“We should play into a freeway more often,” exclaimed a jubilant Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek, during her band’s incendiary set on Sunday evening, the third and final day of Louisville, Kentucky’s Forecastle Festival, which took place this past weekend in the city’s Waterfront Park along the banks of the Ohio River. I-64 does run above the middle of the festival grounds, but to the tens of thousands of music fans who traveled throughout the country to hear four stages of music, it didn’t matter. Forecastle delivered a diverse lineup that pulled greatly from the state’s rich bluegrass and folk heritage but managed to successfully mix in current bands from rock, rap and even EDM.
Forecastle has grown over the last 12 years from a small, altruistic music festival into a major destination festival and unique showcase for Louisville and the greater Kentucky region. Piggybacking on the state’s recent success luring tourists with “bourbonism,” Forecastle featured a large bourbon tent with a handful of the state’s top distilleries and artisanal snacks. Local restaurants, food trucks and breweries provided much of the food and beer throughout the grounds, while an area devoted to regional concert poster artists and screen printers was an excellent distraction to the music.
But what brought most people to Forecastle weren’t all the extras (although they were appreciated). It was the music, and for the most part the artists delivered. Friday’s highlights included a solid set from Spoon, splitting its songs between its greatest hits and its upcoming album, They Want My Soul, and a spirited set from Local Natives, who closed its hour with a jammed out “Sun Hands.” Saturday featured Jack White, who ran through a mix of White Stripes, Raconteurs, and solo material in just under two hours. Filling out his songs with a five-piece band, White and company thrilled the largest audience of the weekend with extended compositions, which gave him an opportunity to show off his guitar noodling and band leading.
Sunday posed the most difficult decisions of the weekend, with scheduling conflicts between Jenny Lewis, Nickel Creek and Tune-Yards (three of my favorites on the bill). You can’t see everything at a festival, and ultimately we stayed for the entire Nickel Creek set, which didn’t disappoint. Feeding off the energy from an enthusiastic, overflowing crowd, the reunited quartet mixed its biggest hits with cuts from its new release, A Dotted Line, to roaring approval. A couple hours later, Beck closed the festival, turning his set into a greatest hits dance party.
In addition to Forecastle, Louisville opened its city to attendees, as hotels and restaurants were packed all weekend.
We ate at some great dinner and brunch places, tasting fine modern southern cuisine from farm to table restaurants like Milkwood, Hillbilly Tea and Silver Dollar. The entire weekend was well worth the easy drive down I-71 (and we saw plenty of Cleveland shirts and hats, and even had a pedicab driver that drove down from Cleveland to ride attendees all weekend), and we look forward to seeing how Forecastle grows in the years to come.
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