Despite the extreme heat and an early weather evacuation Friday, Forecastle Festival 2016 was a success. Clouds rolled in around 4:00PM on Friday afternoon and evacuated the festival grounds. Fans took shelter and waited for a storm that never fully developed. Luckily the schedule was adjusted and there were no cancelations.
Grouplove was the first band to come on post evacuation. As the crowds began to resettle, Grouplove blazed through and energetic set, containing “Tounge Tided” and “Itchin’ on a photograph”. The set also included, “Welcome To your Life”, the single from their new studio album of the same name released July 15th. However, the center piece of the set was the loud cover of The Beastie Boy’s 1994 classic “Sabotage”.
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals continued their lengthy tour in support of the release, “Call it What It Is”. This is the first album from BHIC in almost a decade. The set consisted of songs from the new album as well as the classics, rearranged and reimagined. This included a riff off between Harper and bass player Nelson during "Steal My Kisses." Nelson played a lick and Harper attempted to mimic him on the slide guitar. This continued back and forth until Harper threw his hands up in defeat.
I must mention my own personal disappointment in the lack of conviction from the veteran protest singer. After enduring a summer of endless, horrific acts of violence night after night on the news and the less than comforting state of the presidential race, it seems to me that we need his messages of love, integrity, and forgiveness now more than ever. I was looking to him for guidance or a sentiment that everything is going to be alight if we work together. Perhaps it is an unfair request, or time restrictions due to the weather put constrains on the Ben’s banter, but I have to “Call it What it Is”.
Ghostland Observatory is best described as an, “electro-dance soul rock” which is a pretty confusing description. So I’ll give it a go and describe them more clearly as: That moment when you’re going too fast and you get the speed wobbles. You’re going to crash later, but for now you’re pushing the speed barrier in a Hunter S. Thomson free fall. Alright, that’s probably more confusing but you’ve either experienced or witnessed this happen. The Austin, Texas duo rarely performs, but when they do it is a sight to behold. Front man Aaron Behrens, attacks the stage and audience, leaping over amps, screaming into the mic, and sweating profusely. This evening’s set included the tracks, “Sad Sad City” and “Give Me the Beat”.
The Avett Brothers marched onto the stage for the final performance of the night with new haircut and a new album. The album, unlike the haircut, was a product of Rick Rubin, co-founder of Def Jam Records. “True Sadness” is the third album Rubin has produced with the band and it is certainly a formula that works. The album as a whole is a beautifully honest portrayal of the highs and lows that come as a product of love and loss. The album also highlights the inspiring song writing and haunting harmonies of Seth and Scott Avett. The set itself included new tracks, “Ain’t No Man” and “No Hard Feelings” as well as the classics, “Laundry Room”, “Kick Drum Heart”, and a cover of Willie Nelson’s “Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)”. There were high expectations for the Avett’s Friday night and they did nothing less than expected.
Danny Brown is one of the most interesting figures to emerge in hip-hop since Ol’ Dirty Bastard. From rapping Dr. Suess books as a child to his run-ins with the law, Danny Brown’s entire essence is completely unique and genuine. Which made it a little comical to watch a sea of white college students get down to Brown’s socially conscious lyrics, “Now I'm trapped in the trap and the devil ain't forgetting. Wanna see me dead or locked in a prison. In the system with division only thing that add up, fucked up cause a nigga tryna get a couple bucks”. However, Brown’s set was one of the most energetic of the weekend. The crowd came in swarms and stayed despite the rising heat and close quarters.
The Arcs is the garage rock side project of Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys). Their first album, “Yours, Dreamily,” was released in 2015 and carries that same The Black Keys intensity with a grittier, fuller sound. The set included the tracks, “Outta My Mind”, “Pistol Made of Bones”, and “Stay in My Corner”. To fill out the set the band included several great covers including “Smiling Faces Sometimes” by The Temptations and “Big Sky” by The Kinks.
