2014 Forecastle Festival, Day Three

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The final day of Forecastle was by far biggest—and the hottest–of the weekend, with nearly every band making note of the sweltering temperature.

With four stages to contend with, there were hard choices to make about who to see and where to spend time. Sunday presented the largest number of acts that played simultaneously, with The Replacements, tUnE-yArDs, Nickel Creek, Beck and Ray LaMontagne all crossing paths. It was the one time where it felt like there was perhaps almost too much going on.

Early sets on the main stage featured art-rock acts Lucius and Matrimony. On the Boom Stage, southern jam-rockers The Weeks warmed up the growing crowd, followed by the enchanting Sharon Van Etten. I had a chance to spend some time with Sharon backstage before her set, where we did a short photo shoot and interview.

Sharon’s set was drawn mostly from her new album Are We There, with great performances of “Afraid of Nothing” and “Your Love Is Killing Me.” Van Etten drew a sizable crowd and got a good response, despite some issues with the sound system. The band dipped into some early material as well, including a rousing rendition of “Serpents” from Sharon’s 2012 release Tramp. With Forecastle being the last date of a nearly 40-city tour, the band handled her material with grace, moodiness and gentle ferocity.

On a non-musical note: One interesting feature of Forecastle is the focus on flat-stock artwork and custom printing houses. As with South by Southwest, Forecastle provides a venue for visual designers who illustrate and print custom concert posters for artists, with most of their posters available in limited quantities. Artists come in from all over the country to display their work and the craftsmanship is fascinating.

From the main stage, I headed over to the Port Stage, which sits along the Ohio River. Sun Kil Moon performed during the hottest stretch of the day and competed a bit with the festival’s bigger sound systems. Mark Kozelek ‘s sparse and direct vocals were drenched in reverb (by his request), making the songs a lot more distanced than his recorded work, but nonetheless, the delivery and intensity of his performance did not suffer.

Kozelek opened with his song “Hey You Bastard, I’m Still Here,” followed by a mix of tracks from his new album, Benji, and past solo and Sun Kil Moon numbers. The delivery was raging at points, most notably on the song “Dogs,” although there were more subdued moments during “I Watched the Film Song Remains The Same” and “Richard Ramirez Died Of Natural Causes.”

Kozelek was accompanied by a stripped-down band, forsaking a bassist for the simplicity of drums, piano and minimal electric guitar. It’s interesting to see the effect that has had on the age of his crowd (the website has been raving about his new album); there was a huge contingent of twenty-somethings pining to get up front for the set.

From that point, it was a marathon of huge performances, kicked off by Jenny Lewis, who delighted the Mast Stage crowd with selections off her new album, backed by an entourage of gospel singers and musicians.

Elsewhere, Duluth’s Trampled By Turtles drew huge crowds on the Boom Stage. After their set, we met for brief interview, discussing their recent appearance on Late Show with David Letterman and the news that they sold out their upcoming show at Red Rocks.

Leaving the media tent, I waded through the massive crowd at the Boom Stage for Nickel Creek. With both Nickel Creek and Ray LaMontagne performing on adjacent stages, that entire side of the festival was packed with people, who remained in place for two of the evening’s most anticipated acts: The Replacements and Beck.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from The Replacements. As we waited, a number of people I was standing with had seen them earlier in the year and vowed they were fantastic. The lineup of The Replacements features original members Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson, joined by session drummer Josh Freese and guitarist David Minehan.

However, a big surprise came when Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong joined the band as a back-up guitarist and vocalist for their entire set. The result? A propulsive, energetic, unhinged-but-tight performance that combed through nearly half of the album Let It Be and a host of other fan favorites, including “Kiss Me On The Bus,” “Alex Chilton,” and “Can’t Hardly Wait.” They took the music seriously, but not themselves, with frequent on-stage jokes, inter-band harassing, a smashed guitar and plenty of self-depreciation, with Westerberg noting, “We’re just middle-aged hobos. Brother, can you spare a quarter…of a million dollars?” It was really fun to watch Billie Joe Armstrong, an obvious fan, show nothing but unadulterated joy to be on stage with his heroes, even kissing Westerberg on the cheek at one point.

The day closed with a mammoth set from Beck, backed by a huge band (armed with nearly every keyboard known to man and a drum set that dwarfed even Neil Peart’s kit), and frequent collaborator Jason Falkner on guitar and vocals. Opening with Odelay’s “Devil’s Haircut,” the set pulled heavily from that 1996 masterpiece, with the crowd ecstatically singing along to “Novacane,” “Where It’s At” and “The New Pollution.” Early ’90s material was represented as well, with songs like “One Foot In The Grave” and “Loser.”

Beck orchestrated the dynamics of the show like a master showman, at points creating a dance party with songs like “Sexx Laws” and stripping it down to his lush, acoustic repertoire, with material from Sea Change and and his new album, Morning Phase.

Although the band stumbled at times, the energy (and volume) of the show was infectious, especially on gems like their impromptu cover of “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson and pieces of “Miss You” by The Rolling Stones.

Beck’s closing set marked an exhaustive (and exhausting) three days of music. Forecastle is a unique piece of summer music (and Kentucky) culture, with the festival carving out a unique, deeply authentic niche that gives music lovers a host of reasons to make the trek to Louisville.

Read more of WOUB’s Forecastle coverage here.