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Festival Review: CoS at Forecastle 2012

on July 16, 2012, 11:01am
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They say that if you lose a sense, your other senses get stronger. For example, if you’re blind, the story goes that you hear better than most people. It seemed apropos, then, that your intrepid reporting team here at Consequence of Sound ended up sharing our hotel for Louisville, Kentucky’s Forecastle Music Festival with an entire convention of blind people: They spend their lives listening hard, and though we’re able to see, we also put a lot of focus on the aural—especially this weekend.

Luckily Forecastle is focused on sound as well, and for their tenth anniversary, they turned on the Kentucky charm with local favorite sons like My Morning Jacket and cellist Ben Sollee. With other popular acts like Deer Tick, Wilco, and Justin Townes Earle, Americana and country rock would’ve been an appropriate theme for the weekend, but the festival also featured plenty of EDM, including music from Flying Lotus and Bassnectar. That split personality makes it hard to sum up the festival accurately, but what can we say? The crowd appeared happy, and while we love a good upright bass, we also danced our faces off to Girl Talk. It may not make sense on paper, but it was freaking awesome.

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Our favorite thing about Kentucky, though, might’ve been the sunsets. We’re diehard Chicagoans, don’t get us wrong, but on our inaugural voyage to Louisville, we were struck by the natural beauty of the place. Waterfront Park is maybe a bit small for the festival—the sound from cross-stages bled through pretty badly at times—but it’s awfully pretty, with footpaths over a natural fountain (which you better believe people climbed into) and scenic bridges that span the Ohio River. At night, the sun sets over all of this, and the blaze of colors that ignites the sky is truly awe-inspiring—especially when you’re viewing it from in front of the main stage, listening to Andrew Bird sing about clouds.

So sit back and soak up some aural and some visual goodness (don’t worry, we took lots of photos) from our weekend at Forecastle. It may’ve been our first trip down to Louisville (and it was for a lot of bands too, apparently), but we’ll be coming back real soon, y’all.

-Megan Ritt
Senior Copy Editor

Friday, July 13th

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Photo by Lilian Cai

Tanlines – Red Bull Ocean Stage – 6:00 p.m.

Brooklyn’s Tanlines went against the odds: They cracked open the first day of a festival, amidst dark, grey skies, and under a highway overpass where evening traffic lurched by overhead. ”This is a very nice way to start our day,” multi-instrumentalist Jesse Cohen observed. “It’s cloudy, but you can’t tell, right?” There wasn’t an ounce of sarcasm in his tone; in fact, it was his charming optimism that kept the energy high. While vocalist and guitarist Eric Emm pivoted around his microphone, mirroring the sentimental-yet-neurotic swagger of David Byrne, Cohen cracked jokes, danced about his rig of keyboards, electronic drums, and pedals, and flooded each track’s bottom with layers of instrumentation. The two performed the majority of their debut LP – this year’s delicious Mixed Emotions – with the ultimate highlight being the closing three-hit punch of “Real Life”, “Not the Same”, and “All of Me”. These days, guitars take backseat to sticky synth lines, and this duo’s work just fucking begs for Goo Gone. Basically, they set the bar high for everyone else to come — which just so happened to be everyone else. -Michael Roffman

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Photo by Megan Ritt

The Head and the Heart – Boom Stage – 6:45 p.m.

Seattle, WA’s The Head and the Heart took the Boom Stage just as the sun peeked through the dense cloud cover. A six-piece wearing its emotions on its collective sleeve, Head and the Heart was a little down-tempo generally for the party-ready crowd. They did get a positive reaction whenever they incorporated a brawling, bar-room keyboard style that morphed their standard indie-folk into a countrified stomper, which included a kicked-up version of “Couer D’Alene”. “Lost in My Mind” saw the drummer wailing on his kit with a maraca and one shirtless bro fist-pumping ecstatically along. Head and the Heart was joined on stage by Kentucky cellist Ben Sollee for “Winter Song” and closed with “Rivers and Roads”, which soared on vocals from the under-utilized Charity Rose Thielen, ending things on a literal high note. -Megan Ritt

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Atlas Sound – Red Bull Ocean Stage – 7:15 p.m.