The previous night Dr. Dog played a late night show after the festival at a local venue called Headliners Music Hall. Due to the storms and schedule change on Friday, the late night performance was pushed back and began at 1230am. As Dr. Dog walked out to an almost sold out crowd, vocalist Scott McMicken warned the building, “I hope you’re ready, we are going to play for a long time.” And they did. The set comprised of twenty songs and one encore lasting until nearly 3am. On sunburned legs I watch them rip through a set including “Die, Die, Die”, which is rarely played live, and “Swampadelic Pop” the title track from their latest release. Dr. Dog did as the greats do, making their songs sound so much better live than on the album. The next day at the festival Dr. Dog played a smaller nine song set that spanned most of their impressive discography.
The Alabama Shakes headlined Saturday night and a full crowd flocked to the waterfront. Since appearing on the music scene in 2009, The Alabama Shakes have only produced two albums Boys & Girls (2012) and Sound & Color (2015). Within those two albums have been seven Grammy nominations and three acceptance speeches for Best Rock Performance (2016), Best Rock Song (Don’t Wanna Fight, 2016), and Best Alternative Album Music Album (Sound & Color 2016). Needless to say, their resume may be short but it packs a powerful punch. As Brittany Howard takes the stage she already appears to be transported to another place. With giant beads of sweat dripping down a face that is contorted into a series of hard angles, Howard’s passion is effortlessly absorbed by the crowd. The set included the majority of both albums, including, “Sound & Color”, “Hold On”, and “Don’t Wanna fight”.
The Heartless Bastards hail from the not too distant city of Cincinnati, Ohio. Like many of the other performers at Forecastle, Heartless Bastards have honed their craft with relentless touring, only taking small breaks to record new material. Perhaps this strategy is the cornerstone behind the band’s fifth release Restless Ones (2015). Looking very at home, Heartless Bastards, played through a set including, “Gates of Dawn” and “Parted Ways”.
Gary Clark Jr. began playing the guitar at the age of twelve in his hometown of Austin, Texas. His hometown happens to also be the hometown of blues guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughn. As Vaughn was redefining Texas blues, he took Gary Clark Jr. under his wing, as he knew, for good reason that he was going to be the future of Texas blues. I think it is safe to say that Vaughn made the right decision. He played through a strong set that included, “Bight Lights”, “Cold Blooded”, and “Numb”.
Death Cab for Cutie was certainly the most senior group of the weekend. They recently released their eight studio album, Kintsugi. Kintsugi is a philosophy derived from the Japanese art of repairing cracks in ceramics with gold to highlight the flaws instead of hiding them. This philosophy applies to the band as much as it applies to album itself. See how mature they are? Taking the stage Sunday afternoon, Death Cab for Cutie played the nostalgic hits, “Title Registration” and “Crooked Teeth” as well as the more contemporary, “No Room in Frame” and “Black Sun”.
Brandi Carlile was clearly humbled by the amount of fan support that came out to watch her set. Thanking the crowd after nearly every song, Carlile was present and enjoyed every second of every minute. One of the best of those moments, and perhaps the entire festival, was when Carlile invited a ten-year-old super fan on stage to sing the chorus of, “Keep your Heart Young”. Carlile bent down ask asked, “Are you nervous?” The ten-year-old responded, “Well yeah!”. Regardless of nerves, it was a wonderful duet and the crowd roared in approval of the performance. As the set continued, they covered Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California”, where Carlile gave Robbert Plant a run for his money. The final song was, “Folsom Prison Blues” in honor of the late Johnny Cash.
Ryan Adams closed out the festival Sunday night with a lot of laughs and a louder set than normal. Infamous for his song writing and acoustic performances which highlight this skill set, Adams took the final set of the festival ready to rock. With tacks, “Trouble” and “Black Sabbath (Cover of Black Sabbath)” Adams made it clear to fans that he was ready to help festival workers tear down the stage. He did, however, slip in “Oh My Sweet Carolina” perhaps for the line, “I miss Kentucky and I miss my family. All the sweetest winds they blow across the south.” The laughs came when a fan shouted, “Play Summer of ’69!” referring to the Bryan Adams song. The crowd roared at the joke, but Adams proceeded to berate the fan for the outburst. I guess I get it. I mean, that must happen every night. After Adams cooled off he concluded his set with “Come Pick Me Up” and just like that it was time to go home.