Festival Review: Forecastle 2013
31 Jul 2013

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Overview…

As soon as I read a Facebook status by fellow Sparkleberry Christina Sava asking if she had any “spontaneous friends” that wanted to go to a music festival, I got that feeling. The Forecastle Festival was the name and I immediately looked up the website and saw that it was taking place in Louisville, KY. As I realized it was only a few hours away from me and that my hero Robert Plant was on the lineup, the feeling grew. My next step was shooting a text to a good friend of mine named Taylor who has been on festival tour all summer and was actually at Electric Forest at the time. I knew if she was going and I could catch a ride with her, this thing just might go down. She quickly responded she was going and I was welcome to ride along. The two of us had been discussing wanting to go to a fest together upon meeting in March so we were both very excited! Everything fell into place so quickly, and Christina informed me that the ticket was mine!

The first day, right before we went in. Feelin pumped!

The first day, right before we went in. Feelin pumped!

I couldn’t have been more excited. I really didn’t think I was going to make it to any music festivals this summer. Right off the bat, I knew Forecastle was going to be different than any other festival I had ever been to. For starters, there was no camping. The festival took place in the heart of downtown Louisville. We booked a hotel at the Holiday Inn across the river in Clarksville, Indiana. For two nights with three people in the room, we each paid sixty six bucks. Not bad. I was also struck by how many people on the lineup I had never seen before! Besides Robert Plant, I was most excited about seeing String Cheese Incident, The Black Keys, Animal Collective (they ended up cancelling though), Alabama Shakes, and Moon Taxi. This was also the first festival that I would be raging without the aid of alcohol or party favors as I have been in recovery for the past nine months. My goal for the weekend was to stay connected spiritually so that the live music would be all I needed to feel elated and elevated. And it was an absolute success.

Forecastle was held in Waterfront Park, which runs alongside the Ohio River and is designated as one of the Top Ten Urban Parks in the nation by the Urban Land institute (www.forecastlefest.com). The Mast Stage (main) and Boom Stage (second largest) were set up in front of the River so the view was amazing regardless of how close you were to the front. The middle of the grounds were shaded by a highway overpass which proved to be a sanctuary from the heat. The Ocean Stage, which was devoted mostly to electronic music, was located under the bridge and I often found myself hanging out there during the day since it was so much cooler. There was one more small stage (Port Stage) for a total of four. The festival grounds were quite small, making it easy to bounce around to catch different shows. I was originally vexed about the amount of set overlap, but it really didn’t prove to be much of a problem because of the proximity of all the stages.

Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park

Besides the shade from the bridge, there were several other places to cool off during the day. There was a decorative fountain creek- if you will- that ran through the center of the park where you could always find festival go-ers relaxing with their feet in the water throughout the day. Come Sunday, some people were taking it further to practically taking a swim, which I was surprised the cops standing nearby seemed okay with. There were two little footbridges that went over the fountain creek that separated the two sides of the fest that would get pretty congested at some points. One of the first things I noticed when I entered the fest was this neat sprinkler system where the water created letters in the air, used for advertising. A run through the water would keep the heat at bay. Camelbak offered several “refilling stations” throughout the festival grounds, where people could fill empty bottles with clean, filtered water for free. Cleanup was done by Clean Vibes, and no matter where I was, there seemed to always be a trash station in view, with receptacles clearly marked for recycling, landfill, and, at some, even compost. When the night came to an end, people with giant trash bags suddenly appeared running around picking up trash that was left behind. I was happy to see people who didn’t appear to be volunteers or staff helping out with this effort.

Venue Map

Venue Map

The crowd at Forecastle was definitely different compared to the crowd at festivals I have been to in the past. There seemed to be a lot more locals and a lot less heady flat-billed hippies. Personally, I didn’t find this to be a negative thing at all. I think that any event that is able to bring all different types of people together to enjoy live music, the outdoors, and a contagious feeling of freedom is a celebration of life and humanity at its finest.

 

Day by Day….

