Saturday morning brought cloudy skies and looming rain. By early afternoon, the storm had arrived and forced festival organizers to temporarily close the park until it passed through. My party had already checked out of our hotel (we planned to head back to Indianapolis after My Morning Jacket later that night). With no home base to hang out at during the down time and with rain still pouring outside, we found solace in a parking garage across the street from the venue. There, we joined an already-assembled group of festival attendees who were drying off and passing time together. (shoutout to the guy who was blaring My Morning Jacket from his car and keeping spirits high while we waited)
Party in the parking lot at Forecastle (until the cops came and shoo’ed us away)
By 4 p.m. the gates had re-opened. While I had spent most of Friday night at the main Mast Stage watching headliners from the front, I spent the better part of Saturday wandering around art installations and jamming out at the smaller side stages. Vendors and sponsors were lively and engaging, happy to talk and play games with anyone who stopped at their booth.
Art installations & vendors galore at Forecastle
The rain delay caused pieces of the schedule to be pushed back an hour, resulting in confusion and a lot of waiting around in most instances. It also made everything wet and muddy, so I couldn’t have been happier to have my rain boots on hand.
Both a blessing and a curse of urban music festivals is the small footprint of space on which the event is held. In Forecastle’s case, I’d call the close proximity of one stage to another a blessing. In a matter of a few minutes and less than a hundred steps, festival-goers could relocate to the next show with ease. And with the main Mast Stage, the slightly-smaller but equally as epic Boom stage, the EDM-heavy Red Bull side stage, and two tiny platforms at the back of the venue- there was plenty of stage hopping to be done.
But I do believe the best thing about the Forecastle environment was the people themselves. With such a varied list of musical genres represented on the line up (rock, hip hop, folk, electronic), the audience was also refreshingly diverse. Hippies and hipsters stood next to ravers and cowboys. Moms and dads escorted their sons and daughters. Boyfriends and girlfriends locked lips while their favorite bands played as same-sex couples walked hand in hand. There were no drugs (except for the occasional, covert toke here and there) or drug solicitations from strangers. The Forecastle crowd was jovial, friendly, and there to appreciate good music- an uplifting change of pace from traditional camping festivals that cannot be emphasized enough.
Wick-It The Instigator, photo by Christine Hudson
First up on my agenda was Wick-It The Instigator at The Red Bull Stage. One of my friends expressed a desire to hear more of the DJ/producer’s original productions, but I was more than content with the party jamz he was cranking out, each with his own unique electro spin on them. Wick-It played classic oldies-but-goodies such as “I Got 5 On It” by Luniz, “Still Fly” by Big Tymers, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” (the second Beasties song I heard in as many days) and “Jump” by Van Halen but kept his set modern by also sampling “Bad Girls” by M.I.A. ,“Tighten Up” by The Black Keys and more. By mixing so many much-loved, familiar hyphey songs with a contemporary, dubsteppy twist, Wick-It made us soon forget that we’d just spent the last hour twiddling our thumbs in a moist parking garage waiting for the rain to pass.
Julia Nunes, photo by Christine Hudson
Julia Nunes played a barefoot set adjacent to the Red Bull Stage on the Starboard Stage right after Wick-It concluded his set. With just her ukulele and an accompanying guitarist, her organic sound was welcomed as the sun shone brightly and tried it’s hardest to dry the festival grounds. Nunes displayed a curious stage presence- bold and confident, yet awkward and reclusive. Her opening song was upbeat and featured light, wisping beat-boxed percussion from the mouths of her and her guitarist.
“This song is about my lonely freshman year, ‘cause I just stayed in my room the whole time and wrote ukulele music,” she said with a slight twang in her voice. She continued, “It’s called ‘First Impressions.” The track was much slower and more gospel-like, putting her strong, resounding vocals on the front burner and demanding all in earshot shut up to listen.
My friend, who has been following Nunes for years, informed me her early work was steeped in humor, which is what originally caught her attention. Present-day-Nunes relies more on her songwriting and stunning voice than comedy, but her blunt, distinctive wit still shines through between songs. Upon the conclusion of “To the Damsels” she explained, “That song is about dragons and princesses. I never directly mention that, but I feel like, of the fire-breathing things in the world, dragons are the first to come to mind.” She continued, “This next song is very different; it’s a lullaby. It’s called ‘lullaby’.”
From Julia Nune’s folksy crooning, I raced over to the main Mast Stage to catch Jim James sitting in with Preservation Hall Jazz Band as they covered the classic bluesy jazz tune “St. James Infirmary” that stretched past six minutes long. The great New Orleans band (classy as ever, dressed in full black suits despite soaring temperatures) played a few more songs before inviting Andrew Bird on stage for another special cameo during their set.His whimsical whistling, gifted violin playing and serene vocals gave the jazz band a fresh, folky vibe that was warmly welcomed by the ever-growing audience.
image credit: http://dbrowell.tumblr.com/
It turns out that Jim James, being the Louisville native and musical genius that he is, was all over Forecastle on Saturday and Sunday. In addition to his headlining performance with My Morning Jacket and guest appearance with Preservation Hall, he was spotted at Ben Sollee’s Sunday show, performed an afterparty show on a boat (again with Preservation Hall) and gave a special renegade performance to early risers after My Morning Jacket’s soundcheck was cancelled during the Saturday afternoon rainstorm. He and the band performed on the ground, under the highway overpass that stretches over the back of The Waterfront Park.
Walking back to my car (still parked in the parking garage from the impromptu party earlier in the day) for a quick sandwich out of the cooler (protip: always pack lunchmeat, bread, and chips for urban festivals to save money you’d otherwise spend at expensive food vendors), I stumbled across The March Madness Marching Band performing under the same overpass Jim James and My Morning Jacket played earlier that day. While there are a lot of marching band-inspired performance groups and bands in existence right now, March Madness actually marches and their instrument assortment actually sounds like a traditional marching band. Dressed in fanciful, quirky, pieced-together outfits inspired by marching band uniforms and fronted by a hoop-carrying color guard, the flock of musicians closed their set with a cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s “American Band”.
Later, back at the dancey Red Bull Stage, I caught the end of Adventure Club to kick off an evening of electro goodness. The Montreal-based producer/DJ duo (through only one half of the group was present at Forecastle) falls into an emerging subset of dubstep that may be the genre’s only saving grace. Similar to fellow Canadians Zeds Dead, Adventure club’s special breed of “clubstep” puts the womps in overdrive by pairing dubstep’s signature wah-wah’s with speedy, melodic samples you’d expect to find on the dance floor of a posh ultra lounge in a fancy downtown district.
Before I ended my second day at Forecastle with My Morning Jacket, I went to see Gregg Gillis a.k.a. Girl Talk on The Boom Stage. His set, admittedly, was no different than any other Girl Talk performance I’ve seen (and there have been at least five of them) – which is exactly why I went. The stage was full of rump-shaking fans; how do they manage to get on stage, I wonder? The audience was as compact as ever and totally drenched in sweat. And everyone was covered in confetti. Perhaps it is the constant stream of classic rock, pop, and hip hop samples that makes seeing Girl Talk so damn addictive; who cares if the music isn’t original when you’re shouting song lyrics with hundreds or strangers and dancing like no one is watching?
As soon as Girl Talk finished, I ran to meet the rest of the Forecastle Festival at the Mast Stage where My Morning Jacket was serenading their hometown. Words can’t do a band like them justice, so I’ll just leave it at that and make you promise, for your own well-being, that you’ll see them live one day.
Hopefully, if things go well, you can have that opportunity at Forecastle Festival 2013.