Bradford Cox’s side-project doesn’t particularly scream “outdoor music festival,” but the eccentric songwriter reveled in his unconventional setting: “I’d like to start with a song from Kentucky.” Behind some shades and covered by a chic straw hat, he strummed through Roscoe Holcombe’s take on the classic folk song, “The Moonshiner”, adding some unique flavor to his set. From there, he dove straight into a near-12 minute rendition of Parallax‘s hypnotic “Te Amo”, segueing straight into Logos classic “Walkabout”. Of course, he couldn’t not say something about performing underneath a highway overpass: “I feel like I’m playing in a parking lot of a mall — or a movie theater on a Friday night. Know what I mean?” Plenty did, as the hundreds that roped the stage shocked Cox with thunderous applause, especially when he decided to replay “Modern Aquatic Lovesongs”. Feeling his levels were too low, he protested: “I can only play the blues, but the digital blues.” Well, that’s one modern thing to champion. -Michael Roffman

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Beach House – Boom Stage – 8:15 p.m.

It was the set up of a lifetime: a stage next to the Ohio River (we’ll ignore the crab shack), a dying sun that ignited the skies in pinks and purples and oranges, and, well, Jan Hammer’s “Crockett’s Theme” on the PA. With Beach House, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have been crafting up dream pop since 2004, but in Louisville, KY they actually grasped the dream. Okay, so maybe that’s a big, lame overstatement, but it all felt really choice and quaint and picture perfect. It doesn’t help that the two opened with Bloom‘s “Wild” and Teen Dream‘s “Norway”, two fantasy themes that sparked rampant emotions with vivid immediacy. Somewhere in the middle, Scally warned that they “don’t do that cheesy crowd participation stuff,” and nobody seemed to mind, anyhow. That’s just it, though. It really isn’t about them; it’s about where they take you, and that’s why their latest LP, this year’s Bloom, might be their best yet. Tracks like “Other People”, “Wishes”, and especially the tear-tugging balladry of “Myth” toggle the mind across so many images, give a runaround through myriad emotions, and slowly envelope you. That translates even better on stage, and when there’s a Kentucky sunset bleeding away behind it all, there’s little one can do but gasp. -Michael Roffman

sleighbells Festival Review: CoS at Forecastle 2012

Photo by Lilian Cai

Sleigh Bells – Mast Stage – 9:10 p.m.

Eleven things I learned during Sleigh Bell’s set at Forecastle: 1. Alexis Krauss really wants this band to be a headliner, and they’re actually not too far off. 2. Their sophomore LP – this past February’s Reign of Terror – sounds even better live. 3. Tracks “Born to Lose”, “End of the Line”, and “Comeback Kid” add some perspective to Krauss, who gives new hope to the ADHD generation by never staying in one place for more than two seconds. 4. She knows how to scream, speak-sing, and shimmy. 5. She also knows kung-fu. 6. “Rill Rill” is for Sleigh Bells what “Patience” was for Guns N’ Roses — don’t think too hard on that one. 7. Guitarist Derek E. Miller still prefers things hardcore, at least judging from his Freddy Krueger-endorsed grinning during old flair like “Crown on the Ground” or “Tell ‘Em”. 8. Pretty sure “A/B Machines” is keeping this band from ever getting a real drummer. 9. Sleigh Bells’ smorgasbord of sound is the indie rock version of “hair metal” — meaning Krauss makes it really easy to just give two shits about the context of any of it and instead goes all or nothing for getting loud, vicious, and dirty. 10. The whole band also wouldn’t look out of place on LA’s Sunset Strip circa 1986. 11. Fingers crossed this hasn’t happened in an alternate reality. -Michael Roffman

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Photo by Lilian Cai

Flying Lotus – Red Bull Ocean Stage – 10:15 p.m.

