The Forecastle Festival returned to Louisville’s Waterfront Park with a genre-spanning lineup that had something for everyone. Headlining this year’s event were Vegas showmen The Killers, multi-instrumentalist hip-hop star Anderson .Paak. and The Avett Brothers.
Every year Forecastle get’s bigger and better and this year was no different. Updated festival maps found food vendors grouped to the side stages (instead of lumped in the middle of the festival grounds) enhanced production led to some of the most-intricate stage designs in the festival’s 16 years (what about that shifting riser during .Paak?!) and as always, you didn’t have to go far to find some of Kentucky’s favorite spirit – bourbon.
Musically, the Forecastle lineup is as diverse as any major music festival anywhere in the world. From up-and-coming Country stars (Tyler Childers), to hardcore hiphop (Playboi Carti) to god honest rock & roll (Portugal. the Man), there was something for everyone. Here were the best shows the Dead Audio Team caught over the weekend.
Every year Forecastle books a primarily-electronic artist that is about to blow up, this year it was Big Wild – and they were who we thought they were. What could have easily been a push-play DJ set on the Ocean Stage turned out to be one of the most technical shows of the weekend. Staring out with the ultra-lush “City of Sound” the first track off their newest LP Superdream, Jackson Stell (playing literally everything on stage) who is the centerpiece of the group, wasted no time in giving us a masterclass ion multi-tasking as he simultaneously sang vocals, played percussion and created remixes in realtime. It would be easy for Stell to cut corners – he could have hit “play” for the dreamy, layered female vocals that haunt nearly every track on the album. Yet throughout the set, three incredibly talented women played instruments and crooned and went through with three (!!) wardrobe changes. A set highlight came when the house speakers played the classic“Born to Be Wild” before Stell jumped on the electronic drum pads to give us live, EDM-inspired percussion, all while he tore the song a part with his impeccable DJ skills – truly one of the best performances of the weekend.
“We’ve been playing Louisville for over 10 years now, I remember the last time we played Forecastle, we were on a little stage wayyyy back there” called out Trevor Terndrup (lead vocals, guitar) of Moon Taxi during their Mast Stage set on Friday of Forecastle, “this one’s for all the OG’s!” before busting into a full-crowd singalong of “Morrocco” – a longtime fan favorite. Taxi had the unique opportunity to throw Forecastle a one-two punch over the weekend. The first right hook was their festival-and-family-friendly daytime set that was filled with radio-play faves like “All Day, All Night” and new, unreleased tracks. A crowd-stopping moment came when everyone but Tyler Ritter (drums) left the stage as he performed an other-worldly drum solo to a haunting remix of “Elenor Rigby”. But the knockout punch came on Friday evening at the Official After Party set on The Belle of Louisville which was bookended with a vivacious cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and a head banging version of Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade”. Taxi has come a long way from the small stage, and we don’t anticipate any slowing down from these Nashville boys.
I’ve been to Las Vegas, but up until this year’s Forecastle I had never really given thought to what it SOUNDED like. Before; I guess I would’ve said slot machines and Elvis Presley, but now I know it’s The Killers. This is Anthem-Rock at it’s finest. These are the songs that were MEANT to be remixed. These are the songs you stumble home singing with new and old friends. The Killers don’t need a disco ball, they are one.
This is a band that I feel often gets overlooked. I hadn’t had them in regular rotation until recently when I knew I would be seeing them. However, at a live show you’ll find everyone singing along. They are a part of us, our history, our musical fabric and I predict they’ve earned their Palms/Cosmo/Aria residency whenever they’re ready for it. – by Joel Stevens
It had been several years since The Funklordz had graced Forecastle. Even though there was much excitement leading up to Chromeo’s performance, the sweltering heat was cause for concern: would the harsh, unrelenting humidity put a damper on their set? Would it send festival-goers scattering for some shade? It was setting up to be a battle of Chromeo versus the Sun. Who would win?
