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Forecastle 2015 Festival Review: Top 10 Sets + Photos

on July 22, 2015, 2:25pm
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On the opening night of this year’s Forecastle Festival, a severe thunderstorm swept through Louisville, Kentucky, causing Sam Smith to cut his headlining set short and the entire festival crowd to be evacuated from the grounds. The other two days of the festival was greeted with near 100 degree heat that had festival attendees melting away. While I’ll never forget the erratic weather, the final summation of the past weekend will be the extensive talent from the bands and artists and how smooth everything ended up going.

As expected, local hometown heroes My Morning Jacket closed out Saturday with an all-inclusive two-and-half hour set (maybe longer) while Widespread Panic jammed the festival to the finish line on Sunday — both were superb. However, for Michael Powell and myself, our personal top picks were somewhat of a surprise, but that’s the magic of any music festival. There are the must-see sets and then there are those that come out of nowhere and take your heart — we prefer the latter.

With a fully packed bourbon lodge, the Ohio River gently moving in the background, and the multiple Hunter S. Thompson’s running around, there was no better reflection of Louisville’s soul and spirit. Once more, Forecastle Festival proved to be one of the best music festivals in the nation and another big weekend for the beautiful Southern city.

–Zach Hart
Contributing Writer

10. Jeff the Brotherhood

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Photo by Michael Powell

Feelin’ like a proud dad over here watching JEFF the Brotherhood ascend in stage size over the years. They made their Louisville debut in a scuzzy dive bar and now command a large Friday afternoon crowd of a couple thousand as a muscular quartet churning out primordial, sludgy stoner punk. Jake Orrall’s translucent see-through Gibson SG was an aesthetic bonus. –Michael Powell

09. Dr. Dundiff and Friends

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Photo by Ry Crist

Dr. Dundiff actually got his Forecastle spot by posting a bunch of YouTube pitches promising an epic festival performance. Hip-Hop is often known for its intra-genre competition, diss tracks, and beefs. Dundiff flipped this trope on its head and turned the spotlight on the entire Louisville hip-hop scene. The amazing gesture paid off and featured over 10 local hip-hop artists, including rising stars Jalin Roze, 1200, Bird Zoo, Skyscraper Stereo, and Jack Harlow. Each guest seized his opportunity and made a very loud statement that the Louisville hip-hop scene is bubbling up and ready to boil over onto the national scene. The cherry on top was a brief collaboration with the “mayor of Forecastle,” Jim James of Saturday headliners My Morning Jacket. Dundiff’s selfless set was not just admirable in concept; it also delivered beyond expectations. –Zach Hart

08. The Tallest Man On Earth

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Photo by Ry Crist

There isn’t much to say about The Tallest Man on Earth other than … what a voice. Following the masters like Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, Kristian Matsson has this perfectly unique presence that floats above comfortable melodies. Matsson had complete control of the large festival crowd and showed that great shows don’t have to be all about the frills. Supreme talent will do just fine. –Zach Hart

07. Lower Dens

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Photo by Michael Powell

Lower Dens kicked off the day, thankfully at the Ocean Stage under the bridge. They’re not an act appropriate for a sweltering afternoon that felt, to quote my main dude Rob Thomas, “seven inches from the midday sun.” The moody and nocturnal disposition of both Nootropics and their highly cinematic Escape from Evil deserves a bit more ambiance, but Jana Hunter and company took care of business. They stuck pretty close to their synth-heavy latest effort, exposing a whole new audience to Hunter’s resonate, incandescent vocals. “Company”, toward the end of the set, provided Forecastle with its lone true blue blast of krautrock. –Michael Powell

06. The War on Drugs

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Photo by Michael Powell

Adam Granduciel runs a well-oiled machine. What comes off as noodling is so beautifully sculpted and thoughtful, a perfect accompaniment to their expanded lineup. Though a lot of the subtle, shoegazing-informed textures that answer the question “what if Bruce Springsteen blazed really good ganj” got lost in the festival atmosphere, the songs of Lost in the Dream were a gorgeous complement to the fading sun on the choppy Ohio River. They had me feelin’ some kind of way. –Michael Powell

05. Houndmouth

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Photo by Ry Crist

Houndmouth’s debut album showed enough talent and strength in songwriting to place them in a crowded group of similar sounds: Dawes, Shovels & Ropes, Mumford, and so on. With their latest album, Little Neon Limelight, Houndmouth break out of the white noise genre and find their own unique voice. The same individuality that bursts through on their newest album can be experienced during their live show. The band is loose, having fun, and emoting a non-assuming cockiness. This was one of the strongest start-to-finish sets of the festival and a whole lot of fun to witness. –Zach Hart

04. Modest Mouse

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Photo by Ry Crist

I’ve always been that Modest Mouse fan who shrugged off all efforts post The Moon and Antarctica. The most recent albums have been nice but fail to capture the angst and personality that originally made me fall in love with the band. Well, after this Forecastle set, I have to revisit the newer output and rethink my position. The band flourished on newer material like “Lampshades on Fire” with the same gusto they injected into my personal favorite, “Dramamine”. This was a powerful set that turned a nostalgic listener into a fresh-eared, born-again fan. –Zach Hart

03. Diarrhea Planet

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Photo by Ry Crist

At the Port Stage, one of the local radio personalities from afternoon drive-time on the city’s tastemaking tripe-A station was in charge of MC duties. That I missed her forced to say “Diarrhea Planet” with a straight face remains one of my biggest disappointments of the weekend. Of course, that’s the point – troll the industry and rock as hard as possible. DP delivers on all fronts. They have four guitars. Not including the bass. There’s a bass too. They mix greaser punk with ’70s style, The Sweet-evoking cock rock and it ruled. –Michael Powell

02. Twin Limb

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Photo by Ry Crist

Twin Limb just might be the best band you haven’t heard of yet. An accordion player sits directly across from a drummer, staring into each other’s eyes like they’re the only two people alive. A guitar/electronic madman stands behind the two and fills in all the gaps with a razor-sharp juxtaposition of raw power against the gentle voices of the two frontwomen. The easiest musical comparison would be Beach House meets early Fleet Foxes, but Twin Limb are a band all their own. Remember the name. It should be everywhere in a year or so. –Zach Hart

01. Alvvays

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Photo by Michael Powell

Closing out the Port Stage, Forecastle’s breakout act stage, Friday night was Toronto’s Alvvays, whose breezy Canadian power-meets-dream pop offered the only breeze of the weekend. The move of Alvvays from the sweltering afternoon to a pink-washed dusk provided an unbeatable ambiance that pushed this performance to the weekend highlight – their expansive and gorgeous sonic flights reminiscent of maestros Velocity Girl and Aislers Set, glimmering over the Ohio River. Also, the launching into “Next of Kin” early in the set shut up a festival crowd – a rarity! –Michael Powell

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