It’s possible to walk away from a Flying Lotus set unimpressed, but it’s impossible for one to do that and yet also say things like, “I love music.” That’s a harsh, declarative assessment, yet one with some weight to it. It starts with the artist: Steven Ellison, aka FlyLo. He’s too likable of a guy to shrug off — you know, sort of like the reasoning Jack Nicholson’s The Joker gives when he asks, “You wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses on, would you?”. Ellison doesn’t wear glasses, but he’s got the best smile of his genre, he air drums between transitions, and he’s savvy with samples. Throughout his hour set, again under the highway overpass, Ellison fiddled about with every sort of genre, hit, and what have you. Whatever you take away says a lot about your own tastes. For example, what I recall: Kanye and Jay-Z’s “Niggas in Paris”, Pharoahe Monch’s “Simon Says”, Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic”, Portishead’s “Machine Gun”, and Radiohead’s “Idioteque”. That accounted for, at most, five minutes. The rest? Dance floor bliss, adored by hundreds who remained hungry for more. As Ellison stopped the beats and gazed about at the deafening applause, he calmly remarked: “That’s love right there.” He’s a quiet guy, but when he speaks, it’s nothing but the truth. -Michael Roffman

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Photo by Lilian Cai

Bassnectar – Mast Stage – 10:45 p.m.

Flying Lotus was still playing as the lights came up on the Mast Stage, but Friday night headliner Bassnectar conquered the crowd in seconds. “It’s Friday the 13th—you guys feeling good?” he asked, and without waiting for an answer, slammed right into “The Matrix”. As is his trademark, he let the lyrics play a bit before editing them into oblivion: “We drop the bass in your face” gradually became just “drop”, which he’s got enough sense of humor to let hit on—you guessed it—the drop. The first time it hit, big and fat and deep, a flock of glowsticks exploded in the air overhead, showering down on the crowd. By the time the track ended, Bassnectar was a one-man festival, pumping beats into nearly every soul on the premises.

The formula works, and Bassnectar applied it all set long, breaking tracks down into their smallest composite sounds until all music seemed to exist for the sheer purpose of remixing. He played his remix of Ellie Goulding’s “Lights”, the Amp Live-featuring “Ugly”, and other sampled cuts that ran the gamut from Daft Punk’s “Technologic” to Blur’s “Song 2”. Bassnectar’s music at its height both looks and sounds like an artistic rendering of a seizure, all flashing lights and adrenaline-squeezing jolts of sound, high-pitched glitches, and squeals that shimmer as the vortex of sound builds higher and higher—all over a fuzzy bass beat that vibrates your teeth and rattles your spine. He gave the revelers simple directions: “Jump!” “Bounce!” “Scream if you’re happy to be alive right now!” And they jumped and bounced, and they screamed mightily into the night. -Megan Ritt

Saturday, July 14th

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Photo by Lilian Cai

Preservation Hall Jazz Band – Mast Stage – 5:05 p.m.

Ominous clouds threatened Louisville all morning and finally struck an hour before the festival’s gates were to open for round two. Things were pushed back an hour, but the onslaught of rain and lightning also reconfigured Waterfront Park. The storm brought swamp-like conditions, leaving the late sun to steam the soggy grass, offering a funky warmth to sift through the air. So, in light of that, there wasn’t a better act to kickstart the festivities: New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Less a band and more a union of musicians, the group has kept the Dixieland jazz sound alive for several decades, issuing flawless performances stocked with its unpretentious, joyful rhythms. This weekend, Louisville hosted over six of its members, who each exhibited unrivaled talent, though truth be told, Charlie Gabriel stole the Southern sun. That is, until Jim James stepped out to not only sing his rendition of “St. James Infirmary”, but to also destroy an amplifier mic in the process. That didn’t make things easy for Andrew Bird, who later came out to sing “Shake It and Break It”, and struggled with feedback problems. Neither appearance could be construed as impromptu — after all, the two did appear on the band’s 2010 benefit album, Preservation —  but that didn’t make it any less special. -Michael Roffman

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Photo by Megan Ritt

Justin Townes Earle – Boom Stage – 5:00 p.m.

After a wet morning of delays and uncertainty, the crowd was more than ready to get dancing, and Justin Townes Earle was prepared to receive them. Looking like a young Johnny Depp with his long hair loose and his shirtsleeves rolled up to reveal heavily tattooed arms, Earle’s music was a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll, which suited Louisville just fine. In between jokes about old girlfriends and praise for his mama, Earle rolled through a set that included “Ain’t Glad I’m Leaving” (“We’re gonna put the blues back in country!”) and “One More Night in Brooklyn” (an ode to a terrible apartment) before closing with “a song I first heard in my mama’s kitchen”, a delicious up-tempo cover of the Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait”. -Megan Ritt

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Photo by Lilian Cai

Real Estate – Boom Stage – 6:00 p.m.

