(Photo: Jill Sanders)
The last time American Songwriter made a trip to Louisville’s Waterfront Park, it was to catch one of Mumford & Sons’ “Gentlemen of the Road” shows in 2012. Two years later, we left our humidity-soaked Nashville headquarters and headed north once again, trailing exhaust fumes all the way from middle Tennessee to the picturesque banks of the Ohio River. The reason? We heard the Forecastle Festival had stepped up its game this year, and we couldn’t miss out on three days of live music, could we?
From Green Day cameos to country-rock bar bands fronted by sober singers, we bring you the best of the fest.
Jason Isbell Sings the Blues… Without the Booze
(Photo: Kara Smarsh)
A cheer erupted from the crowd halfway through Jason Isbell’s show-stopping performance of “Cover Me Up,” right after the alcohol-free frontman sang a line to his absent wife: “I sobered up and I swore off that stuff, forever this time.” It was a touching gesture from an audience that had spent the past two days drinking through the festival’s cache of Heineken and high-end bourbon, as well as a sign that Isbell’s sharp, bar band country-rock hasn’t lost its potency… even if his drinks have. An added bonus? The interplay between Isbell and bandmate Sadler Vaden, who traded guitar-god solos that split the difference between AC/DC, Skynyrd and Luther Perkins.
The Replacements Find a New Replacement
We expected the Replacements’ late-afternoon set on Sunday to be loose. What we didn’t expect was an unannounced cameo by Green Day frontman Billy Joe Armstrong, who reportedly joined the group for a single rehearsal before happily gatecrashing their entire set. Armstrong played rhythm guitar and spent most of the performance by the drum riser, leaving the spotlight to Paul Westerberg. When Westerberg’s mic stand collapsed during the opening lines of “Can’t Hardly Wait,” though, Armstrong ran toward the front of the stage to help him out — and planted a kiss on his hero’s lips before back into the eaves. How punk rock.
Lucius Makes Us See Double
Taking the stage in matching dresses and identical blonde bobs, the ladies of Lucius — Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig — kicked off their set with a soft, gorgeous lullaby, drawing a line between their own music and the epic, guitar-heavy rock & roll that normally occupied the main stage. By the end of the show, though, the frontwomen had kicked up plenty of dust, banging on their auxiliary percussion instruments and wailing in near-perfect harmony while the rest of their band held down the indie-pop fort.
(Photo: Kara Smarsh)
Jack White Pays Tribute to Hip-Hop, Country and Surf Rock
During his headlining set on Friday night, Jack White veered between solo tunes and White Stripes classics, extending everything but the most stripped-down songs with stop-start breakdowns, guitar freak outs and plenty of heavy metal thunder. He also tipped his hat to those that came before him. “Icky Thump” included verses from Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” and riffs from Dick Dale’s “Miserlou,” while “Hotel Yorba” briefly diverted into Buck Owens’ “Sam’s Place” — which White dedicated to fellow Forecastle artist Dwight Yoakam — before White’s band segued back into the familiar territory of the Stripes’ first single. Also on the setlist were covers of “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and Hank Williams’ “You Know That I Know,” proof that White seems to be enjoying his adopted hometown of Nashville.
(Photo: Kara Smarsh)
Jenny Lewis Sings With Louisville’s Own Watson Twins
Back in 2006, Jenny Lewis crooned her way into the hearts of many an indie-rock-loving male— if, by some small chance, she wasn’t there already — with Rabbit Fur Coat, a solo album laced with the close, country harmonies of the Watson Twins. Days before the release of her newest solo record, she hit the Forecastle main stage in ’60s bug glasses and a rainbow-splattered nudie suit… and tossed a bone to longtime listeners by inviting the Louisville-based Watson Twins to join her for several songs. She tossed a few Rilo Kiley staples into the mix, too, but Lewis’ set hit its peak once she moved into her newer tunes, proof that The Voyager — her first solo release in six years — is well worth the wait.