The 11th annual Forecastle music and art festival was threatened by severe storms on both Saturday and Sunday. Included in this was a short-lived evacuation of the festival grounds Saturday just before Dawes was set to take the mast stage. Without so much as a trickle from the sky, it wasn’t long after the evacuation announcement that the crowd was let back inside Waterfront Park in Louisville, K.Y. The roughly hour-long delay threw most set times off for the rest of the night.
Saturday highlights included sets from Charleston’s Shovels & Rope, with its unique brand of husband-and-wife garage rock. San Francisco-based Foxygen turned in a weirdly-fun show: Lead singer Sam France ran around the stage like a madman, even climbing up the stacks on the stage (as Mr. Weird himself, Wayne Coyne, watched from the side stage). Alabama Shakes were impressive as Brittany Howard didn’t hold back for a second during the band’s “no bullshit” set. The Flamings Lips are Forecastle stalwarts and didn’t fail to keep it weird with over-the-top staging and light displays.
Saturday night absolutely belonged to Louisville’s hometown hero Jim James and Ohio natives, The Black Keys. James stayed true to his usual set consisting of his current solo material with a smattering of My Morning Jacket and Monsters Of Folk tunes. The surprise of his set was a wonderful cover of The Beatles “Let It Be.”
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The Black Keys killed it. Plain and simple. The grungy rock n’ roll duo have been on tour for over a year now and Forecastle was their last stop. While they’ve mostly played the same set for their entire tour, Forecastle was treated to deeper cuts like “Thickfreakness” and “Your Touch.” The Black Keys really took charge of the crowd after shedding their back band and getting down to business as a distorted duo in all its glory.
Sunday started off beautifully with a set from Tift Merritt and segued into the beachy notes of Tennis. The Red Bull music stage was set ablaze by the rhymes of Killer Mike and El-P. Hot on the heels of their collaborative release, Run The Jewels, both rappers performed their respective solo songs in addition to swapping verses from the new album.
Oddly enough, it seemed as though Killer Mike was giving Grace Potter & The Nocturnals are run for their money, as the two acts had overlapping sets. As usual, Potter and her band (which includes Asheville’s Michael Libramento on bass) rocked it. Potter even took time to kick off her shoes during the set as she told the crowd she wore her “Sunday robe” for Forecastle.
Rain showered down on festival goers Sunday evening around dusk. The wet weather lasted about 45 minutes as music stopped, but there was no evacuation this time around. This managed to cut Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters’ set short by 25 minutes. The former Led Zeppelin frontman rearranged favorites like “Going To California” and “Black Dog” and put a new, rock-heavy twist on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful.”
North Carolina darlings, The Avett Brothers, closed out the festival Sunday night. Their high-energy set contained song selection similar to other shows throughout the band’s tour, with exception of an encore that included a Townes Van Zandt cover of “No Place To Fall.”