Maybe Real Estate open with “Kinder Blumen” at each show. Perhaps singer-guitarist Martin Courtney is a tad shy or even quiet. Okay, it’s possible this New Jersey outfit isn’t for everyone. Regardless, none of the above did much for their early evening set. With the sun back in full force and an ample crowd hungry for something, Real Estate offered very little. That’s not to say the set wasn’t tight — it was, almost too perfect — but if it wasn’t for bassist Alex Bleeker, things could have been really awkward. Not until about six songs in did the band actually feel human. “This song’s about a cat, an animorphic cat that turned into a boy,” Bleeker joked as he introduced, “Green Aisles”. Yet even then, they predictably stumbled into their jangly stroll that felt empty. This sounds unfair and slightly easy, but it wasn’t until the hook-laden “It’s Real” (their second-to-last track) that they really conjured up any energy. Granted, they’ve been touring behind Days for over a year now, but it’s hard to believe anyone could appear so uninterested with such great music. Oh well. -Michael Roffman

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Dr. Dog – Mast Stage – 6:30 p.m.

One of Philadelphia’s most underrated acts drew quite a crowd around the Mast Stage for their sunset performance. “Here we go again,” co-vocalist and lead guitarist Scott McMicken whined on “Shadow People”, inciting a clap-along that stretched from the front to the back of the field. Over seven albums, Dr. Dog has elevated their style each go-around, threading adventurous arrangements with highway harmonies that always dabble with pop but never go full nelson. That’s kept ’em earnest and humble, and it’s worked. There’s no doubt that Louisville dug a number of their tracks, specifically Be the Void‘s opening stomper “Lonesome” and Shame Shame‘s soulful chugger “Jackie Wants a Black Eye”. Also, that cover of Architecture in Helsinki’s “Heart It Races” will never get old. -Michael Roffman

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James Vincent McMorrow – Starboard Stage – 6:45 p.m.

Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow was sandwiched on a side stage between now-overlapping acts, thanks to the morning rain and subsequent compressed schedule. “It’s weird with that… and that,” he said, pointing across the field. “I’ll have to try and pick a tempo.” But once he got started, McMorrow had no trouble charming the crowd. Despite playing alone, a rather small figure center stage, when he freed his high-pitched tenor and loosed his hands on the guitar, his bare-bones music was all you could hear. His set included well-known tracks like “We Don’t Eat” and “Sparrow and the Wolf”. A particular highlight was “Down the Burning Ropes”, whose ominous darkness was augmented by long, resonant holds on the lyric “overboard” before ending with a rock-ish kick. He closed the set with “Breaking Hearts”, which lived up to its name. -Megan Ritt

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Adventure Club – Red Bull Ocean Stage – 7:30 p.m.

Another dance party underneath a highway: What started with a keen sample of Kanye West’s “Mercy” quickly turned into an hour lesson on how I’ll never, ever, ever get into dubstep. That’s okay, though, because several hundred others adored it, so much so that they could ignore that the sun was still out and that music was bleeding over from the nearby Starboard Stage. Typically led by Christian Srigley and Leighton James, Adventure Club was represented at Forecastle by a flannel-wearing Srigley, who looked more like a lost Deer Tick member than a star DJ. He played the role well, though, even hopping aboard his table amidst his admittedly enjoyable remix of Foxes’ “Youth”. Though even that felt like it extended its welcome some. -Michael Roffman

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Photo by Megan Ritt

March Madness Marching Band – Festival Grounds – 7:45 p.m.

Is that—a full marching band? In glitter top hats, under the overpass? Half burlesque, half punk, and all fun, the March Madness Marching Band was a raucous surprise between sets for a large crowd of admirers. In addition to a full complement of instrumentalists who danced in step, the band also featured twirlers with hula hoops and a line of pom-pom ladies who put on a pseudo-stage show as the band played on. For all the showiness (and there was plenty—the uniform appears to be “wear anything red, black, gold, and/or sparkly”), the drummers kept up a sharp, accurate beat that ricocheted off the overpass and quickened the hearts of parade lovers. In addition to more traditional march-style pieces, the band played “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, aka the opening theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, complete with interpretive drumming and a guy in a monkey hat. -Megan Ritt

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Photo by Lilian Cai

Andrew Bird – Mast Stage – 8:00 p.m.

