After giving ourselves a few days to recuperate (and let our sunburns heal), Team ENS is ready to share our experiences at Forecastle Festival. This year marked the three-day music festival’s first time at Louisville’s Waterfront Park, an appropriate venue for the thousands who came for the amazing lineup, which included The Smashing Pumpkins, The Flaming Lips Cake, Devo, She & Him and Cap’n Jazz.
It was a long weekend, so the review is split into three parts:
Part I: Saturday
Part II: Sunday
Part III: Final Thoughts + Camping at Forecastle
Part I: *Saturday
*Note: I had every intention of seeing bands on Friday, but due to unfortunate circumstances, instead of watching people hula hoop to Widespread Panic, I ended up playing pool at a bar in downtown Louisville.
The 90-degree humidity made my whole group pretty sluggish, so I didn’t make it to Waterfront Park until late afternoon, just in time for Cake. The band was on my list of shows to check out that day, but after catching crowd favorites “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” and “Going The Distance” – both of which sounded awesome, by the way – I decided to explore the rest of the festival and hide under the forgiving shade of the Red Bull tent.
I returned to the main stage to watch the end of Cake’s set, but stuck around for DEVO. Despite my love for Mark Mothersbaugh as a film score composer, I fail to own any DEVO albums – I know, blasphemy – so admittedly, I was there for the experience. In typical DEVO fashion, the new wave icons performed the first few songs in silver space suits and masks.
Oh, fun fact: lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh is legally blind without his glasses, which explained why one of the space men wore glasses over his mask. The band played some songs off their new album Something For Everybody, but the crowd really went crazy once the band donned pyramid hats to play “Whip It.”
I was pretty satisfied after that so I grabbed some food and then headed to the East Stage for we were promised jetpacks. I didn’t know much about the band other than Bad Veins recently toured with the Scottish four-piece, and WOXY (R.I.P.) played them fairly often.
I realized pretty soon into their set that this entire time, I might have been confusing them with fellow Scots Frightened Rabbit. Still, it was a decent set despite technical issues and a plague of mayflies that constantly swarmed the stage.
Now, I’ll probably lose whatever readers I’ve amassed at this point because of this one statement: I didn’t see the Smashing Pumpkins. Though 98% of Forecastle was at the main stage on Saturday night, I found myself amongst a handful of others at the East Stage to see Cap’n Jazz. It was the band’s first real performance in 15 years, and the first date of their reunion tour in support of the re-release of Analphabetapolothology.
“We’re just going to play every song we know how to play,” singer Tim Kinsella told the unwavering audience of 200 before launching into the first song of their hour and a half long set. Despite the small crowd, Kinsella screamed and flailed through songs like “Little League”, “Messy Life” and their cover of “Take On Me” with all the force of an arena band, in the company of fans who knew every word to every song and couldn’t care less that Billy Corgan was one stage over.
The intimate concert was the best possible end to the second day of the festival, and one that I’m totally grateful I didn’t miss.
Part II: SUNDAY
Our final day of Forecastle started early (and by early, I mean 1:30 PM) to catch Cincinnati’s own Pop Empire. The band unveiled a set of all new songs to the small but receptive audience. Personally, I thought the new songs sounded great, but I would have liked to hear at least one or two songs off the Rainy Child EP. We didn’t have to stray far since Vandaveer immediately followed. Louisville native Mark Heidinger was joined by his sister Rose, who lent her gorgeous voice to the beautiful, understated folk tunes.
Afterward, the three of us headed to the main stage for Sarah Watkins of Nickel Creek. I hadn’t heard much Nickel Creek, but Keith and Joe encouraged me to check out the show. Watkins immediately won me over with her adorable charm and killer fiddle skills, not to mention her cover of Morrisey’s “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get.” Later, she brought tour mate Dar Williams onstage to sing a few tunes.
The sun continued to slow cook my friends and I as we sprawled on the lawn during Minus the Bear’s set. It had been over four years since I last saw MTB in Louisville with Thursday and mewithoutYou. The band had evolved significantly since then; their music still held that summery, prog-pop sound I fell in love with on Highly Refined Pirates, but the set didn’t blend into one never-ending song.
The Minus The Bear set kicked off my campout at the West Stage, for the sole purpose of getting up front for the Flaming Lips show. Of course, there were two other bands to watch until then, so I inched my way forward in the crowd for She & Him. Don’t get me wrong, sitting through She & Him and Spoon wasn’t torture. But in all honesty, She & Him’s show was almost as boring as their albums. I felt like half the audience was there to watch M. Ward smolder on guitar, or to drool over Zooey – as exhibited by the guy next to me who kept saying creepy things like “No, I saw your face today.” The duo played an encore of covers; M. Ward got a chance to shred on “Roll Over Beethoven”, while Zooey Deschanel sang a steamy cover of “I Put A Spell on You.”
Spoon followed soon after, opening with “The Beast and Dragon, Adored.” The set from then on out was a solid mix of songs off the older albums and their newest release, Transference. Some songs got a welcome revamp (“Stay Don’t Go”, “Written In Reverse”, Jonathon Fisk) with lots of reverb and horns, while some songs like “The Underdog” kept the energy of their album versions. The band also played a killer cover of The Damned’s “Love Song” (you can hear the recorded version here).
By the time Spoon left the stage, the whole audience seemed anxious. It was nearly 11 PM by the time The Flaming Lips hit the stage, but in all honesty, as soon as that LCD screen was fired up, I forgot all about how exhausted I was. Lead singer Wayne Coyne entered in typical fashion, walking across the audience inside a giant plastic bubble.
It’s a weird thing, trying to describe a Flaming Lips show to someone who has never seen them perform, because the whole experience is just so weird and beautiful that, unless there’s photographic proof, it’s easy to sound like a crazy person on some kind of trip. What starts off as a normal review (Everyone was dancing during “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”, the songs off Embryonic sound way better live, Wayne Coyne got kind of political) can easily turn into a crazy stream-of-consciousness ramble about Wayne Coyne riding on the shoulders of a bear and having giant hands and bonking people on the head with huge balloons and there were dancers dressed like DJ Lance Rock from Yo Gabba Gabba! And oh man, the confetti cannons! And the lights were crazy! And then suddenly, someone’s calling a mental health hotline on your behalf.
So maybe it’s just easier to wrap up the review with this: As expected, the Flaming Lips show blew my mind, and once again proved the Flaming Lips put on The Best Show Ever. Check out the photos to prove it.
-Caitlin Behle @cutelin