Forecastle Festival 2010: Saturday
Words and photos by Rex Thomson
Speaking to the learning portion of the Forecastle Festival, the Sustainable Living Road Show was on Hand to provide day long lectures and free shows, yoga sessions and workshops for reducing our overall impact on our home. Simple things like light bulbs and proper recycling were discussed, along with more immersive steps such as solar paneling and water collectors. Not all of us can commit to such drastic changes, or are ready to spend the money to convert their appliances. But there is so much you can do for free that will help! Do you really need a twenty minute shower? Can you make one trip to the grocery for the week instead of four? Small things. The Giving Tree Band was on hand on their similar tour to spread awareness of conservation, touring in a full Bio-Diesel bus. Their Bluesy Energized Bluegrass rock hybrid was a welcome sound to my ears. Sitting on a bale of hey and listening to JamGrass under the wide blue skies is as good a way to start a day in Kentucky as can be found.
Umm... Modern English was there. The best thing to do is just come out and say this. I am old. It was very cool, and blisteringly hot at the same time! I remember “I’ll stop the world and melt with you” from when it came out, and I saw “Valley girl” pretty soon after it came out! So, yeah, this was nostalgic for me. Actually, over the course of this day, I would see Modern English, Devo, Cake and The Smashing Pumpkins. Kinda wild actually! Nice too, in that unlike a lot of festival bills, rather than stuff as many of the same type of acts into one lace as possible, you were presented with the option of seeing a lot of the regulars, true, but some unique and bucket list worthy acts. I mean... Come on... DEVO!!!
One of the things I love about festivals is the wonderful opportunity to meet new people, try new things and hear new music. With the power of the all knowing Oracle in my home (The Internet) I can easily research all the acts at a festival, and plan my day.that way. In fact, as a pseudo-journalist, I SHOULD do all that research! Kinda my bit, isn’t it? But I like surprises. I love the feel of discovering something new. And there were 2 separate, similar joyous discoveries to make. Mucca Pazza and The March Madness Marching Band brought out the school spirit inside all of us, psychedelic music festival style! Near the main entrance to the festival, The March Madness Marching Band had set up shop, and their booth was quite visible, not just from its decoration, but from the throng of wildly costumed by standers. Having seen a couple of these loony tunes marching bands in the past, I knew what to expect. I first encountered this kind of thing at the Chicago Blues and Bluegrass festival in the form of the Environmental Encroachment Magic Circus Band. As a music lover, yes, even marching band music, (marching bands are cool) and a lover of cacophony of all kinds, this was heaven to me. Shooting two wild eyed sets of psychedelically dressed crazy peoples, while they blare and screetch and rock out to original and hilariously chosen cover songs is pretty much the essence of bliss to me, and Saturday was my day! If skiing for a while then stopping and shooting a rifle is an Olympic sport, the playing in a marching band should be as well. Let’s get a petition going!
Anyway, there were more traditional acts on the bill, some playing in unusual spots. The oft headlining Umphrey’s McGee.php gave fans an enjoyable afternoon of immersive progressive rock and on a time twists and turns of sound. Umphreys does one thing better than most any band on the scene today, they execute their songs with razor sharp precision. The twists are always crisp, and rarely do you see anyone fall behind as the blaze through their setlists. Not really sure why people keep handing me those lil gross marshmallow Easter candies thingees during their shows either. Weird.
Meanwhile... On the Ocean Stage Area Mixoligist/DJ/Madman Amtrak was making sound collages of madness and majesty! And, speaking of majesty, over on the main stage we have the arrival of the queen of the day, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Grace Potter and The Noctornals are touring the country promoting their eponymous cd and playing the festival circuit. Potter sings with passion, and plays the organ and Guitar with the same fire. The Noctornals spread themselves out as a canvas and take turns painting musical portraits. Always impressive live, I left the set elevated by their inspirational message and iridescent front woman. Like, spiritually uplifted even. Thusly walking on air I choose to walk down by the river. Ever since I stopped living in that god forsaken van I have missed the river, and my former career as a motivational speaker. Funny how life takes you down paths you don’t expect. The area of the waterfront chosen to host the Forecastle festival is called the great lawn, and it is indeed great. A vast expanse of lawn facing the river, with paths through a variety of hillocks and play area to it’s right. An elevated expressway provides a backstop to downtown hustle and bustle, and the surrounding trees and Ohio River view make the front all the more appealing. Music and flowing water, surrounded by my friends... this was festival bliss. And, if I had forgotten something? A twenty minute round trip home and back! So of course, I didn’t forget anything. Or get lost, now that I think about it! Alright!!