Andrew Bird’s calling card is typically playing solo, pacing around stage while swapping instruments. At Forecastle, though, Bird got a little help from his friends, in the form of a three-man backing band. They added punch and deeper texture to tracks like “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” and “Anonanimal”. Meanwhile, Bird still had plenty of room for experimentation. He employed his trademark whistle while fingerpicking his violin and tweaking with looping pedals.

Bird showcased plenty of material from latest release, Break It Yourself, including “Desperation Breeds”,  “Give It Away”, and a rousing rendition of “Eyeoneye”, the latter of which was greeted with particular enthusiasm by the crowd. As Bird played “Danse Caribe”, another heart-wrenching Kentucky sunset began to break over the festival. “Here we go/ mistaking clouds for mountains,” he sang dreamily, as fat feathery clouds drifted by, shot through with orange and gold. -Megan Ritt

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Washed Out – Red Bull Ocean Stage – 9:00 p.m.

“I hope this isn’t too chill for you guys,” Washed Out’s Ernest Greene smirked. “I know there’s been a lot of dubstep on this stage today.” Not quite a snub, more or less a cheeky observation, but quite a fitting one. All too often trip-hop, synth-pop, or, yes, chillwave acts get lumped in as just another Electronic Band. This means they share stages with more atypical EDM outfits. In some respects, this could be a saving grace — especially since the EDM crowds almost always react to the music — but sometimes it could be a disservice. No negatives for Greene, whose modern sounds went over well with the sparkly crowd. Supported by three others, past work like “Get Up” or “You’ll See It” hit loud and trapped everyone fast, while material off last year’s Within and Without embalmed the concrete acoustics with its elaborate textures. A stripped down “Feel It All Around” offered a sweet spin for those fatigued by IFC’s incessant reruns of Portlandia, “Amor Fati” continued to soothe the heart, and set closer “Eyes Be Closed” echoed the polished romantic atmospheres Moby popularized over a decade ago with 1999’s Play. M83’s Anthony Gonzalez may lead the way, but Greene’s a strong third man on the synth-pop bench. -Michael Roffman

girltalk Festival Review: CoS at Forecastle 2012

Photo by Lilian Cai

Girl Talk – Boom Stage – 9:15 p.m.

Mash-up artist extraordinaire Girl Talk makes parties his business—and he’s all business. The Boom Stage was ready to dance Saturday night, and Girl Talk brought the jams, squeezing an almost unbelievable number of samples into his seamless, ceaseless 75-minute set. Half the fun is IDing the mile-a-minute snatches of music before the track changes, and the crowd shouted appreciatively for their favorites.

One particularly well-received stretch ran Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” into N.E.R.D.’s “Everyone Nose”. Sometimes he married similar genres, like “Straight to Hell” by the Clash into the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”, and sometimes the transitions were simply his own mad genius, like TI’s “What You Know” into Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” or Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” into 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” (“count the headlights on the highway” + “yo shawty, it’s your birthday”= pure weird joy). “I’m gonna take you somewhere else,” he shouted, thrashing behind his board and surrounded by dancers with modified leaf blowers, shooting streamers over the crowd.

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Photo by Lilian Cai

Adele, Nirvana, Aerosmith, Skee-Lo, Gucci Mane, Cheap Trick, the Beastie Boys, Kelly Clarkson, Tag Team, and a triumphant gasp of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”— Girl Talk kept playing and the crowd kept on dancing. He ended, finally, kneeling shirtless on his mixing board, pressing all the buttons, every sound roaring simultaneously from the speakers like the finale of a fireworks display, cannons of confetti exploding overhead into the dark. -Megan Ritt

mmj16 Festival Review: CoS at Forecastle 2012

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My Morning Jacket – Mast Stage – 10:00 p.m.

