Erin Hill and her Psychedelic Harp w/ The Space Rats
CG: Although a New Yorker these days, Erin Hill is originally a Louisville girl and was glad to be back in town with her gang of diverse artists, from JP “Thunderbolt” Patterson originally of seminal NY punk band The Dictators to the gorgeous Meena Cho who Erin met while on tour with Kanye West, and several other incredibly talented artists with side-projects galore. While hip hop wouldn’t immediately come to mind with a harpist (or cello in Meena’s case), Erin is hardly ordinary, making a career out rethinking the harp, including an entire series of harp-based rock shows. Ironically, some hippies decided to be less than discreet with their drug usage and the arrest was mentioned on WHAS’ nightly news. I mention this for the fact that if you liked the song you heard scoring the newscast (which I wasn’t aware they do) it was Erin…and yes, it was the song “Giant Mushroom”!
CJ: Louisville’s Lady Killers put on one of the first DJ sets at the ashamedly unpopulated ocean stage. The local outfit puts on a very entertaining set, and as a somewhat new fan of live DJ shows, I thought the flow of their mixing was right up there with the best shows I’ve seen yet. The only aspect I felt was unexplored was their ability to work together. As much as I loved their set and relish the opportunity to give a great review to a local act, I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t work more cohesively together. While one DJ was mixing, the other was laying in wait, or text messaging. This prevented me from getting a decent action shot (aside from the gem of a photo above). Nonetheless, I’ve heard some big buzz about Lady Killers since Forecastle and fully expect to see them again.
Cage the Elephant
SK: It seems that CtE is blowing everyone away these days. They have been slaying Europe supposedly and have been creating a rabid fan-base which was evidence by quite a few people in the crowd singing along to every word of their set. I was a little surprised initially to see that they are from Bowling Green because I’d never heard them before. The sound was a little emo-punk for my taste, but everyone seemed to be having a good time which I am certainly not opposed to. I thought the singer was way over-the-top for their sound. I understand being an engaging front man is necessary, but is there a point when you are about 18 levels past the other guys in the band energy wise where it just seems weird? Yes, there is. CtE has totally conquered it too.
The Young Republic
SK: The Young Republic was one of the bands I was looking forward to seeing. I’d seen some video from them and heard a lot of folks mention just how they were some nice folks playing good tunes. That seemed to be very true. The lead singer had a swagger that was at once a little out of place with their sound and at the same time seemed to legitimize them as more than just a Twee-ish Nashville pop band. Their songs were gorgeous and mature in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I don’t remember any song titles or anything, but I remember all of the songs being really well written. I hope to see them again in a more personal setting.
SK: I was a little surprised that The Ocean Stage was not better attended, and I didn’t know anything about Amtrak, but what I do know is that I walked down to the stage for the first time as he segued from some dancy party freak out jams into a mashup containing “Everything In Its Right Place” and it was one of the most disarmingly legitimate DJ moves I’ve ever heard. This is highly due to the fact that “Everything” is such a ridiculously good song, but in Amtrak’s hands he made a believer out of me.
CJ: There’s not a whole lot more I can say that Scott hasn’t already said. The moment Amtrak’s mix segued into Radiohead’s “Everything In It’s Right Place”, my first thought was “that was the best musical transition I have ever heard”. When I got home from the festival later that evening, I jumped directly on myspace to see if Amtrak was a local act. Thankfully he is.
SK: I would have really loved to see this band on the smaller, more intimate East Stage. The Whigs are a no-holds barred rock and roll trio with out any of the flash that most bands seem to think is so necessary. Their songs were really solid, but seeing a band playing to a fairly empty field of casual onlookers always seems to take the sparkle out of it. The bass player had some tasty licks which was fun, but overall I feel like they were victims of their environment.
H: Cincinatti’s Bad Veins sported equipment that you trip over in your parents basement — a reel to reel player and rotary phone. But, the two piece sounds anything but antiquated. Deftly treading the line between Interpol & the Butthole Surfers, Bad Veins brought a force of blues-inspired indie rock. For only having two folks, you were never left wanting more. And though the technology may have been a couple years behind, it accentuated the sound perfectly. The phone made singer Ben Davis’s voice more melodic drawing us all into the sprawling anthem sounds of their tunes.
