Dear Forecastle 2012,
Please don't go a-changin' on me next year. The total experience of spending this past weekend with you was sublime.
Sure, sure, you're admiring the better-known festivals (ahem - Lollapalooza) and thinking "What if I could be like them? What if I could make more money?"
Why would you want to attract more people when you have my love and that of tens of thousands of others?
Just think: If you get bigger - as Louisville Mayor Fischer promised just before My Morning Jacket took the stage on night two of your three-day smorgasbord of sensations - people will gripe and moan, their Birkenstocked feet aching from walking the 20+ minutes it might take to get from one large stage to the other. Storms may roll in, and crowds will have nowhere to hide when the overpasses overflow from underneath as the masses seek shelter. When the shows are over, dubsteppers will lose even more of their hearing as they blast music in their cars, waiting forever to get out of the Louisville Slugger Field parking lot.
And the puppets! What of the puppets? How will they find their way around such a sprawling mega music festival?
I - and many others - love you for what you are now. A decade of growth and wooing fans has led to your becoming a rarity in the festival world: Well-organized, wide-open, clean, tasty, refreshing, beautiful, and audibly glorious.
Your app made it easy to find everything: the numerous Porta-Potties, delicious food, Kentucky Bourbon tent, various vendors and more.
Your selection of a few skilled artists displaying hundred of beautiful, screenprinted music posters makes my home's walls wish for more bare space.
The food-and-drink booths, offering everything from crawfish etouffee to massive vegan pizza slices to good ol' corndogs, kept bellies full and made it possible for many to continue dancing while consuming PBR and craft beer.
And the music? Whoa.
Friday night was mind-melting for bassheads: Atmosphere rocked the largest of the stages, Mast, and warmed the crowd up nicely as they appreciated the three bridges spanning the Ohio River. Sleigh Bells' '80s bass kicks and dual shredding guitars - also on the Mast stage - kicked the weekend-long party off right and provided a nice counterpoint to Beach House, who flubbed the intro to "Zebra," had to restart the song and seemed out of their element in spite of your oceanic theme. Perhaps the Boom stage's proximity to Joe's Crab Shack threw the band off, but I digress.
After a stunningly fluorescent sunset, Flying Lotus brought surprisingly uptempo beats, bass and his gigantic, joyful smile to the under-the-overpass Red Bull Stage and caused the aforementioned Mayor to shake his booty:
Bassnectar closed the evening with an impressive-sounding and visually astounding show, blasting tracks like "Vava Voom" and "Ugly" off his latest album.
Saturday was initially plagued by storms, which thankfully passed soon enough to cause little disruption; even those My Morning Jacket fans who missed the special morning soundcheck because of the rain were later entertained by the band, up close and personal:
Preservation Hall Jazz Band entertained a large crowd at the Mast stage, and Galactic later continued the New Orleans infusion at the smaller Boom stage. Corey Glover joined Galactic a few songs in, adding amazing vocal heft to super-funky jams like "Hey Na Na" as the sun made its first appearance of day two.
Closing Saturday night, hometown heroes My Morning Jacket gave an astounding performance to a packed Mast crowd, bringing out other artists for songs like "Holdin' on to Black Metal," a seemingly made-for-Forecastle super-funky jam bolstered by Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
My Morning Jacket played an array of songs from their albums and several covers, including "Rocket Man," The Band's "It Makes No Difference," and a George Harrison track.
During another cover of a song by a guy named George, Jim James riffed on the health benefits of bananas while launching the torpedo-like fruit into the crowd. At a break in the easy-listening, saxophone-heavy "Careless Whisper," James told a story about getting George Michael's permission to perform the song, which Michael approved as long as James promised to educate the crowd about the benefits of bananas:
The banana breakdown, and the evening's puppet-centric party of a finale, wouldn't be topped on Sunday, but Neko Case gave it her all in spite of, in her words, suffering from heat-induced hallucinations. They apparently didn't hurt her performance of beautifully sung songs like "The Tigers Have Spoken," and her visions seemed to only help her sense of humor, too, as she gleefully introduced one song by saying that it was simply "about whores."
A-Trak closed the danceathon at the Red Bull Stage Sunday night with a set initially focused on hard house, which my friend assured me transformed into a variety of other bass-heavy electronic subgenres as I went to check out the pure rock fury of Clutch, who were most entertaining when they stuck to their usual song formats and stayed away from sloppy jamming.
A canal flowing from Waterfront Park to the Ohio River provided a refreshing place to dip my feet (yes, I ignored the "don't get in the water!" signs) before venturing one more time to the Mast stage, where Wilco closed the weekend's festivities. In spite of Jeff Tweedy's halfhearted performance of "Heavy Metal Drummer," most of the crowd seemed to enjoy it.
All of this is just my way of telling you, Forecastle 2012, that I loved you and hope you don't become just another ginormous event. I'll likely be back again to set sail with you next year, all the while dreaming of our time together this year.
The festival featured plenty of other surprises, like this performance under the overpass by March Madness Marching Band: