Customarily, Halfway to Forecastle is the celebration that marks the midpoint before the next Forecastle festival. Now a decade old, Forecastle is the annual, multiday festival that promotes music, art, and activism in the heart of downtown Louisville, Kentucky. With festival organizer JK McKnight’s move to AC Entertainment (Bonnaroo, Moogfest), the decision was made to push the traditionally wintertime event back to July in anticipation of an enormous, blowout Forecastle Fest in Summer 2012. Although Halfway to Forecastle is smaller in comparison to the event it honors, this year’s blowout didn’t lack the features people would expect to find at a larger festival. The mini-fest took place July 15th in the Wharf Area at Waterfront Park in Louisville, which included a main stage in front of the Ohio River, eco-friendly vendors, and a diverse crowd of music enthusiasts.
Out of all the festivals/concerts I attended this summer, I anticipated Halfway to Forecastle the most, because (a) I was going to be reunited with my best friend who studied abroad last semester, (b) I decided to splurge on a VIP ticket and, (c) the lineup included old favorites, new favorites and forgotten favorites. Regardless of their reasons for being there, all festival attendees walked into an intimate, unique vibe and were rewarded with a jam-packed, well-rounded evening of music.
My friends and I arrived at the park about an hour before the music started, and roved about the grounds inspecting the scene. The vendors, stages, and bathrooms were easily accessible, giving the venue a cozy feel. Being primarily a homegrown city festival and allowing LPD free reign of the joint reduces the sketchball factor significantly. Forecastle has never been a shady place, and the Halfway celebration maintained that reputation.
Before we knew it, 6 o’clock rolled around and the music kicked off with BoomBox. The duo features percussionist/beatsmith Russ Randolph and vocalist Zion Godchaux on guitar. Having seen them for the first time at this year’s Summer Camp, I instantly recognized their uniqueness. From their quirky attire (including Randolph's top hat and Godchaux's feather boa) to their funky jams, BoomBox remains true to their musical M.O., and appears unmoved by industry trends. I heartily enjoyed the versatility of the musical duo. Randolph utilizes about four different devices to produce the beats while Godchaux mixes things up with his guitar and strategically injected vocals. The crowd, though small at this point in the fest, got down—dancing like fools and appreciating the tone BoomBox was establishing for the rest of the day. They closed their set with “Headchange,” which I can’t recommend enough for those wanting a fresh, feel good sing-along to add to your summer playlist.
Next up on the line-up was Twin Shadow, a diverse rock band led by George Lewis, Jr. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fully appreciate what they brought to Halfway because I was too busy indulging in everything the VIP area had to offer. The amenities included a buffet of treats from Joe’s Crab Shack (unlimited crab dip… no explanation needed) and a private bar that served a drink called The Pretty Lights Sparkle (coincidence? I hope not).
After their set ended, I made my way down to the VIP viewing area (we referred to it as “da crib” because it was a fenced off area at the front, left side of the stage) to prepare myself for RJD2, but nothing could prepare me for what was to come. Although I listen to his music regularly, I was ignorant to the amount of work that goes into his live performances. Not only did he man five different turntables, he also controlled the visuals on the LED screen behind him. Above all, I was most impressed by RJ Krohn's ability to create intimacy on stage. It honestly felt as though I was sitting in my living room with him (perhaps it was because he had Aqua Teen Hunger Force on the screen at one point). Regardless, he played crowd favorites “Ghostwriter” and “The Horror” and his hour-long set flew by. It goes without saying, but I'll say it, anyway: if you dig electronic music, never miss an opportunity to see him.
Before the music continued, there was a slight break and my friends and I gathered by the Ohio River to enjoy the sunset. I’m sure other festivalgoers would agree that it was arguably one of the most beautiful sights to behold. While the sun was fading, the full moon was rising and it was time for the next act, Big Boi of Outkast fame. To be honest, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this part of the evening. I thought I was going to be plagued with memories of awkward middle school dances, but I found myself pleasantly surprised to hear classic hits like “Roses” and “Ms. Jackson.” Since I primarily attend electronic concerts, I forgot how much fun it is to sing-along with a live performer. Big Boi threw out new material, invited a slew of girls from the audience up on stage, and shocked everyone with the dance moves of what I’m guessing was his young son (we called him Lil Boi, regardless). Seriously though, this kid had moves unlike anyone else. It added a special touch to Big Boi’s performance and I’m excited to see if he becomes the next big thing after he hits puberty.
By the end of his performance, the weather cooled down and the crowd eagerly awaited Pretty Lights. As a huge fan of Derek Vincent Smith’s work, I’ve watched videos of Bonnaroo and other festivals, listened to his summer releases religiously, and now, it was finally my turn to experience it live. I was in line for water when I heard the ominous opening straints of “I Know the Truth,” and I bee lined it back to “da crib.” What followed was the shortest Pretty Lights set I’ve seen, but DVS masterfully selected new and old songs alike to entertain the crowd, which grew enormously by the time his set began. He played familiar favorites like “Aiming at Your Head,” “Total Fascination,” “I Can See It In Your Face,” and several of the New Year’s Eve remixes. My favorite moment of the show, however, occurred when DVS addressed the crowd with “Dubstep’s cool, but don’t forget about hip hop,” before throwing a fresh electronic rejuvenation of two golden age hip-hop classics: Wu Tang’s “Cream” and Nas’ “NY State of Mind.” YouTube it—words can’t do it justice. In addition to throwing praise at DVS, much respect should be heaped upon Pretty Lights’ lighting designer Greg Ellis. I love watching the development of the light display just as much as I enjoy new PL songs—Disney World couldn’t even match Ellis’ work.
The end to Pretty Light’s came much sooner than anticipated, but then again, I never want a PL show to end. Regardless, it was time to head to the after party featuring Gramatik, Ana Sia, and MiM0SA. The search for the late-night venue was fruitless, at first. After fumbling around downtown Louisville and encountering several other lost parties, we found The Ice House, which has a super sick layout and warehouse feel. But once again, I was met with frustration because the line to get in snaked down the side of the building and was practically stationary. I’m not sure why the venue wasn’t able to account for the influx of people, because the event sold out well in advance. Everyone in line was cranky and just wanted to get in to hear some good music. Unfortunately, a huge crowd of people (including myself) missed Gramatik, and only caught the very end of Ana Sia—I’ll save you from a rant, but let me tell you, I was not a happy camper. Thankfully MiM0SA salvaged the event and threw down an almost two-hour long set. Out of every electronic music performer I’ve seen, few match Tigran’s intensity, stage presence, and ability to command a crowd. Also, you can tell that he is having the time of his life when he’s performing (his tweet the next day read “still F.U.C.K.E.D. U. P. from last night… this is not ok…” I felt his pain the next day as well).
All things put aside, Halfway to Forecastle was one of the best events of a packed summer, to date. From the diverse selection of music to VIP treatment and the intergalactic adventure with close friends, I felt completely rewarded and satisfied by the experience. Clearly, Forecastle is a unifying event the city of Louisville holds near and dear, and if the halfway point is any indication of the quality of the full festival, they can expect to see me there next summer.
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