By: Joseph Kathmann
Another year, another Forecastle. Set on the Ohio riverfront in beautiful Waterfront Park in downtown, Louisville, Forecastle has been a personal favorite of mine for years. Though, as Bunbury Music Festival has expanded in Cincinnati, the biggest loser seems to be Forecastle. But they took a different approach this year, forgoing big name headliners (the top artist this year was Alabama Shakes) and instead trying to focus on a solid under bill of small to mid-size artists. I don't know if this strategy worked Friday or Saturday, but with Death Cab for Cutie and Ryan Adams headlining Sunday, the festival appeared to be pretty empty despite the solid under bill. In fact, I don't think I have ever seen the festival as empty as it was, and I honestly felt like I was 1 of 4 people who purchased a one day Sunday pass. That said, I had a blast once again this year, despite a few hiccups along the way.
What I Liked
Death Cab for Cutie
This was by far my biggest surprise of the day. Both Derek and myself have not been super high on Death Cab in recent years, and we both found their latest album, Kintsugi, to be lackluster at best. Not only that, but I had seen Death Cab once before way back in 2012 at Summerfest in Milwaukee, and I felt back then they left a lot to be desired. Well look how far they've come. Their live show was actually a GREAT joy to watch, and I found myself dancing along to songs I haven't listened to in years. While I still find a lot of their studio music lackluster, I will not hesitate to admit that their live show has come a LONG way.
This was the very first band I came in on during the day. And they were definitely one of the best from the under bill. But this is more of a platform to talk about that. One thing Forecastle excelled in this year was spontaneous discovery. For example, after watching Heartless Bastards I walked over to the main stage just to see what was going on, and was treated to an awesome Jamaican band called Femi Kuti & The Positive Force. I didn't know much of anything about The Suffers, but they had just stated playing when I walked into the festival and I suddenly found myself dancing to their soulful music. Someone did their homework for this year's Forecastle, ensuring that some of the best small acts from multiple genres were represented at the festival. Kudos on that one, guys.
What I Disliked
The Ocean Stage
This is a stage that has always kind of irked me at Forecastle. Its under an overpass so while it's a nice place to cool off during the hot Louisville summer sun, the sound quality has always been something of a joke. As a result, this stage has mostly played host to EDM bands (for some reason) and so I've mostly stayed away from it. Well, this year, Patrick Watson and Unknown Mortal Orchestra found themselves playing on this stage, and my beliefs in how terrible this stage is were confirmed. For starters, in addition to bad sound reverb there were actual sound problems with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, as the entire bassist's mic setup went out just a few songs into their set. The band truly struggled for the rest of the day, and ultimately I left extremely disappointed. At Patrick Watson, the poor band was so scrunched up on the tiny stage that they couldn't deliver any amount of intensity to the crowd, and you could tell they were a little frustrated. As much as I love the idea behind this stage, it's time for a revamp. Artists need more room to move, and something has to be done about the terrible sound quality. Maybe something on the underneath of the overpass?
The Lack of Much of Any Arts + Culture
Look, I get it. Most of us don't go to a music festival for the art. That's oftentimes just a side note. But the art side of Forecastle is smaller than ever, with just a few tents displaying art in one small corner of the festival. There was a great emphasis on bourbon this year at least, as there should be in the bourbon capital of the world, but the beer world got a MAJOR ax at the festival as well. I was very bummed to see a total of 4 craft breweries show up at the festival this year, each only bringing along 2 of their staple beers and allowed to pour 4 oz. pours. The de-emphasis on arts and culture this year really showed Forecastle's shrinking in stature. Perhaps in future years you should place more emphasis on the culture part of the festival if you can't bring in top acts? Just a thought.
That said, I still had a blast at Forecastle and I really enjoyed the more intimate festival atmosphere. We'll see how Forecastle tries to get out of the shadow of the major festivals surrounding it next year, but I know I will show up dancing on the banks of the Ohio River for at least a day regardless of what happens.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: