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Forecastle Festival 2010: A Happy, Hip, Hippie Haven
Louisville Kentucky's Waterfront Park, for the first time in its short-lived history, hosted the largest event it's ever known. The Forecastle Festival, now in its 9th year, transformed Louisville's 70+ acre downtown riverfront park into a hot and humid hippie haven, boasting over 27,500 attendees, the large majority of whom represented the teenage/young-adult-pot-smoking, liver-torturing, minimal-apparel-wearing, sustainable-living- promoting, live-music-enthusiast sub-culture.
500 Miles to Memphis, the alt-country punk concoction from Cincinnati certainly lives up to their name, residing almost exactly 500 miles from Memphis, Tennessee, that is. Aside from vocalist Ryan Malott somewhat sounding like Billy Joe from Green Day at times, their performance lacked a little of the luster that their punk-roots are usually known for. Maybe it was because of the swarm of river bugs that kept invading the stage during their set or the somewhat small audience that arrived to hear them play on the East Stage. They'll probably have a much better performance at their next gig in Louisville on August 28 at the Third St. Dive.
Arnett Hollow, one of many Louisville-based artists, charmed their significantly sizable dancing audience, even though they had a competing set time with Dead Confederate and Manchester Orchestra. Arnett Hollow gracefully blends new-age bluegrass with a world music sound, accentuated by a fiddle player who sounds like he's straight out of the 19th century.
Dangerbird, yet another Louisville-based band, was a better fit for the North Stage. With an arsenal of Gibson guitars, they have a bluesy and classic rock style that can, at times, seem a little Led Zeppelin-esque. Brian Gray's vocals were diverse and his range of styles kept pace with the instrumental variations. Overall, they get a thumbs-up.
Dead Confederate delivered an intense set of their emo style country-rock, set to a perfect sunset along the Louisville skyline on the festival's East Stage. Although they're from Athens, Georgia, they don't have an overbearing Southern style. Vocalist Hardy Morris embodies childhood innocence, singing with his eyes hidden from the audience by his bangs for most of the set. Dead Confederate has managed to transform downbeat rhythms into emotionally charged and high intensity songs that draw you in. They had one of the best performances of the entire event and probably deserved to be on the main stage.
The Broken Spurs, one of Louisville's best up-and-coming straight rock 'n' roll bands – who just recently shared the stage with AC/DC in Freedom Hall – seemed slightly misplaced on the smaller North Stage, given the large crowd they drew. Rocking out on their collection of Gibson guitars, coupled with lead vocalist Adam Kramer's Mick Jagger-ish sounding vocals, the Spurs brought their usual high-energy style, which was exemplified by the entire band's obvious joy for playing. Never mind the "You Ain't S**t" t-shirt that Kramer wore. These guys are quite entertaining.
The Pass, another Louisville, Kentucky based group, surprised with a flashy onstage performance of their new-age style of pop rock. Playing to a pretty sizable audience, the band brought an eccentric presence and had a several songs that were quite appealing. There were times when vocalist Kyle Peters voice sounded dead-on like The Cure's Robert Smith.
The Ravenna Colt, from Shelbyville, Kentucky, was probably the top act of the North Stage. drawing quite a large crowd of on-lookers. The band features ex-My Morning Jacket founding member and guitarist Johnny Quaid, who takes up both guitars and vocals in this alt-country-blues rock band. Quaid zestfully showed his old school rock roots with songs laden with guitar solos from his Gibson SG. The rest of his band just followed his lead. Since releasing their debut album Slight Spell in February 2010, the band has only made a handful of regional live performances. They're definitely a talented group, so hopefully they'll hit the road a little more frequently.
That's a wrap on some of the more memorable musicians and performances, with the exception of acknowledging the Flaming Lips' typical visual and auditory spectacle, which started with them emerging onstage from between some digitally projected – eh-hum – female "flaming lips." Then there was the Smashing Pumpkins' shocking and downright boring set that Billy Corrigan led that sent some people packing midway through their set.
Having not yet been to anything like Bonnaroo or Woodstock, I get the sense that this is what it would be like, but on a smaller scale. Yes, Forecastle Festival has that kind of growth potential. The music, the message, and the crowd just keep growing in both size and quality in all its distinct forms. Musicians, activists, artists, and concert-enthusiasts take note of this event. The Forecastle Festival has built a reputation for being a major social destination. If this sounds like your audience or your interest, then you've got to attend this festival, next year.