By BRADEN LAMMERS
The three-day Forecastle arts, music and activism festival by every measure has been a success.
Record crowds entered Louisville’s Waterfront Park last weekend, despite a few pop-up storms that evacuated the festival Saturday and caused an hour delay Sunday. About 65,000 people walked through the gates over the course of the three days. The attendance was nearly double the amount of people that attended the 10th anniversary festival and Saturday saw peak crowds of 25,000.
The economic impact on the region is expected to be more than double the $2.5 million that was generated last year.
Forecastle Festival is expected to make its return for the 12th time in 2014 as organizers are already asking through social networking who the festival’s fans would like to see play next year. But before the focus shifts to the groups people are clamoring for in 2014, there are a host of bands that shined at the 11th Forecastle Festival.
WHO WAS GREAT
New Albany’s Houndmouth was one band making waves at Forecastle.
The band has been on a whirlwind run during the last year — more so since the four-piece band played its last concert in the region in April. It showed in the crowd that gathered around the stage during their set, which was more than double the amount of people that saw the band open the season at Iroquois Amphitheater this spring.
One of the best shows of the entire festival came from the Welsh rock trio The Joy Formidable. A high energy, pop-rock show that was loud enough to shake the piers of Joe’s Crab Shack located next to the Boom Stage on the southwest side of the grounds left the audience feeling the same as the band’s finale “Whirring.”
Two groups with deep blues-rock roots were also highlights of the weekend.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals frontwoman was as energetic as any performer of the entire weekend. A band that earned its reputation from touring showed why. The bluesy-soul that is captured on the group’s albums doesn’t compare to their live performance.
And Saturday night’s headliner The Black Keys also rocked, putting on display the chops that they’ve earned during the years spent touring. The Black Keys are at their best when they are playing as a duo, and all there is generating a deep bluesy crunch is Dan Auerbach’s guitar and vocals and Patrick Carney flailing away on the drums, but somehow hitting every note with passion and precision.
One of the highlights of the festival was the stage under Interstate 64 that hosted dance, techno and rap artists. Matt & Kim played after dark Saturday and basically went berserk — with the former jumping up and down on the stool in front of his keyboard and the latter bounding from her bass drum. Their live show was a blast.
Early in the day Sunday, Tennis — a sunny pop band from Denver — basked in the heat and showered the audience with song after melodic song. It’s perfect companion music to summer.
Also worth mentioning is Rumblebucket, who brought horns and a great stage presence to the smallest stage Saturday night.
WHAT WE’D LIKE TO SEE RETURN
Aside from the bands that grace the stage at Forecastle, each year organizers continue to refine and improve the festival.
New features that need to come back for the 12th festival are large video screens on either side of the main, or Mast, Stage. It was great to actually be able to see the acts if you didn’t want to force your way up in to the first three rows.
The expanded Bourbon Lodge — three times the size of the previous year’s iteration — needs to return and maybe expand again.
A great feature that is wholly unique to the event, bourbon is “really going to be looked at as the fourth headliner of Forecastle,” said Forecastle Founder and “Captain” JK McKnight at a press conference Friday to kick-off the event.
The Bourbon Lodge also provided an oasis of good food, air conditioning and real bathrooms.
WHAT WE’D LIKE TO SEE GO OVERBOARD
Overall, the festival excelled. But in discussing performances of the bands with other attendees, one complaint reverberated — it wasn’t loud enough.
Especially for the main stage, and during the headlining acts, people watching at the back of Waterfront Lawn had trouble hearing the music.
It may have been the wall of people the sound was hitting, or the outdoor elements dissipating the music. A second bank of speakers by the sound board would go a long way to having those who didn’t push their way up to the stage, enjoying the full experience of the festival and its acts.
The other thing about which little can be done is festival prices. Keep the local food vendors in, keep the generic vendors out and maybe add some more local options.
And, just like with bourbon, let’s give attendees some local beer options.
— Editor Shea Van Hoy contributed to this report.