The vibes going into My Morning Jacket’s two-and-a-half-hour hometown headlining set were akin to a homecoming high school football game. Locals gathered around the Mast Stage hours beforehand, a good number picnicking on blankets, while die-hard, longtime fan club members were shuffled into what was previously the VIP section in front of the stage. It was strangely dark out there, the area accented only by the light emanating from the stage, the nearby bridges on the Ohio River, or the occasional cell phone, glow stick, or pipe. In a word, it all felt familial.

In a fitting move then, My Morning Jacket arrived five minutes after ten to spark up some magic with a heavy cut of “The Dark”, off their 1999 debut LP, The Tennessee Fire. Wearing a mystical blue western poncho, Jim James, despite being home, kept quiet and wasted little time between tracks, powering through an aural assault of “Holdin On to Black Metal” (feat. Preservation Hall Jazz Band), “Wordless Chorus”, “I’m Amazed”, and “Anytime”. Plenty of guests tagged along, too, including Dean Wareham (of Dean and Britta) for a cover of George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity”, Andrew Bird on a touching cut of “Gideon”, and even former member Johnny Quaid, who added support to It Still Moves cuts “Run Thru” and set closer “One Big Holiday”.

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Photo by Lilian Cai

One memorable highlight of the night was during their mid-set cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man”, when a fan set loose a flaming sky lantern that nearly hit the top of the Mast Stage. Thousands cheered when it pulled up just in time to avoid the stage’s Forecastle banner. The anticipation, the celebratory response, and the ironic nature of the song itself couldn’t have been more perfect. There were countless other moments that locals probably took home with them, but that was one truly for the memory banks. It also gave a new spin on “gettin’ lucky in Kentucky.” -Michael Roffman

Sunday, July 15th

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Photo by Megan Ritt

Mike Doughty – Boom Stage – 3:00 p.m.

On the first (and last) full-length day of Forecastle, Mike Doughty kicked things off with an early set under a truly oppressive sun. Both the seasoned singer-songwriter and his fans sweated profusely as the set wore on, although there was a certain sense of relief—at least we didn’t have to deal with this all weekend. Doughty played seated at the front of the stage, his moody guitar pop emanating from a hunter green axe on his lap, with a drummer and keyboardist behind him. As he played, he twisted in his seat, fidgeted, stuck his legs out at odd angles, enthusiastic and unable to sit still. Live staples included “27 Jennifers” and “Busting Up A Starbucks”, although Doughty got more adventurous as he went on. He played a solo on his cell phone during “Rational Man”, and though he said “Looking at the World From the Bottom of a Well” would be his last song, he tacked a quick-and-dirty “Pleasure on Credit” on the end. The nearly-rapping track was the best display of his linguistic skills all day, and the crowd dug it. Doughty seemed pleased as well, offering a hearty “Thank you very much!” -Megan Ritt

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Lower Dens – Starboard Stage – 4:15 p.m.

“Fuck, it’s hot,” Jana Hunter sighed. This just wasn’t Lower Dens’ weekend. On Friday, the Baltimore quartet experienced hurricane-tinged rainstorms at Pitchfork Music Festival, and on Sunday at Forecastle, they were baked on the Starboard Stage. Wiping sweat off her face and readjusting her glasses, a beleaguered Hunter treaded through Nootropics highlight “Candy”, appearing both unsure and uncomfortable. Not hard to tell why: A sweltering Kentucky summer day isn’t exactly the setting for the band’s trademark gloomy freak-folk. With the Red Bull Ocean Stage haunting nearby, it altogether offered an awful setting for an exceptional band. Honorable mention goes to guitarist Will Adams, who mustered just enough energy to look alive. Was he wearing ice packs or something? -Michael Roffman

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Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo – Boom Stage – 4:15 p.m.

Hailing all the way from Benin, West Africa, the Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou inherited the Boom Stage from Doughty and filled it with funky Afrobeat. The Orchestre is a ten-man operation that sound-checked its own equipment before leaving the stage, re-entering moments later in a mini parade of song and shakers. With their hearty confidence and throaty group vocals, they were certainly attention-getters. The Orchestre features a strong brass section and sounds a lot like a traditional jazz band, except for the bongo drums, shakers, and the lyrics to their songs all being in French. With a beat similar to cumbia, Orchestre Poly Rythmo should’ve been a big dance draw, but by that point people were seeking relief from the heat by hiding under the overpass, and those who bravely stayed stage-side were confined to swaying in place. -Megan Ritt

cloudnothings Festival Review: CoS at Forecastle 2012

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Cloud Nothings – Mast Stage – 4:45 p.m.

