I have been to Forecastle a few times over the years to see great bands like The Shipping News, or Girl Talk, or Tortoise. It’s been growing and growing every year, and with undoubtedly it’s biggest offering yet, I got to be a part of it in a new way. My band Chemic was selected to play at this year’s fest and that of course is exciting, but even more exciting than that was getting to see some of the best up and coming bands from all over the country, and it just so happened that some of my favorite musical friends were also playing the fest on the same day. So, I am going to run you through my day of Forecastle which was spent watching great bands, trying to find shade, and enjoying the free food and drinks that my lanyard made possible. Due to my playing, I didn’t have a camera with me, but thankfully the lovely Meagan Jordan did and all of these photos are from her. You can check out the rest of her great photos on her website.
We (Chemic) were actually the first band to play for the day so we got there way before the gates opened in order to set up our stuff. We got loaded in and after a little car trouble (the car died as we were loading in our gear), we played to a great crowd who were super fun and were braving the heat to watch us play. I have to give many thanks to Ian Bolender and company for making the experience so much fun for us. The East Stage crew was really incredible and sweet. They totally bent over backward to make sure we were having a good time and it was greatly appreciated.
I missed Outformation’s set for the most part because we had to break down our gear, but I did get to catch a little bit of Almira Fawn‘s set. I wish I had a picture of her playing, but you still might not believe how talented this 12-year old girl is. Rosi Golan played after she did and was quite impressive as well. She had a gorgeous voice and really fantastic melodies. I really wish there were more people there to see her. The East Stage’s lineup was so strong all weekend long. Sunday was no exception, save for a few snoozers. Quasi-local boy Pokey LaFarge was certainly not one of those snoozers though. He ripped through his old-timey tunes with the flair of a barbershop quartet. (More photos and reviews after the jump.)
Pokey LaFarge & The S. City Three
The first band to come up who I was really looking forward to seeing was Gringo Star. They are an Atlanta band that has been getting a lot of attention lately despite their terrible name. I heard they were just a good old rock band with a 60s twist, and that’s pretty much just what they were. Their live set really reminded me a lot of Brian Jonestown Massacre which is not a terrible thing most of the time, but I prefer some of their recorded stuff which I think sounds more like a weirder version of The Monkees or Velvet Underground. I really did like their set, but it’s hard for me to be too impressed with band who have that sound these days since I feel like it’s been a little played out.
As soon as Gringo finished up, I sprinted over to the Ocean Stage to catch my good bro’s Kevin and Yusef of You, You’re Awesome (Cincinnati). You, You’re Awesome is a (mostly) instrumental two-piece who utilize strong visuals (amazing videos that have been edited and synced to the songs by Kevin) and an amazing array of instruments. I had seen these guys a few times before so I was so excited when I found out they were playing this year. Kevin plays the drums and is just relentless in keeping the beat strong. One thing that is missing from a lot of electronic music is a really strong beat that doesn’t feel flat. Kevin makes sure that is never something you can say about them as he was bright red by the end of their set and almost ready to pass out. While Kevin is locking it down, Yusef is manipulating his rig of electronics to make some of the most fun and creative electronic music I’ve ever heard. In addition to his multiple keyboards, you will see him wielding a Nintendo DS and an actual Atari, both of which he has modified into usable synthesizers. They put on a great show and you will be hearing plenty about them in the near future as their stock continues to rise.
You, You’re Awesome
Also happening that afternoon were the always fun local band The Instruction who’s danceable rock and roll is gaining fans all the time. They played to a great crowd of folks who were undoubtedly excited about finding a new favorite band. Right after them was Cincinnati’s Seabird who’s piano rock was unfortunately overshadowed by Newgrass superheros The Avett Brothers. I hadn’t seen them yet and have been told that they have the most engaging live show ever. I’ve seen some videos of them in their earlier days where they totally thrash their traditional instruments and play bluegrass music with more grit and swagger than almost any punk band could muster. While their set didn’t blow me away, their songwriting really did. I have to be honest in the fact that I just haven’t really listened to them other than one or two songs and I thought their songs were just incredible. Plus, it was nice to be able to see them while I was pounding some free dinner burritos at the side of the stage. The crowd for them was so thick at The West Stage. I don’t even want to know how much JK and Co. had to pay to get them to come, but it was totally worth it based on the crowd that sang along to every word.
Right before the end of the Avett Brothers set, I rushed back over to The East Stage to catch my friends These United States. I have seen them play several times, but each time it just gets better and better and I have to say that they are one of my favorite bands out there right now. Although I’ve seen them several times before, their set was the highlight of Forecastle for me. They were playing a few tunes off of their upcoming record and their set was so tight and had so much energy. Jesse Elliot and co. were making believers out of everyone there. It seems that These United States are right on the verge of breaking into the Rubik’s Cube of mega-indie-stardom and they deserve every accolade thrown at them. Over the past 2 years, they have self-booked over 400 shows and are constantly on the road touting a new record or two. If their new track “I Want You To Keep Everything” is any indication of what their new record is going to be like, then be prepared to see it at the top of my Best of for 2009 list. These boys are the best.
These United States
Right after These United States played was the surprisingly incredible Maps & Atlases. Their set of wonderfully melodic rock songs was even more impressive given the fact that to my knowledge, there wasn’t a single effects pedal on stage. Just some dudes making the simplest of setups sound fresh and creative is more mind-blowing to me than a lot of bands who twitch a turn some buttons and knobs to make what they are doing sound interesting. Anyway, these guys have been around for awhile, but I hope they come back to Louisville soon and we get to see them again!
Maps & Atlases
I just didn’t have it in me to stick around for Backyard Tire Fire or brave the crowd for Round 2 of Widespread Panic. That didn’t disappoint me too much, and I still got to have an incredible day hanging out with friends and seeing some of the most exciting bands in America right now. Forecastle may have skewed a little hippie this year, but kudos to whoever booked The East Stage. You did all right by me.