Taylor and I at Nosaj Thing

Taylor and I at Nosaj Thing

Taylor and her friend Lex picked me up around midday on Friday, and after returning to Taylor’s house to switch vehicles, we were joined by her parents (yes, Taylor has awesome hippie parents that go to music festivals with her) and began our journey. The drive took about three hours from where we live in Nashville, TN. Upon arriving in Louisville, we checked into our hotel and got ready for the first night of music. The gates opened at 3:45 and we arrived around 6. I was very impressed that it only cost $5 to park in one of the parking garages across the street from the festival. In addition to cheap parking, the festival had a “Bicycle Valet” set up to encourage local people to reduce their carbon footprint and embrace sustainable transportation by riding their bikes. The first act that really caught my attention was Moon Taxi. I really appreciated the singer’s vocal talent and the band’s progressive, yet vintage sound. The melodies had me movin my feet while the groove had me bangin my head. An eclectic mix of genres creating a truly original sound. The band is based out of Nashville, TN, where I currently live, so I look forward to seeing them again soon.

And then there was String Cheese. The weather was absolutely perfect and before the show (my first Cheese show!), we were greeted with a surprise display of beautiful fireworks. It set the tone for what proved to be the perfect end to the first night. As soon as Cheese hit the stage, I started dancing and could not stop! I was amazed by their ability to transition between different grooves and create that anticipatory excitement for what they were going to lay down next. I enjoyed how their different songs seemed to pay homage to different cultures – one song would sound Irish, the next Arabian, and then they would go into straight bluegrass. Somehow all of these transitions and changes flowed together and made perfect sense. What incredible musicians! And my eyes were just as delighted as my ears with their beautiful visual display of giant mandala flowers composed of tiny lights that would change with the music. They also had two giant projector screens on either side of the stage that morphed between different patterns and designs throughout the show. I had a smile on my face, and found myself feeling jubilant with bliss and love!

The String Cheese Incident

The String Cheese Incident

The show ended right at 12 and, as everybody headed for the exits, my crew was having a difficult time deciding what to do with the remainder of the night. Forecastle offered late night shows on Friday and Saturday night. Tickets for these shows could be purchased on the festival’s website. Friday night’s show was comprised of Eliott Lipp and Wick-it the Instigator. I had recently seen Wick-it in Nashville and wasn’t really impressed with the generic dubstep and Top 40 Rap mashups. The slew of inebriated bros pushing me over every two seconds did not help either. So for me, it was a no brainer to call it a night after Cheese and get a good night’s rest. There were two more days to go, after all! I also had high hopes for the next nights late night show – String Cheese at the Palace Theater, since I had instantly become a Cheesehead during the previous two hours. Everyone eventually followed suit, and after a stop at the Waffle House, we headed back to the hotel.

The Palace Theatre for String Cheese late night

The Palace Theatre for String Cheese late night

I must say it was very nice to wake up in a perfectly temperatured room with clean sheets, fluffy pillows, and a breakfast buffet waiting for me downstairs. Of course, I filled up my bag with plenty of snacks for the rest of the day. We definitely enjoyed a lazy morning. Much to our dismay, right when we were ready to head out Taylor’s mom Fran got an alert on her phone through the Forecastle app that the festival had temporarily shut down due to imminent weather. We tried to keep our spirits up, and Forecastle was back in action about 45 minutes later. When we arrived on the grounds after refueling at Olive Garden (which took way too long!), everything on the schedule was an hour behind. We spent the remaining daytime hours at the Ocean Stage because of the shade and there were two badass DJ’s played back to back. The first was TokiMonsta, who, to my surprise, was an adorable little blonde Asian chick. A lot of the crowd seemed to really appreciate that TokiMonsta was a female. Her spacey melodic soundscapes told a story that kept me wanting more and her use of Eastern melodies and sitar samples made her sound unique. She was followed by Nosaj Thing. My only complaint here was that he switched up the groove a lot so it was slightly chaotic.

We dipped out to head over to the main stage to catch Alabama Shakes. It seemed that everyone else had the same idea because it was packed over there! It may have been because I was all hyped up from electronic grooves, but I was not able to get into the slow tempo blues they were puttin out. It also didn’t help that we were really far back and the sound was not loud enough. It must not have been a bad show though, because Taylor’s parents raved about it. Just didn’t do it for me. The next band I caught was called Rubblebucket. They sort of had an 80’s disco feel with a horn section and a female lead singer who at times reminded me of Bjork. Not in a bad way – I love Bjork. It was at this time that I really began to appreciate the amount of female artists on Forecastle’s lineup. I feel like male artists are showcased so much more than females at most festivals, but Forecastle was very balanced in this respect.

