Forecastle Fest 2018 Lineup Preview
This year’s festival lineups have been a weird beast. When most of the major festivals were announced, their lineups felt incoherent, like they were just grabbing as many big names as they could without concerns for fit or overarching vibe. By trying to appeal to as many people and genres as possible, the biggest festivals this year felt uninspired and unessential. A festival is best when it provides a deep collection of artists in the same genres and niches that would allow a fan to enjoy a weekend full of their favorite artists, plus a number of potential new favorites.
Fortunately, Louisville’s Forecastle Fest is offering a carefully curated alternative to all of those other slapdash festivals this summer. There are three major types of musical offerings at this festival, which are organized by stage. The Port Stage and Party Cove are both filled with local Louisville musical offerings, the Ocean stage is primarily hip-hop/R&B (with some ventures into EDM and pop), and the Mast and Boom stages are heavily alt-country/bluegrass/folk-rock, with a healthy mix of big indie rock names for the less adventurous. This lineup is pretty deep and seems super fun, so let’s break down some of the bands I’m most excited to see on each day. [Note: Since I’m not super familiar with the Louisville music scene or most of the Ocean Stage artists, I’m going to refrain from previewing them (except to say that T-Pain is dope as hell and I will be seeing part of his set as a gift to middle-school Mitchell)].
I’m With Her (Boom Stage, 3:45-4:45)
This is a fairly new super group (though they did get the name before it was Hillary’s catch-phrase) made up of Sara Watkins (of Nickel Creek fame), Aoife O’Donovan (of Crooked Still, among other projects), and Sarah Jarosz. They make fantastic, woman-centric bluegrass music, which is a breath of fresh air in such a male-dominated genre. All three of them are absurdly talented on their own, and together they made a great debut album (2018’s See You Around). Seeing these three would be a great way to kick off your festival experience if you miss the first round of shows.
Lucero (Boom Stage, 5:30-6:30)
Long-time country rockers (together since the late 90’s) Lucero have been on my to-see list for years now, but their concerts have just never quite lined up with when I could go to a show. I’m excited to finally see their hard-rocking, whiskey-and-cigarette-fueled music and have them bring some much-needed energy to the middle of a hot Kentucky afternoon. Just be forewarned: Lead singer Ben Nichols’ voice is not for the light-hearted. It’s harsh and aggressive and he’s been hard on it over the years, so maybe avoid this one if you prefer your singers to have crystal clear, healthy voices.
Father John Misty (Mast Stage, 8:00-9:15)
The last time I saw Father John Misty was in 2016, which was two albums and some significant mellowing out (both in personality and musical style) ago, but I’m sure his stage presence hasn’t changed a ton since then. When I’ve seen him in the past, he’s been a lively, if somewhat quiet, force on stage. He’s not one to talk a ton between songs, and he’s definitely not one for the stories other bands will tell about their music, but he’s still happy to snark it up and crack some jokes on stage. In other words, he’s always working to make sure people having some fun. I’m really interested in seeing how his two most recent albums translate to the stage, so I’m planning on seeing this entire set.
Modest Mouse (Mast Stage, 10:15-11:30)
Modest Mouse is one of the bands that got me into indie music way back when, but I’ve never been able to see them live. I’ve heard from friends and writers that their shows can be a bit hit or miss depending on the setlist and Isaac Brock’s mood. But, their music has been enjoyably fantastic for over 20 years now. Even if they’re a bit bored of their role as a festival mainstay by this point in their career (or even just this point in the summer), it’ll still be a great experience to say I’ve finally gotten to see these legends live.
Margo Price (Boom Stage, 5:30-6:30)
Margo Price is one of country’s biggest rising stars right now because she brings an authentic, woman-focused voice to yet another male-dominated genre. She’s happy to be critical of politics, people, and the music business in her music, and wraps all of that in a slick, traditional Nashville sound. I got to see her as a part of Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Fest last year, and she had a great, energetic set to kick off the sets that I saw. I would highly recommend her set, especially if you want to try and get Nashville to stop making bro-pop country and make something authentic again.
