I was told, “Southern hospitality is best where the south meets the north and, honey, it don’t get no better than Louisville.” They were right, because the city of Louisville whole-heartedly opened its arms to embrace the Forecastle Music Festival like we were all cousins, back for a big family reunion. It turned out to be ground zero for that amazing southern charm and drawl, with a dash of weird mixed in. References to famous journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson (born in Louisville) were numerous, and his eccentric spirit has certainly rubbed off on the youth and the city. Between the food, the people and the music, I’m convinced that Forecastle is one of the best “little” music festivals around.
Before the gates opened Friday, I was on the hunt for some local grub. I wound up at Smoketown USA where I was greeted by the owner – a guy in overalls who goes by the name of “Redneck Jew”. To say the least, the guy’s a character. I said to myself, “A redneck Jew that makes BBQ? This is going to be interesting,” but I was not disappointed. They brought out a killer spread of ribs, pulled pork, greens and sweet jalapeño cornbread. Not only was the food good, but all of the furniture and art on the walls was for sale; it was a little like eating lunch at a yard sale.
Working my way through crooked streets and neighborhoods that seemed to be screaming for gentrification, I stopped in New Louisville (Nulu) to make a visit to the Louisville Beer Store. About this time, I found out my lodging for the night fell through- a common problem for out-of-town Forecastle attendees. Luckily, the crew from Country Boy Brewing was at the store to do a showcase of their beer line and, upon hearing of my bad luck, those guys and gals started making phone calls to find me a place to stay. Unfortunately, they had no luck… but they presented me with a flight of their beers, on the house, as a condolence. Although I was happier with a little beer in my belly, at this point I needed to scoot the Festival.
The first band on my schedule for Forecastle’s opening day was the Black Lips. The Atlanta group has a new album out that was produced by Patrick Carney of the Black Keys. I was hoping for their usual rowdy show, which they delivered with high energy and a lot of spitting.
As I stumbled around the grounds I made my way to Gary Clark Jr., who just won a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Performance. This guy can tear it up with the best of them. It’s hard not to think he may have done this in a previous lifetime.
Nightmares on Wax came all the way from Leeds, England to smack the crowd upside the head with a live set of old school hip hop. These dudes delivered, but the crowd seemed timid; I guess they were expecting a DJ set instead. N.O.W. performing a live set doesn’t happen very often anymore, so it was a treat – even if it wasn’t what the crowd expected.
As I stood waiting to see Action Bronson, a security guard began telling the crowd that he had cancelled. The guy next to me was really pissed off. He said, “I’ve tried to see Action Bronson seven times and he’s cancelled five out of those seven.” I, too, was pretty excited to see him, but after learning of his attendance record, I might not put much effort into future opportunities to see him – which sucks for both of us.
I moved on from the vacant stage to see Spoon put on a killer set, like true professionals would. I expected nothing less from the Austin City rockers. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay long because the crowd was growing in anticipation of Outkast’s headlining set.
Outkast. What can I say? They’re legends. Their first album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, came out came out 20 years ago. I know Louisville isn’t Atlanta, but damn they treated us like we were family. Hit after hit, they blew the crowd up. I looked up during the set to see a light mist in the sky, but I couldn’t feel anything. Body heat seemed to dissipate the spray right before it could touch the smoldering crowd. I met lots of “old school players and new school fools”. We all agreed that “ ’Kast keep it jumpin’ like kangaroos” and “I be god dammit, they done changed the rules.”
All photos by John Ellison.