The Flaming Lips were next and were just alright in my opinion. I think I enjoy their visuals more than anything else, although they hadn’t changed very much since the last time I saw them in 2011 at Blackwater. I just always get the distinct impression that the singer is a prick and I don’t really connect with the music. On to the Black Keys! Around this time, my crew was beginning to discuss how we would get tickets for String Cheese’s late night show at the Palace Theater. Earlier that day, back at the hotel, I looked up the website of The Jellyfish. The Jellyfish are a group of men and women who choose to experience Cheese shows without the use of drugs or alcohol. Their primary purpose to to create a safe environment for clean and sober Cheese fans (www.scijellyfish.org). I saved a guy named Patrick’s number in my phone, who was listed as being Forecastle’s representative. I had the idea to shoot him a text asking if him or any of his friends had an extra ticket for the show later that night.

Meanwhile, the Black Keys were awesome. The sound was a little muffled at times, but I got to hear all my favorites, including “Gold on the Ceiling” and “Little Black Submarines.”  We headed out about half way through their set to make our way to the Palace Theater. I ended up meeting Patrick at the front and scooping a ticket from him for only $25. The tickets were selling for $40 on Forecastle’s website so I was extremely grateful for the hookup! The rest of my crew all found tickets as well. The Palace Theater is absolutely BEAUTIFUL, and I definitely recommend catching a show there if you ever get the chance. Cheese did it for me again and it was so nice to see them in a more intimate setting.

The final day of Forecastle was truly what I had been waiting for all weekend. Robert Plant and his new project, The Sensational Space Shifters. I have been a huge fan of Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin from the time I was 13, when my dad played Stairway to Heaven for me and it made me cry! I got Robert Plant’s symbol (every member of Led Zep has a symbol, Plant’s is a circle with a feather in the middle) as a tattoo in the middle of my upper back when I was 18. I LOVE him. He took the stage and opened with Led Zeppelin’s “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” and I almost lost it! I was so overcome with emotion hearing one of my favorite songs by my idol that I have listened to for over ten years! It was such a special moment that I will never forget for the rest of my life. The set consisted of new music intermixed with fresh versions of old favorites like “Black Dog,” where Juldeh Camarah joined Plant onstage playing several West African instruments, like a one-stringed fiddle. He continued to add a tribal flavor to the rest of the show, to the point where I was reminded of Thievery Corporation a few times (another favorite of mine). I began to notice huge ominous black clouds rolling in, and started to get nervous that the powers that be would shut everything down again. Alas, Plant warned us that the weather was an approaching problem, but didn’t leave the stage before performing a beautiful rendition of “What is and What Should Never Be”. The rain came pouring down as the song came to a close. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters (Image from Facebook)

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters (Image from Facebook)

Noteworthy acts earlier that day included Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and The Forecastle Incident, which was comprised of the String Cheese Incident, two members from the Del Mcoury Band, Andy Thorne of Leftover Salmon, and famous mandolin player Sam Bush, for an all-star bluegrass jam showdown. It was my third time seeing String Cheese over the weekend and I was pleased that the show was different every time.

The Forecastle Incident • Bluegrass and Beyond: An Instrumental Extravaganza Hosted by The String Cheese Incident feat. Sam Bush, Ronnie McCoury and Jason Carter (of The Travelin' McCourys), and Andy Thorn (of Leftover Salmon)

The Forecastle Incident • Bluegrass and Beyond: An Instrumental Extravaganza Hosted by The String Cheese Incident feat. Sam Bush, Ronnie McCoury and Jason Carter (of The Travelin’ McCourys), and Andy Thorn (of Leftover Salmon)

As everybody at Forecastle (except for a few free spirits who wanted to play in the rain) huddled under the overpass to seek shelter from the rain, Forecastle came to a bittersweet close. While the music was phenomenal all weekend, I would like to have seen more workshops or activities offered to give attendees to opportunity to learn and grow. The main activity at Forecastle (besides gettin down to awesome live music!) seemed to be drinking at the bourbon lounge. The negative effects of which became more prominent each night as several people had to be escorted out of the festival either by friends or cops. I suppose getting overly intoxicated is pretty normal at music festivals, but Forecastle had much more of a local, family vibe, that it just seemed really inappropriate. I felt very grateful to have experienced the whole weekend with a clear mind and an open heart. I felt present in the moment, and felt the connection between myself, the music, the people around me, and Spirit. Forecastle Festival knows good music and how to get down to their rock ‘n roll roots, and I hope that it continues to grow and evolve from a great party time into a celebration that encourages human consciousness and evolution.

 

1011794_10100890784752117_1550125907_nThis awesome review was written by the lovely Stephanie Blick. 

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