Time to have my Cake and metaphorically eat it too. Digest them anyway, in my own aural way! As said, I have been seeing shows for a long time, and was around and seeing them in their heyday. My love of sing a long happy time is a lifelong one. And, way back when, in the long long ago of the early nineties, Cake was fun on a bun. “Frank Sinatra”, “Never there”, “The Distance”, even a ”Jolene”! If this show had happened in 1995 I would have been happy; but I was really touched to see it here and now. Not touched inappropriately or anything;or even touched in the head like the next band I wanna gab about, DEVO.
A lot of reviews say the same thing. They urge you to follow in the experience of the reviewer with words like “Seriously, if ever offered the chance…go see DEVO”. I do it, most all reviewers do it one way or another. It's the trap of writing a review versus writing a straight journalist piece. You allow your opinions to become a valid basis for argument, and, if your experience was positive, you would naturally want the reader to follow in the experience. However in this regard, if your consider yourself any kind of true music aficionado; you owe it to music itself to see DEVO. I am serious here. Devo showed their adroitness early, and conquered the art form of the music video from day one. When art and music began to intersect with the advent of MTV, there were no bands more perfectly suited for the form. A short reign as the quirkiest band in the world, and a solid career of tunes and weirdness perpetrated found Devo on a sort of semi retirement. Reentering the studio to record their first new studio disc in years, and focus testing for every song just to be different, DEVO entered the show full of fire, blying the years past. Yes they did the bizarre “Michael Jackson Rap” Yes there were multiple costumes changes and strange video sequences that boggled and challenged. They played “Whip it” and “Satisfaction (I can’t get no)” and satisfied me down to my very core.
Over on the Ocean stage, John Grisanti, Joey Buttram of Hidden Relic Productions, And Light man extraordinaire Herm were conspiring to make EOTO’s set the true must see event of the day. Joey, and the wizard Hem hail from Indiana, while Grisanti is a Louisvillian at the moment, like myself. The Ocean stage was home to the electronica themed sets, such as the pulsing dance party freak out that is EOTO. Easily my favorite side project of any band out there, it’s the perfect example of two friends having an idea.
“Hey, we could just do our own thing with some sequencers and some midi gear”
“Dude, I’m in!”
And that’s how I see EOTO born. Out of sheer “Let’s do-it-itiveness! They arrived at the opening of the festival, and partied with the people all weekend long. And then, after posing for pictures and dancing to the grooves themselves, they took the stage and showed just how much funk they had in themselves. It was apparently a lot. Like some ridiculous massinve show. This was the hands down winner for off the hook sets at the Ocean stage Saturday. Just hands up, bumpin’ and grooving. Throbbing bass and beat, tranced out blessed out spaced out faces as far as the eye could see. As the time ran round I sadly had to go perform a weird duty.
The Smashing Pumpkins is one of those bands whom fame suits ill. I have seen them progress over the years in both acclaim and audience size. From crowds of forty, to four hundred, to four thousand, to nineteen thousand, to finally forty thousand I have seen them play. They writ themselves large across the nineties, and were a part of an entire music generation. And with that kind of fame comes the ego issues to correspond. Rather than rehash the things we all know about the band, I will state this. The ONLY remaining original band member is the singer songwriter who happens to own the name, Billy Corgan. At all of those shows I mentioned seeing there was one constant, Billy Corgan complaining. This always struck me badly. I understand when a performer needs to use the mic to voice a complaint. Sometimes there’s an issue. Sometimes they want to make a political statement. All well and good. But to have seen them eleven times now, and not to once ever seen a show without him voicing a complaint from the stage, that just seems ludicrous! And just last year he had the whole band dressed in purple spangly 70’s outfits with capes. Normally, that’s good for me, but seriously, you have never seen a crew less happy to be in capes than these people. Admittedly, I am a gret fan of some of the songs written by Mr.Corgan, and was intriqued to see what he would do with this stage, and this crowd. A string of my old faves, and some interesting, if not nearly as universal new songs went by before he reminded me of what he does with stages…he uses them to complain, tonight about the danger of glowsticks. Not the actual argument of environmental concern, but about the possibility of injurinfg an eye. Billy Corgan as the music equivalent of Ralphies mom from “A Christmas story”? Jeez at least she had the milfy thing going for her. All Corgan has is talent and ownership of the band name, and the willingness to go on.