in performance: forecastle saturday 2017

Greetings from Louisville. We were stationed at Forecastle through the evening hours on Saturday covering all the sounds abounding throughout Waterfront Park on the festival’s second day. Here is what we experienced.

james murphy of lcd soundsystem closes forecastle’s saturday bill.

9:59 p.m.: “You wanted a hit,” sang James Murphy as LCD Soundsystem dug into the evening dance party. “Maybe we don’t do hits.” Well, maybe they don’t. But Forecastle’s Saturday closer still offered a familiar groove sound built around a fascinating mix of programmed beats, analog synths, percussion and the wild range of Murphy’s potent vocals. With Nancy Whang still adding to the synth orchestration from centerstage, tunes like the set-opening “Yr City’s a Sucker” and the quirkily animated “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” emerged as densely arranged electronic rock pieces that heavily recalled the early ‘80s music of Roxy Music, Talking Heads, Devo and, in Murphy’s vocals, The Cure. But hits or no hits, the ensemble’s resulting music sounded proudly modern.

8:46 p.m.: As the temps cooled with the sunset on Forecastle Saturday, so did the music. The electronic drenched works of the New York collective Phantogram colored the twilight with a discreetly lush set of soundscapes. This wasn’t the usual push-button dance party, but a hybrid where founding members Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter added live vocals and guitar, respectively, to the heavily synthesized backdrops of “Destroyer” and “Answer.” Barthel’s singing was employed as a moodpiece device, a breathy though thin addition that worked best during the more overtly pop propulsion of “Cruel World” and the self-described “dance hit” groove of “Calling All.”

sturgill simpson, guitar hero.

7:55 p.m. – Meet Sturgill Simpson, guitar hero. By jettisoning the horn section that backed him onstage following the release of last year’s “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” album and trimming what remained of his band to a lean quartet, the Kentucky country renegade opened his evening set with a reading of “Brace for Impact (Live a Little)” that roared on for 10 minutes, over half of which was devoted to long, winding guitar jams Simpson played over a thick, deliberate Southern groove. After that, the performance wound its way through psychedelic blues (“It Ain’t All Flowers”), Merle Haggard-level country reflection (“Breakers Roar”), a quietly ambient meditation that ignited into hotwired, churchy soul (“Welcome to Earth”) and a Prince-worthy guitar grind that opened out into a potent cover of the blues/boogie chestnut “Going Down.” All in all, a typically mighty and wonderfully combustible Simpson outing.

nathaniel rateliff convened an early evening soul revival.

5:50 p.m. – “Bow your heads and buckle your knees.” That was the request of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats as the young rock/soul brigade dedicated “Boil and Fight” to the late Chuck Berry, right down to the tune’s joyous riff that recalled the rock forefather’s classic “Memphis.” What defined this vibrant set wasn’t so much the traditional charm it possessed, but the tired soul revue sentiment it avoided. Buoyed by a guitar sound and vocal lead that were both beautifully ragged, songs like the new “Coolin’ Out” and the comparatively vintage “Howling at Nothing” lavished naturally within honest rock and soul smarts.

5:14 p.m. – The afternoon’s big mash-up came courtesy of K-Flay, the Illinois songstress whose set blended dour pop musings with strong colors of electronica. “It’s Strange,” her 2015 collaboration with Louis the Child, was draped in synths and rhythmic loops while “High Enough” was served as a full blown, dance savvy pop confection. An interesting mix, even though K-Flay’s voice was nowhere near as arresting or distinctive as her onstage attitude.

j.d. mcpherson proved to be an early saturday highlight.

4:10 p.m. – Forecastle officially kicked into high gear with a typically rocking set by J.D. McPherson. The Oklahoma singer/guitarist again operated from a largely traditional playbook of retro-inclined pop, soul, blues and roots rock inspirations kicked off by the swirling guitar riff of “Bossy” before bowing to the merry sax drive of “Northside Gal,” the tremolo-boosted ‘50s flavor of “It Shook Me Up” and the freeflowing vintage pop flow of the new “Desperate Love.” The bar for the day has now been set.

3:21 p.m. – In a fit of performance irony, the Portland based Closner sisters Natalie, Allison and Meegan – collectively known as Joseph – let their opening tune, “Stay Awake,” emerge from a blast of fuzzed out bass. From there, layers of ambient-inclined folk morphed into the indie power pop charge of “Canyon” and “S.O.S. (Overboard).” Appealing harmonies, impressive performance zeal but pretty standardized material.

lucy dacus opening the mast stage saturday afternoon at forecastle. all herald-leader staff photos by rich copley.

2:57 p.m. –Virginia songsmith Lucy Dacus kicked off the music on the Mast Stage, the largest of Forecastle’s four performance areas, with a moody, atmospheric set full of often vulnerably inclined pop (“Map on a Wall”) that often reflected the very inward nature of her singing. Even with such afternoon reserve, it was nice to hear the guitars rev up to match the polite angst of “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore.”

 



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