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Forecastle Recap for Blank Newspaper

July 27, 2010

Passing along my recap of the 2010 Forecastle Music Festival, which I did for Blank Newspaper in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Forecastle 2010 Recap

Some refer to me as a “festival junkie.” Although I prefer “enthusiast” over comparisons to hopeless addicts, I cannot hide my passion. I have freckles born in the Bonnaroo sun; my hearing is less receptive, thanks to the massive Californian speakers of Coachella. After travelling to seven different festivals, I’ve come to expect much of the same; great live music, the legions of environmentally conscious mudsters and otherworldly art that will freeze you in your tracks for example. Arriving in Louisville, I anticipated a toned down, city-sponsored event, that would mirror the matured, wine-drinking amusements of Memphis’ Beale Street Music Festival. What I found was strangely opposite; the progressive revolution was present, fully entrenched along the banks of the Louisville River.

They came in the forms of the Sustainable Living Roadshow, Cirque Berzerk, Outdoor Extreme Sports performers, the Green Marketplace; I’m talkin’ bout my generation. Lovable slackers, rubberized carnies spindling down curtains, dreadlocked bikers and green beings; all dancing joyously, unapologetic to the wandering eyes of Old Kentucky. Towards the back of the main stage grounds, a twisting, arching structure comes into vision. Even up close, you can barely make out the long, bent endoskeleton of chicken wire, which has been covered in empty plastic bottles and containers. “Yeah, but what happens to this thing after the music’s over?” scoffs an onlooker. It’s then that I realize that this magnificent piece of recycled art is not meant to entertain or amuse me. Sure, hunching under its plasticized arches takes me back to my jungle gym days, but it’s the imprint I left with, that this trash was turned to something, rather than nothing. Just the playful hints of progress laughing at us. I run and crawl under every arch.

For the festival blowhards like myself, there’s no comparing Forecastle’s lineup to the likes of Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza; and that’s the greatest blessing. Forecastle found room in its budget for a few A-listers, such as Spoon, the Flaming Lips and Widespread Panic. Yet it’s the Radioheads and Tom Pettys that attract massive crowds that will leave you claustrophobic and ticket prices that will leave you broke. Try a weekend of Cake, Minus the Bear and Manchester Orchestra. Much like a good in-flight movie, you’ll be entertained with leg room.

Like many festivals before it, the humidity is not ignorable, as tattoo-covered, Modern English guitarist Gary McDowell reminded me. “It’s bloody hot down here man. England is much more pleasant.” “How long has it been since you’ve visited the American southeast?” I inquire. “How old are you?” “Twenty-two.” “Twenty-three years then.” Long-awaited throwback artist? Check.

On Saturday night, one of the most memorable reunions of the year, if not the decade, was slated for the East Stage, speakers barking across the boat-parking inlet towards the Main Stage, taunting the fleet of fans who opted to watch a half-assembled Smashing Pumpkins showcase. Indie rock and emo pioneers Cap’n Jazz, fresh off a fifteen year hiatus, warmly embraced hundreds of head-banging fans with a set that brazenly opened with classic hits, summoning the same energy exuberated from the five-piece when they were mostly minors in 1995. Fabled reunion? Check.

The forecastle is defined as the upper deck, or foremast of a ship. Not too strange a name when considering Bonnaroo was derived from Louisiana slang for “good time.” Yet, Forecastle’s name is perhaps more appropriately termed. This festival is truly moving forward, while the giants of Coachella or Lollapalooza are weighed down by their past lineups and dreamy promises of the future, that there’s scarcely any room for improvement. Forecastle may not have the U2’s or Rage Against the Machines, but I’m not sure if they’d want them now; this ship is sailing smoothly. Somebody once told me that sometimes, less is more. That’s Forecastle for you.

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