle’s most impressive year.



With only 15 artists across four stages, Friday eased festivalgoers into the swing of things. On the Boom Stage, Bob Mould started with a treat for the 90s music geeks in the crowd: the first half of Sugar’s classic 1992 album, Copper Blue, in sequence. After playing selections from his latest solo album, Mould ended his set with a series of Hüsker Dü songs, including “I Apologize” and “Flip Your Wig.” Mould was certainly deserving of a larger crowd, but nonetheless thrilled the fans who showed up early on Friday to catch his set.


Hailing from just over the river from Louisville, New Albany, Indiana’s, Houndmouth started their set with “Krampus,” a fitting choice with its “I see the light shining on me, I’m coming home…” refrain. Since playing the Festival’s smallest stage in 2012, Houndmouth has gained a huge buzz in the past year. They were welcomed back to Forecastle, this time on the main stage, by a large, enthusiastic crowd.

The diversity in Forecastle’s lineup was most evident Friday night, when festivalgoers had the option of seeing Big Boi on the Boom Stage or Old Crow Medicine Show on the Mast Stage.

Big Boi easily wins the “Show Must Go On” award of the weekend. Still in a full leg brace from a knee surgery after a recent on-stage injury, he performed his set from a gold throne, providing one of the festival’s most talked about “Did you see it?” moments.

However, back at the Mast Stage, Old Crow Medicine Show also proved to be one of Forecastle’s highlights. Yes, it’s become a pop country hit thanks to Darius Rucker, but it would be impossible to ignore that it was truly delightful to hear “Wagon Wheel” in the Bluegrass State as the sun set over the Ohio River on a warm summer evening. Beyond the big song, though, Old Crow was still a nonstop whirl of fiddles, banjos, and foot stomping joy.





Saturday’s impressive Mast Stage lineup (Shovels & Rope, Dawes, Alabama Shakes, Jim James, and The Black Keys) made it tempting to stay in one place for the whole day. That is until the sudden and surprising evacuation of the festival grounds due to inclimate weather with barely a cloud in sight.

Shovels & Rope got Saturday started with a joyful set of folk-country. The endearing duo of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent were all smiles as they switched off playing guitar and drums. Their love for each other, for the songs, for the audience, was absolutely infectious and left no doubt that they’re one of the best new bands around.




On the Red Bull Ocean Stage, MNDR played to a small crowd who had mostly gathered to beat the heat in the shade of the overpass. They were treated, however, to a confident set of intelligent pop music that will most likely give them future bragging rights. Remember when you saw MNDR play under a bridge mid-afternoon in Kentucky?

Minutes before Dawes was to take to the Mast stage, an announcement was made that due to storms in the area, the festival was being evacuated. It was a bit confusing, as the sky was clear and the storm never appeared, but the crowd took it in stride, and the festival grounds were open again only 30 minutes later.

Once the festival was back in gear, Alabama Shakes drew at that point the biggest crowd of the weekend. Brittany Howard is absolutely magnetic, and the crowd grew throughout their set. After the audience singalong of “Hold On,” a young woman summed it all up, shouting to the stage, “I want to be you, Brittany Howard!”



At last year’s Forecastle, not only did Louisvillian Jim James headline with his band My Morning Jacket, the band curated the festival. This year, he was back on the Mast stage with a solo performance consisting mostly of songs from his outstanding 2013 album, Regions of Light and Sound of God. Between last year’s legendary My Morning Jacket set, and this year’s fun set complete with a saxophone solo and a cover of “Let It Be,” we can only hope Jim James returns to Forecastle next year in some capacity.

At the Boom stage, fans had the completely surreal experience of watching a Flaming Lips show next to a Joe’s Crab Shack while Wayne Coyne stood upon a platform, cradling a baby that was attached to the elaborate stage set by tentacles. Their set was foggy, creepy, challenging, completely bizarre and completely brilliant. A slowed down version of “Race for the Prize” and a cover of Devo’s “Gates of Steel” were among the highlights. The most devoted Lips fans in the audience ate it up, while more casual onlookers expecting to be showered in confetti while holding Coyne up in a giant hamster ball were possibly disappointed.




Closing out the night on the Mast stage, The Black Keys proved why they’re invited to so many festivals: they’re one of the most consistent bands around. If you’ve seen the Black Keys… you’ve seen the Black Keys, and you know what you’re getting: a tight set of blues-rock, the staple singalong hits (“Howlin’ For You,” “Lonely Boy,” “Next Girl”), and an almost unmatched musical chemistry between Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. The Black Keys have perfected their festival headlining gig, and Saturday, while offering few surprises, was another satisfying set.



Sunday started off with Tift Merritt making the crowd gathered at the Boom stage promise they were wearing sunscreen and staying hydrated in the blazing heat. It was one of those Forecastle days where you find yourself hiding under the overpass, eating way too many King of Pops popsicles, dipping your feet into the fountains, and checking out the API poster show (which you really shouldn’t miss, no matter the weather) and other vendors to find any excuse to escape the heat.

It was still excruciatingly hot, but Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are not to be missed, as evident by the huge crowd that gathered at the Mast stage to catch their late afternoon set. Potter is the ultimate front woman, crawling on the stage, flinging her blonde hair, and throwing off her shoes two songs in. Every bit of her charisma and showmanship is backed up by an immense amount of talent, as she wailed, shrieked, and alternated between playing her Flying V and Hammond B3.




Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters took to the stage under blue skies, but managed to summon a storm by the end of their set. Jokingly welcoming the crowd to an afternoon of “soft rock REO Speedwagon covers,” Plant’s set consisted of Led Zeppelin songs like “Going to California” and “What Is and What Should Never Be” before being cut short by another weather evacuation.

This time the crowd got little warning before a downpour began and an announcement was made to seek shelter under the overpass. After a brief delay, the festival was re-opened and a swarm of people ran back to the Mast stage, sliding across the now muddy field to catch the festival’s closing set by The Avett Brothers.

Opening with “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” The Avett Brothers stomped and splashed in the water remaining on stage from the storm. Before tearing into a frenetic version of “Pretty Girl from Chile,” Scott Avett joked that he’d asked his brother, Seth, to slow things down, but the pace and the energy of the show continued to build, only relenting briefly for “When I Drink” and “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” As if the band hadn’t already worked the crowd into a big enough frenzy, Seth jumped off the stage and into the mud pit to give festival goers an upclose performance of “Kick Drum Heart” during a four-song encore. Ending with “I and Love and You,” it was a beautiful finish to another successful Forecastle.

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