Last weekend I attended Forecastle Fest, a three-day musical extravaganza, in Louisville, KY. It was my second straight year for Forecastle, and my second straight year of loving it. They have 4 stages with music going from 1PM until midnight all three days. For an old man like me who likes to keep up with what the kids are listening to these days, it’s a smokin’ hot smorgasbord. Hot was the operative word for the weekend too, as the temps were in the 90s and the humidity was off the charts. Saturday was an official “heat emergency” day in L-ville. But I did my best to stay hydrated.


Musical highlights:

The War on Drugs – great set from this Philly band. Lead singer’s voice reminds me a bit of Dylan, but I think he sounds more like Mike Scott from The Waterboys.

My Morning Jacket – love these fellers, and they played an epic 2 1/2 hour set for an extremely enthusiastic hometown crowd. The setlist was a great representation of the many facets of this band and their career. And lead singer Jim James had some great things to say about treating other human beings with kindness, too.

First Aid Kit – two sisters from Sweden, backed by a Scottish drummer and a Brit on guitar/keyboards/mandolin. They folkin’ rocked, with great originals and covers both expected (Simon & Garfunkel’s “America”) and unexpected (Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”). Here’s one of my favorite songs of theirs:

Alvvays – I took a half day vacation from work on Friday because I wanted to get to Louisville for Alvvay’s 1:30 set. When I got there, they had been moved to 8:30. It was well worth the wait.

Sturgill Simpson – this is real-deal Country music, not the pre-fab pap/pop that tries to pass as country these days.



Field Report – much like Sun Kil Moon last year at Forecastle, this was a sleeper set. Very mellow, but extremely compelling listening. Would love to see this band at a club.


For good old R-A-W-K, there were four bands that delivered the goods in high-energy style:

White Reaper, King Tuff, Jeff The Brotherhood and Diarrhea Planet.

I also enjoyed the sets from Shovels & Rope, Cage the Elephant, The Tallest Man on Earth, Cold War Kids, Modest Mouse and The Lone Bellow.

Random notes:

  • Sweden wins the foreign invader award, as First Aid Kit and The Tallest Man on Earth both were fantastic.
  • Parker Millsap and  Knox Hamilton get the nod for up-and-comers.
  • I highly recommend that you pick up a set of EarPeace HD earplugs. For less than $20, you can still hear the bands just fine (unlike when you stuff cotton balls in your ears or use cheap earplugs that block the sound vs. filter it) and you’ll protect your ears. Wish these were around 30 years ago.

Complaints that make me sound like the old man that I am:

  • I know tobacco is still a big cash crop in Kentucky, but the smokers drove me crazy. No matter where I stood, somehow I was always downwind from a batch of nicotine addicts. Wish festivals would ban smoking, or at the very least create an enclosed “cancerdome” bubble where smokers could congregate.
  • On Friday night, a big thunderstorm rolled through during Sam Smith’s headlining set (looks like Mother Nature and I have something in common: we both don’t particularly care for Brit soul singers). Heavy winds caused some damage to the stages. So Saturday, Forecastle organizers delayed the opening of the gates by nearly an hour. Which would be fine except they didn’t communicate this until hundreds of folks were already lined up to enter, and they just let us sit there baking in the hot sun on an unshaded sidewalk the entire time. I’m surprised we didn’t all melt and/or pass out from sunstroke. I know the storm was out of their control, but their response to it was lame. At the very least, move the queues to the shade, and hand out bottled water.

OK, enough complaining. Overall it was a great experience, and I just might go for three in a row next year!