Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Forecastle Festival 2010: Friday

Words and pictures by Rex Thomson

Well, another Forecastle Music Festival is in the books, and, once again, my Hometown of Louisville, KY has shown we do indeed know how to party! We do actually close the town down once a year for a horse race, after all! We have our priorities straight! But, even more important, the residents of my fair city proved once again that they care about more than having a good time. In its more than a decade long existence, Forecastle has always had as its focus love. The love of your fellow creature that causes you to step out of your routine and actually help! This spirit of activism lies within us all, just as the love resides in all our hearts, just waiting for something, some act or example, to trigger it. A little inspiration goes a long way, and truly, inspiration abounds at the Forecastle Festival. It exists to help people connect with causes and educational experiences to broaden the scope of their knowledge of the world on which we live and are a part of. In the name of education and entertainment the festival was founded, and now the gathering has grown to attract tens of thousands over the weekend!

Living here in the city I attended one of the first festivals, centered in one of our cities magnificent parks designed by legendary Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York’s famed Central park, among many others. A journalist like myself, only, like…respected, Olmstead traveled the country seeking truth and designing things of beauty. A noble path to walk, surely. And along the path at Cherokee Park some ten years prior, you would have found Forecastle founder JK McKnight working steadily away, helping set up the booths for the activists and conservation groups who wanted to get their message out, checking speaker connections and helping the bands set up, all for a crowd nearly outnumbered by the band members and volunteers. Mcknight started small, and humbly too. He worked himself ragged, and in the finest example of the American Dream, “Work hard and you will be rewarded”, he has prospered. From ignoble beginnings has come a destination festival for jam fans, Indy kids and the Untz! Generation alike, a place to congregate and dance under the glorious sun, long into the night under the unfolding mystery of the stars.

The chance to see something like this grow in front of your eyes is rare, and an amazing thing to witness. From the small speaker array to the towering stacks of cabinets reaching to the sky, the fests progression has been one of steady growth. From a roster of local talent, to a line ups of cross genre giants and local heroes, eclecticism was the rule of the weekend, and I embraced it whole heartedly. The first band of the festival I managed to catch was Kinetix, a Colorado based band of honest down to earth rockers. Their sound was seriously heavy but with a funky, soulful edge that made their sound inspiring and energizing. A perfect way to start off a festival, the crowd was up and moving from the git go. Being a city festival, not one of the sleep away ragers, Friday started a little later in the day than most, allowing rush hour traffic to speed out of the city. With a magnificent backdrop of the Ohio River, the two main stages offered spectacular backdrops for the action that unfolded. After opening the second stage with style and aplomb, Kinetix showed some enthusiasm and stayed on thru out the weekend to have some fun! In the same vein, we I arrived at the media check in I ran into Jason Haan from Eoto and the String Cheese Incident. Being an inquisitive, journalistic type, I asked him if there had been a schedule change and his set was now today, or if their late night on the river bat had been moved up.

“Nope” he replied.

Sensing a story I queried “Any cool sit ins I should know about then?”

“Nah, man, we’re just here to enjoy the fest!” Haan said with a big ear to ear grin.

And he totally meant it. The rest of the next two days Haan and Michael Travis (Also of EOTO and The String Cheese Incident) were everywhere, talking with fans, raging the shows, and having fun in the sun.

Scott Miller and the Commonwealth showed the folks who made it to the Main stage opener how Americana was done, with a rocking undertone that gave the music a backbone and solidity that was refreshing. The variety of the acts must be mentioned, as this is one of the more diverse shindigs I have attended. There seems to be a limited pool of bands that headline the music festival scene, and it takes a daring promoter to buck the trends that seem prevalent. The reuse of these acts is done for a reason…they draw. And not to say that some festival heroes are not being used, as both Widespread panic, who headlined this night, and The Flaming lips, the weekends closing set are festival regulars. But the inclusion of Modern English, Devo and the Smashing Pumpkins was a bold move and a nod to McKnight’s youth.