Playing on Friday at 6:15 on the Boom Stage, Chromeo’s Dave 1 and a shirtless P-Thugg really kicked off the weekend with a set full of crowd-pleasing electro-funk. As it turned out, the 90-plus degree heat didn’t stop the crowd from cutting loose to old standbys such as “Night by Night” and “Fancy Footwork,” along with newer cuts like “Juice”. You would have never known that it was July in Kentucky the way the crowd pulsed and moved to the cool synth keyboard sounds of “Jealous” and “Over Your Shoulder.”
When Chromeo finally ended the set with “Must’ve Been,” the crowd slowly began to disperse. Festival-goers were drenched in sweat, their faces red from moving dancing so frantically in the heat. But the look on everyone’s faces was one of complete elation and satisfaction. Chromeo had won the tug-of-war with the heat. The Funklordz had been everything we hoped they would be. The Sun was no match. – by Ben Hayes
Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals
It’s been 5 years since Forecastle booked a hip-hop headliner (Outkast, 2014) and Anderson .Paak proved he was the right choice to top the lineup for 2019. Primarily pulling from his three recent albums Venice, Malibu and the recent Oxnard, .Paak took us on a funk-fueled trip through the sounds of his hometown on LA. Ever the Renaissance Man, he started his set out on an LED-wrapped riser on the drums, soon descending to stage-level to grab the mic for the first song of the night, an energetic, pyro-laden version of “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance”. While the rapper was the focal point of the show, there’s no doubt that his house band, The Free Nationals, are some of most talented musicians in the game. The night ended with Anderson .Paak performing “Dang!”, a touching Mac Miller tribute, leaving the crowd yelling his catch phrase into the late night – “YES LAWD!”
Portugal. the Man
Before the show even began, the Lords of Portland via Alaska-natives had a point to get across. The band donated a chunk of stage time to the leader of a local Native American tribe from their home state to share a traditional song of hope and peace. Soon after, the psych rockers put on the most metal and cover-heavy shows of the weekend. Blasting off with Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” into their own “Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue” with elements of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall pt. 2″ Portugal. the Man we’re off to an explosive start. Their sweltering, early-evening set focused primarily on hits from their last two albums, 2017’s Woodstock and 2013’s Evil Friends infused with classics like The Stone’s “Gimme Shelter”, Ghostface Killah’s “Kilo” and “I Want You” by The Beatles. Throughout the hour-long performance, the band was treated to shots of Jameson straight from the bottle as video screens flashed messages encouraging people to “discuss politics at dinner” while they took us to church during an organ-heavy version of “Holy Roller (Hallelujah)”. A set surprise came at the end of the show when The Lords played backing band for Lousiville-native hip-hop artist Jack Harlow who joined PTM to rap his song “Sundown” on the big stage.
As a last-minute replacement to Denzel Curry, Big Freedia had a challenge ahead of her. Curry’s album ZUU was released at the beginning of the summer to critical acclaim, and he was one of the most anticipated rap shows on the Forecastle lineup. After he cancelled due to injury, however, Forecastle scrambled to find a decent act that could bring the excitement that was buzzing around Curry. Luckily, the Queen Diva was available.
Big Freedia’s unique style of hip-hop, New Orleans Bounce music, is perfect for a festival show. To put it simply, it is music that encourages lots and lots of booty shaking, also known as twerking. Her backup dancers, clad in tie-dye spandex outfits, did exactly that. Cycling through hits such as “Rent” and “Karaoke,” Freedia and her crew quickly won over the entire crowd with spectacular ass-centric choreography. By the time she invited volunteers from the crowd onstage for a twerk contest, the crowd’s energy was palpable. Big Freedia had exceeded the expectations of those that came looking for a party. By the time it was all over, everyone had sworn their allegiance to the Queen of Bounce. Long may she reign. -by Ben Hayes
Scottish electro-pop trio CHVRCHES brought some much-needed energy just as the day was beginning to cool Sunday evening. Even as the band stoked the crowd, lead singer Lauren Mayberry conveyed a merry sincerity between songs that truly brought home the feeling of a shared experience. Doting playfully on the audience as she lamented her poor choice of a tutu in the heat or when she waved along with a wacky-armed inflatable red float the masses had propped up. Between her warm personality and the music’s vibrance, their set was a much-needed transition from the heat of the day into the final night of the weekend as they closed their set with “Never Say Die”. – by Matt Keith