Jimmy Eat World (Mast Stage, 5:45-6:45)
I mean, sure, why not? I didn’t really realize these guys were still around until one of their new songs started getting a good bit of radio play in the last year or two, but “The Middle” is a classic, and the new stuff is good and slots in really well in today’s indie-rock dominated environment. Go check out this set and see what these guys have been up to in the 17 years since their hit rocked the world.
The War on Drugs (Boom Stage, 9:15-10:30)
Oh man, I’m so excited to see these guys. Their albums are consistently some of my favorite things to listen to, and the bits of them live that I’ve seen (primarily the times they’ve popped up on Letterman) are absolutely electric. They’re guitar wizards, and excel at making dreamy soundscapes that you can just get lost in and dance away the night to. And that is exactly what I’ll be doing Saturday night. Feel free to join me.
Chris Stapleton (Mast Stage, 10:00-11:30)
For years, Chris Stapleton has been hailed as the one to bring the “country” back to country music and radio. His music’s been raking in awards since his debut album in 2016, and he’s been constantly lauded in every way in the past few years. While I’m not sure his music is *that* much better or revolutionary compared to a lot of other musicians with slightly lower profiles (see: Jason Isbell, who is coincidentally playing Sunday), he’s still damn good, and he keeps getting asked to headline festivals so he must put on a damn good show.
Tyminski (Boom Stage, 3:15-4:00)
Most people don’t know Dan Tyminski by name, but they definitely know music he’s worked on. When he’s not doing his solo stuff, he’s been a long-time member of Allison Kraus’s band Union Station, and he’s best known, but rarely credited for, being the voice behind O Brother, Where Art Thou’s version of “Man of Constant Sorrow” (I hate to break it to you, but no, that is not George Clooney singing that). He’s always been a crazy talented bluegrass artist, but with his Tyminski project, he’s exploring a very different sound by bringing in a lot of electronic pop/rock influences. It’s a weird sound, but I’m very intrigued by it. It should make for a very interesting live set.
Trampled by Turtles (Mast Stage, 5:15-6:15)
TBT is just straight up one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. These guys play punk-influenced bluegrass at the speed of light, and their new album is a return to their string-burning ways after a few mellower outings. Just come to this set with a whiskey and/or cheap beer in hand and get ready to have your mind blown by some extremely fun music played at a pace you probably didn’t think was humanly possible.
Punch Brothers (Boom Stage, 6:45-7:45)
While TBT is one of the best bands I’ve seen live, I think Punch Brothers may be *the* best band I’ve had the privilege to see in person. These five are some of, if not the best, to play their instruments in the world right now and can make music with a traditional five-piece bluegrass set-up that shouldn’t be possible. Seriously, just go look up their cover of Radiohead’s “Kid A.” And then go listen to “Flippen.” I’ll wait for you. Ok, back? Yeah, these boys have range. And that’s just some of their instrumentals. These guys are ridiculous. I am just going to go ahead and pencil this one into your schedule. The only bad thing about this set is that it overlaps so much with Jason Isbell’s.
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (Mast Stage, 7:15-8:15)
Jason Isbell is simply one of the best songwriters around today in any genre. If you can listen to “If We Were Vampires” and not cry, you are honestly probably already a vampire and we need to have words (and possibly stakes). Isbell is also a fun Twitter follow, and seems like a genuinely great person. He’s been selling out all kinds of amphitheaters lately, which is usually a sign of a good performer, and he’s recently rocketed up my list of artists I really need to see live. This is a safe bet for a great show, and I think Isbell has a good chance of being the highlight of the whole festival for me.
Arcade Fire (Mast Stage, 9:10-11:00)
If you’re coming to this festival, you know who Arcade Fire are. They’re the biggest band in indie music and have been for years. They’re epic and awe-inducing, and make some truly inspired and unique music. Everything Now was super catchy and ear-worm-y. There’s a reason these guys are closing out the entire festival. Don’t kid yourself, you’re going to see Arcade Fire. And it’s going to be epic.