The Drive by Truckers were on hand, and Patterson Hood was, as always, there ti destroy things with his playing prowess. The Truckers operate as a heat seeking missile, and find the part of you that just wants to rock, and homes in on that with smart bomb precision. I love the honesty of the song writing, and the passion with which they play. Having checked out the two main stages I wandered by the other two stages, the Ocean Stage, with the able Hidden Relic productions and Herm taking care of the lights and such, while other friend of the site John Grisanti took care of the ocean stages back stage production. More on them in the Saturday review! Not far away sat the Kentucky stage, where such acts as Arnett Hollow, The News Vehicles and Parlour, the state was well represented. The setting sun made a spectacular light how to finish the day, and was best viewed on the Kentucky stage, as if saying that the sun shines bright on Kentucky, a cherished sentiment in these parts.

Finally it was time for friend of the festival, and most traditional of the weekend’s headliner, Widespread Panic. No stranger to the river city, Panic has been playing here in town for most all of their career, playing to crowds of forty or less back in their college party days, to their last shows here in legendary ornate music hall the Louisville Palace. Southern Rock writ large, American gothic meets guitar boogie, Widespread has a voice that is as unique as it is rocking. Having been there and done that for so long, the band has forged into a family, close knit and in perfect communication with each other. This was my fifth show of the year, and as usual, I was speedily lost in their jams. Jimmy Herring, guitarist extraordinaire was on fire, John Bell was his usual self, cracking wise and singing the gravel throated blues, and the band played on. Schools positioned himself in the mix and on the stage as a force of Gravity, centering the jams and keeping the bottom low. Jo Jo Hermann tinkled the keys with style and the duo of DOMINGO S. ORTIZ and TODD NANCE were a wall of sound unto themselves. Though my goal was to cover as many acts as possible, I lingered a little extra for a tasty “Chainsaw City” and left sad that I would not be rocking the rail to the bitter end, as I would usually be doing. Ah well!

Admonished by my friend Kate to be sure and see “They’re so totally hot!”, I swung by their second stage set directly from Panic’s mayhem. I have seen Lucero in the past, and was pleased to see them once again in down home rock and roll grime and grit. They practically sound dirty. Their music is rock at its most elemental, done superbly well. While not impressed as my friend with their visual appeal, I was totally taken in once again by their music, and the fact that the show was taking place outdoors aided in letting some of the massive heat they brought disperse into the sky!

Deciding to once again shift gears, I followed the steady stream of dancing people to the Ocean stage for the New Deal’s closing set! Set between a couple of small hillocks, the Ocean stage funneled the fans in close, and the lights by Herm and Hidden Relic worked their magic alongside the beats, as arms were waved with abandon, and the crowd was alive with motion. Though there were bigger cheers and crowds at the other stages, no stage all weekend matched the Ocean stage for energy and dancing. All day long, any day you could find beats being dropped on appreciative ears and twirling feet! The New Deal showed why they are one of my favorite jamtronica acts, giving the computer samples and processes a human, urbane focus on which to rest. Humanity making technology call the tune, and the madness it inspired was like a closed circuit of perfection, and it was a marvel to behold.

After the last echo faded, I gathered my supplies and made the, what, eight minute drive home? I have had longer WALKS at camping festivals! No tent, and none of the camaraderie forged by roughing it with thousands, true. But, curled up in my own bed with my Dog at my feet was not a bad way to end the day, all things considered.


  1. nice shots! I'm Mick, the bass drummer for March Madness.

  2. Loved what you did! Fully intend to set up a photo shoot with you for one of your Sunday practices. Got an idea or two I wanna try!

  3. Great live recordings from top festivals, concerts and in-studio performances...Woodstock, Bonnaroo, Telluride, Mountain Jam...Widespread, Phish, The Dead, Gov't Mule, and many more...24/7 on Internet radio channel Radio Woodstock LIVE...available at Peace, love, music...Life is a Festival.