Review by Anthony Welsh
The Forecastle Music Festival in Louisville Kentucky can be summed up in two words, “Extra Cheesy!” Three wild nights of Cheesy flowing vibes and Cheesy good feelings left us in a cloudy mist of what Forecastle was all about. I stress “in my opinion” and surely the other String Cheese Heads would agree, that their performances along with the sets by Robert Plant, The Black Keys and The Avett Brothers, were truly amazing spectacles to witness.
Originally, only buying tickets to see String Cheese Incident at the Enchanted Palace on Saturday July 13th, I would soon succumb to the pressures of close friends, pretty barefooted women, and an overflow of Kentucky’s finest bourbon to enter the festival; not that it took much persuasion.
Entering the gate, the surroundings and environment were a bit different from your average festival experience with it being in the city, so enjoying the comforts and pleasures of being in isolated woods or big grassy fields with a hammock or tent away from society would cease to exist. However, it did come with some great perks of its own.
Forecastle provided us with a spectacular view overlooking the Ohio River, a plethora of great bars in walking distance, and the nicely placed highway 64 directly above us that provided shelter during Sunday’s rather enjoyable monsoon. Overall, the unique features of the Forecastle Music Festival are what sparked that certain attractiveness.
As a music enthusiast, stringed instruments are what really hit home for me, and Old Crow Medicine Show provided us with just that. As always, OCMS brings that down-home bluegrass twang you can’t help but raise a beer and stomp your feet to. One of the favorite highlights was when they paid tribute to the Ohio River during the old-timey song by Woody Guthrie “This Land is your Land.” They also blew us all away with “Wagon Wheel” into “Cocaine Habit.” The interworking and collaboration of OCMS bluegrass sound, as good as it was, would only prepare us for what was to come later that night.
The first of three Cheesy Nights was lingering in the near future. The String Cheese opened with the funky, hard-hitting, electro opener “Rosie” that turned the Forecastle Festival Light switch on, letting the Kentucky crowd know what was in store for the rest of the weekend following it up with some of The String Cheese’s most fan loved songs, “Best Feeling,” “Sirens” and the Old timey Irish tune “Valley of the Jig.” The first romping night of Forecastle would come to a beautiful ending with one of Cheeses most cherished hometown tributes “Colorado Blue Bird Sky” sure to get Red Rocks goers pumped for the weekend that lie ahead.
On day 2, after another glorious festival day with bands such as The Alabama Shakes, The Flaming Lips and The Black Keys and just a few short blocks from the festival grounds (right on Muhammad, Left of Fourth) sat one of the most spectacularly, mysterious venues than any of us had ever stepped foot in. Awaiting us was a “Mid-Night” to remember, as we walked into the most Cheesiest of Palaces, The Louisville “Palace” that has hosted legendary artists from the likes of The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan.
The crowd packed into the midsized Opera themed venue where Jason Hann & Michael Travis started the show with a little drum/percussion jam, until Michael Kang and the rest of the crew joined the stage and treated us with “Howard,” which was a rare song to open with and a sure way to awaken the jaded festivalgoer’s.
The Kyle Hollingsworth written song “Can’t wait another day” was played afterward. What happened during the meantime was a “Had-to be-there” kind of show. “Ramble On,” a Led Zeppelin staple, soon began to prosper, and led the crowd into thinking that a rock n’ roll legend may soon appear. Although Robert Plant himself did not show up, the Cheese rendition of “Ramble On” left the crowd in a confused frenzy. They finished the 3 hour show without taking one single set break and then told us to be prepared for the “Bluegrass & Beyond” set that would take place the following day.
As far as I am concerned, the trademark and pride of Forecastle Festival took place on day 3 with the shining sun beating down upon our shoulders. In an amazing tribute to the blue grass state of Kentucky, we were all buckled in for the Blue Grass set that was sure to take us above and beyond any grass we had come across thus far.
If a Cheese set isn’t enough by itself, a few of bluegrass’s familiar faces were there to tune in. The mandolin King Sam Bush accompanied by Jason Carter (Fiddle, Del McCoury Band), and Andy Thorn (Banjo, Leftover Salmon) provided the already grassy Cheese with more of a traditional Kentucky style bluegrass spin.
If seeing that amazing group of musicians all together on one stage didn’t make your hair rise, the intro into “Blackberry Possum” should have; a traditional old timing bluegrass number. And just in case you forgot at some point you were at an Incident, River Trance, MLT and Birdland didn’t fail to remind you, with Jason Carter creating his own Bill Monroe like version of the SCI Jams.
Bill Monroe is one name that has the upmost respect when it comes to bluegrass and The Forecastle Incident honored a God of Blue Grass and the whole State of Kentucky with their spin on “Blue Moon of Kentucky”.….Ready…Set…Go with Ronnie McCoury’s own “Quicksburg Rendezvous,” a little ditty that got the feet stompin’ and the dust flyin’.
With the dust still in the air, feet stomping in perpetual motion, Mr. Kang knew just what to do with this Incident. With the strummers strumming, the pickers picking and the mando-rolling, The String Cheese Incident and company took the crowd home with a Birdland
After Cheese, everyone headed toward the main stage to watch the great Robert Plant. In Mr. Plants performance, the legend would give a taste of the 70s experience in his repertoire of song and feel with 4 Zeppelin songs out of a 9 song set. Among the songs that were played were staples such as “Baby I’m gonna leave you”, “Black Dog” and the classic gem “Going to California” that hit the crowd with stone cold silence and wonder. Along with some new solo material that added a 60’s psychedelic groove, his set was then cut in half by a bumming change in the weather….A strong lightning storm forced eager music fans to evacuate the grounds until further notice, or to take shelter under the nearby underpass 64 bridge (Which 90% of the crowd did) that provided a safe hideout for the melting pot of music fans.
Bringing the fantastic Forecastle Festival to a close, the brothers from Concord, North Carolina provided everyone with the soothing comfort that we are all in this together and no one is alone. The Avett Brothers provided me with the nothing short of perfect comforting closing performance. Although different from the three-piece, “Live at the Double Door” Avett Brothers band we are accustomed to, the show slowly grew on me.
What really grabbed the attention of new and old fans alike was the fact that everyone got to see the Avett Brothers put down the six string and pick up the electric. To name a few songs to give an idea of the feel, “I killed sally’s lover” got the crowd very energetic in minds of their own Sally, “Distraction 74”, “At the Beach”, “When I Drink”, “Old Joe Clark”, “Pretty girl from Chili”, and “Blue Ridge Mountain Blue.” A bluegrass/rock-n-roll show, the Avett Brothers gave us a taste of a little bit of everything.
All in all, the Forecastle Festival successfully hit on all cylinders, providing us with friendly staff, convenient vendors and easily accessible stages, along with hours and hours of good times and unforgettable music. Forecastle sent us all home with ear to ear smiles on our faces, and with the kind of friends that last a lifetime.
For festival goers in the following summer season, Forecastle Festival should definitely be at the top of your list!