Critics marveled at how Dylan Baldi left the bedroom and stepped into the studio for January’s Attack on Memory. For their set at Forecastle, however, there was no telling how that sound would translate from mid-sized venues to, well, the largest stage at the festival. Early signs weren’t good: The crowd was thin around the Mast Stage and a surefire highlight like “Stay Useless” opened the set to little fanfare. What’s worse, Baldi appeared fatigued, sickly even, and shifted around zombie-like. Things picked up slightly during “Fall In” and “Separation”, but at best around 80% whole. Still, an over ten minute-long cut of”Wasted Days” went by unscathed and Baldi had his Marty McFly Moment, winning and losing the several hundred fans out in the muggy field with his extended pedal run. But by then, both Baldi and drummer Jayson Gerycz looked as if they could keel over and die — so they punched in “Our Plan” and “No Future No Past” and stepped off 25 minutes early. A disappointing effort, but an admirable one, nonetheless. -Michael Roffman

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Deer Tick – Mast Stage – 6:15 p.m.

John McCauley’s Deer Tick hails from Rhode Island, but they can probably call Louisville home, too. Drawing one of the largest mid-day crowds at the Mast Stage, the alt. country rockers chopped out a healthy hour of rock ‘n’ roll. “I do ask we pray to Satan and that we all indulge and overdo it tonight in the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll and sexuality,” McCauley spit into the mic. One couldn’t help but just laugh at him. Wearing a pink cowboy hat, his own Deervana shirt, a pair of fratty shorts, and a bourbon-soaked grin, it was hard to take a sincere track like “Art Isn’t Real (City of Sin)” seriously — but it didn’t matter, Louisville did. Crunchy anthems (“The Bump”, “Let’s All Go to the Bar”), creaky sing alongs (“Ashamed”, “These Old Shoes”), and even a cover (Replacements’ “Bastards of Young”) won over every soul in attendance. It’s all owed to McCauley, though, who charms easily. Earlier in the set, he expressed his interest for the Season 5 premiere of Breaking Bad and later he offered his two cents on the festival’s schedule, stating: “No offense to Wilco, but I kind of wish it was Will Smith.” The same thousands who laughed also held him up when he jumped into the crowd during the very last song. Someone even jammed on his Fender, too. Win-win. -Michael Roffman

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Photo by Lilian Cai

Gramatik – Red Bull Ocean Stage – 7:30 p.m.

There’s something strangely earthly about Gramatik (AKA Denis Jasarevic). Late Sunday evening, the Slovenia-born DJ hosted a healthy handful of leftovers, still holding on to the weekend’s last remnants of EDM — aka those who would later opt for A-Trak over Wilco. Utilizing old funk and bluesy rhythms, Gramatik keeps his feet grounded in the past, but his eyes looking ahead into the future. There’s no doubt that his material’s up-to-date — after all, he’s signed to Pretty Lights’ label — but he cuts away from the typical EDM LED fluff. At Forecastle, his percussion-heavy mixes shined with thick globs of brassy funk, which was more than a relief. As aforementioned in Saturday’s writeup of Adventure Club, dubstep really isn’t my forte, and without sounding like an ignorant writer, I’ll conclude that Gramatik impressed me enough to give it another go around. -Michael Roffman

neko Festival Review: CoS at Forecastle 2012

Photo by Lilian Cai

Neko Case – Mast Stage – 7:45 p.m.

Neko Case is much smaller in person than she seems like she should be, given her outsize personality on Twitter. But the size of her voice—truly gigantic, echoing, resonant—makes up the difference. Case played a well-received set with a backing band of five which, in addition to the standards, also included a banjo, an upright bass, and a female vocalist for harmonies. She opened with “That Teenage Feeling” and played a set full of fan favorites; many people seemed to know all of her lyrics.

