It was still light outside and hovering around 90 degrees at 9 p.m. when Run the Jewels took the stage at Forecastle. Despite the heat, Killer Mike, a native Atlantan and one-half of RTJ, was pleased to be back in the South.
“I love being a motherfucking Southerner. I don’t care what other bullshit they put on us,” he said.
RTJ delivered the most politically charged set of the day, with the song “Lie Cheat Steal” serving as a highpoint. “The world is not the piece of shit you see on television,” El-P shouted from the Port stage just moments earlier. “We can take our world and make it what we want to.”
Earlier that afternoon, ace songwriter John Moreland delivered the day’s most poignant performance. The Tulsa native performed on acoustic guitar, with another gentleman alternating on acoustic and electric guitar. Moreland mostly played tunes from his recent album Big Bad Luv, which was recorded as a full-band effort. It was cool to hear the new songs in a stripped down format, particularly “Sallisaw Blue” and “Lies I Chose To Believe.”
With more national exposure coming from the new record, it seems Moreland is beginning to reach fans outside of the Americana bubble. Priscilla Roman, an 18-year-old from southern Kentucky, came to check out the artist after recently discovering his song “You Don’t Care For Me Enough To Cry” on a Spotify Discover Weekly playlist.
“I don’t know what you call it, if it’s country or folk,” she said, “but it’s my new favorite song; it just tugs at your heartstrings.”
Next up, over on the main stage, was Cage the Elephant. The band hails from Bowling Green, Kentucky, but they spent time in England and frontman Matt Shultz, shirtless and constantly in motion, often gets recognized for his Jagger swagger. His stage presence, though, is more full throated Iggy Pop than Stones. Marching through a 13-song set, he stopped to remind us that there is “a lot of hate, a lot of division…but let’s take this moment to celebrate love.” The band then tore into “Come a Little Closer,” with more riffs on contradictions and perspective (“things aren’t always what they seem to be”). Among the crowd-accompanied originals was a cover of Wreckless Eric’s “(I’d Go the) Whole Wide World.” The action was in black and white on stage-side screens, capturing the punk rock grit in the sound.
Before the sun set over the Ohio, the band’s set melted beautifully apart as Shultz leapt into the crowd and one last gasp of guitar shredded out “My Old Kentucky Home” (think Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner”).
— Written by Caine O’Rear and Alex Shoaf