SK: I was expecting there to be a few bands that surprised me for better or worse and this was definitely one of the top ones. People had told me that they sounded a little like Coldplay and Snow Patrol which left me a little less curious than before, but let me set the record straight. Bad Veins is fantastic and completely wonderful. Of all the two-man bands out there, they just might be the most interesting with their brand of homemade-indie-rock and their melodies were so strong that I don’t think I’ll ever stop singing them. All stage-props aside (which were awesome), the band writes some incredible songs and is most likely going to be your favorite band once their new album drops. (Side note: right before they played The Lion’s Rampant, also from Cinci, totally killed as they tore through 30 minutes of sweaty, blues-y, slurred rock n roll. The blonde haired lead singer screeched and screamed through the set and made me a little afraid of rock n roll. Folks, this is a good thing.)
Zappa Plays Zappa
JF: Though I didn’t get to catch too much of this year’s Forecastle, I stopped by the waterfront just in time to catch a little of Zappa Plays Zappa. I do not know much of Zappa’s music, but I had a good time listening to the set. However, the man pictured above apparently did not like the singer. That bird of his was flying for a solid 15 minutes before the singer caught sight of it. Some speechless banter went back and forth between them, and it continued to soar for almost half of the set.
SK: Again, I don’t know what the deal was, but it was a shame that more people didn’t rock out to the Ocean Stage as some of the best DJs from anywhere were slinging stacks of tracks on wax. I caught the last half of Jesse Jamz’s set and got just what I was hoping for: beats piled high and some of the hottest remixes around.
H: THE HACKENSAW BOYS!!!!!!!
JF: You’re right, that picture of Pretty Lights looks like crap. But hey, it’s hard to take a decent picture when there are hundreds of people around you dancing like there’s no tomorrow. Fortunately, there was a tomorrow, so I am able to write about how great Pretty Lights were. I had heard great things about them from a friend that saw them at Bonnaroo, so I looked forward to seeing them. They did not disappoint in the least. It was a non-stop party as soon as they hit the stage. I think they played over the hour that was allotted to them, but nobody cared, we were all too busy dancing.
The Black Keys
H: Closing the night on Friday was Akron, OH’s Black Keys. The West Stage was slammed letting Dan and Pat work us as they would. As much as I like the Black Keys, there was something underwhelming about the live show. I’m not one of those that denigrates the Keys for sounding like the White Stripes. And frankly, if you are one of those people, get a life. They sound nothing alike other than the similar instrumentation. What caught me more about the Keys performance was how everything sound rather similar. Bombastic opening down to pianissimo and then blowing back up. Nothing against Dan and Pats obvious musical prowess, but I do wonder in a live setting — particularly a festival setting — what the Keys can do to connect with the throngs that turn out. Unfortuntely, the answer on Friday was not much. Both seemed pinned behind their instruments, letting the music do the work, but at a festival, you’ve got to go a little further than that. I wish the Keys had gone further and tried to approach us as well as rock us.
SK: I’ve seen the Black Keys a few times, and it never ceases to amaze me how well their minimalist approach works on such a large scale. With just 2 dudes on stage playing for (literally) thousands of people crammed onto The Belvedere clamoring for a decent view, they gave the crowd what it came for. I have an attention span problem at festivals, which wasn’t helped by the fact that they played my favorite 4 songs for their first 4 songs. I am actually thankful for that because I couldn’t stay for the whole set. Kudos to the dudes for opening with “Thickfreakness” which just slays me every time. I love their stuff, but after awhile, it can start to sound a littly samey. Oh well, they came and rocked and everyone loved it (except for maybe the unconscious girl that was dragged out of the pit by 4 dudes….and Hank).
Other notable stuff from Day 1: Jason Isbell was amazing as always despite several sound issues. He just might be one of my favorite songwriters of recent years and he capped it all off with crowd-pleasing “Outfit” as his last song of the night. I was amazed how many people showed up to see him despite The Black Keys playing, but he killed it. Seems like his transition out of DBT will bode well for him./Pretty Lights were….pretty./The lamb gyro I had was delicious and well worth the 6 tickets I had to throw down on it. Word to Forecastle: Ticket system is so lame./Elmwood=DMB Lite or DMB Zero (you take your pick).
AFTERPARTY on Belle of Louisville with Designer Drugs, Kid Color & Jesse Jamz