Case joked between songs about the heat, including once about butt sweat and once about having drank too much iced tea. Later, she tried to introduce a track with, “This is a new song, a love song for my bandmates,” but paused and said, “I’m sorry, it’s hot as balls,” prompting the otherwise stoic bro standing next to me to announce seriously, “I love that woman.” Actually, although one might’ve expected more female fans for Case, there was a healthy number of guys in attendance as well. Other highpoints of the set included a mournful “Maybe Sparrow” and a big-attitude “People Got a Lotta Nerve”. Her voice soared on “Favorite”, filling the main stage area and soaring up to the heavens. -Megan Ritt

bensollee12 Festival Review: CoS at Forecastle 2012

Photo by Lilian Cai

Ben Sollee – Starboard Stage – 8:30 p.m.

Local cellist Ben Sollee was a popular guy this weekend. In addition to sitting in with the Head and the Heart on Friday, Sollee has an ardent following in Kentucky, and it seemed like half the festival was crowded around the tiny Starboard Stage to watch him play. And for good reason: Sollee is an indie rocker with the sound and the talent for stardom—his weapon of choice just happens to be the cello, which he plays about half the time like a large guitar. The effect is enchanting—it’s a sound that’s hyper familiar to a listener, coming out of an entirely different instrument, with a deeper tone and a richer texture. When he slips back into traditional string style, the transition lends an even more interesting sound to his music.

Sollee opened with a gorgeous rendition of “Something, Somewhere, Sometime”. “Hurting” was passionate and heartfelt: “You put your hands in your pockets/buried as deep as they will go/ you’re going to find a reason/ you won’t be at the show.” His voice reminds one of that other Ben, Mr. Folds, in both its tone and its easy way with complex, emotional lyrics. But Sollee’s popularity didn’t stop with the crowd. He was joined on stage during his own set by Jim James, Abigail Washburn, Daniel Martin Moore, and Cheyenne Marie Mize, much to the crowd’s delight. -Megan Ritt

wilco10 Festival Review: CoS at Forecastle 2012

Photo by Lilian Cai

Wilco – Mast Stage – 9:30 p.m.

On Saturday night, My Morning Jacket made it incredibly difficult to follow up their near-three hour hometown gig — especially any out-of-towners. But then there’s Wilco. Having been in the business for almost 20 years and with eight albums behind them, the Chicago collective could take that challenge blindfolded. Instead, they were given an hour and a half to work with and a late Sunday night slot. In other words, tricky conditions that begged for bold moves.

Tipping off the set with a mesh of “Poor Places”, “Art of Almost”, and “I Might” was the first of many bold strides. The three multi-tempo tracks blended seamlessly into one another, aiding every tired, aching festivalgoer in finding their seventh or eighth wind. “Steamy,” frontman/bowler hat enthusiast Jeff Tweedy observed. “It’s like I’m in a big outdoor bath with everyone — in a non-sexual way.” Less is more is usually a trademark mantra of Wilco’s stage banter, and tonight was no exception, as the group powered through 17 other tracks.

wilco Festival Review: CoS at Forecastle 2012

Photo by Lilian Cai

Several snapshots to savor: the still-impacting dueling solos of “Impossible Germany”; a unique guest appearance by percussionist Tim Barnes, who came out to play shaker for “War on War” (“He plays shaker on the record, he plays it live,” Tweedy added.); a happy birthday salute to Woody Guthrie, who would have turned 100 on Saturday; and a surprise inclusion of “Laminated Cat (a.k.a. Not For the Season)”.

During technical difficulties for “Heavy Metal Drummer”, Tweedy entertained by acknowledging that drummer Glenn Kotche is an alumni of University of Kentucky, then offered his best Bill O’Reilly impersonation when the digitized drums continued to fail, adding: “We’ll give it one more shot and if it doesn’t work, we’ll do it live.” They did work, finally, which set the crowd on fire. For contextual purposes, here’s how this whole sucker wrapped up: ”I’m Always In Love”, “Heavy Metal Drummer”, “I’m The Man Who Loves You”, “Dawned on Me”, and “A Shot in the Arm”.

Few stopped singing, too many were smiling, and albeit short, Wilco kicked up just enough dust to ruffle My Morning Jacket’s laundry — all with good intentions, of course. -Michael Roffman

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Photographer(s): Lilian Cai, Megan Ritt, and Michael Roffman

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