Festival Review: Forecastle 2018

Hippie Sabotage

There were lot of great sets filled with tremendous surprises and minor disappointments, but ultimately Forecastle 2018 delivered another wonderful best-in-class festival experience.

Everything that was familiar and has worked from past Forecastles, was present and un-messed with. Anything that felt lacking or less than has been improved. And the free haircuts by masters of the barbery arts in the Sailor Jerry Rum tent were welcome, cool additions.

The Port stage which previously was all the way down at the very end of the park, is now centrally located towards the entrance.

The tacos are still amazing, the bourbon and beer selection can’t be beat, and this reporter (and his grateful wife) were thrilled with the summer cut I received from Brad at Derby City Chop Shop.

The Josephines

The Josephines, were ostensibly at home on the newly relocated Port stage, but their big bad Kentucky boy country-blues-rock sound, featuring barn burners like “Coal Mine Gone” set the small stage aflame and spread like wildfire out into the crowd and beyond the local Food Truck row. Though a new-ish band, these veteran rockers showed their seasoned pro chops.

If the growing, grooving gathering crowd was a small sign of their success for the day, The Josephines are well on their way to making a larger name for themselves.

Perhaps forever affected by the stinging interviews and cautionary articles about the band from the heyday of print rock journalism, I had mixed feelings about seeing Modest Mouse live.

As it turns out, those misgivings weren’t completely unwarranted, but largely blown out of proportion. At some point, like The ‘Mats before them, this post-alternative band’s reputation for uneven shows became part of its allure. This evening, live staples and stand-outs of classic albums of late 90’s and early 00’s indie rock like The Moon and Antarctica, The Lonesome Crowded West, and Good News (For People Who Like Bad News) cut through the Forecastle night air (and the bullshit). Despite some wobbly bits from a wobblier Isaac Brock and a false start or two, the band’s signature off-kilter, twisted, dark and angular post-punk inflected rock n roll sounded pretty great, taking greater shape than studio versions –  especially on newer material like “Sugar Boats” and “The Tortoise and The Tourist”. The crowd reaction was a mix of underwhelmed and annoyed to interested and elated. For those into it and this true believer, it was a real treat to hear these original bastions of Pacific Northwest indie rock live – in any state they decide to show up in.

Hail the conquering hometown heroes. White Reaper played the best set of day 2 and made the best argument for their hyperbolic claim of being The World’s Best American Band. Somewhere between Cheap Trick and Green Day, White Reaper charged through a blistering summer swelter and rocked many sweaty faces with its power pop punk garage rock awesomeness. Throughout the 50+ minute set, lead singer Tony Esposito (If he’s any relation to Joe “Bean,” this story checks out) and co. kept the energy up, turned it up, and threw up (drummer Nick Wilkerson) offstage. Onstage, the band ripped through an equal number of songs from the last two albums, The World’s Best American Band and White Reaper Does It Again with crowd energy spiking with hits-for-a-reason “Make Me Wanna Die” and “Judy French.”

It doesn’t matter where he’s playing or what time of day it is, the big, heartfelt songs of Jason Isbell command your attention and compel you stop whatever you’re doing and listen.

This is a nice skill to have on the festival circuit. Among fans and people who know and respect the former Drive-By Trucker, the sudden shift of tone and groove from “24 Frames” to “White Man’s World” is expected and welcome, even, but to festival goers forming a human pyramid and hitting a beach ball around to the former’s soaring, seering solo, the later catches them off guard as it isn’t their good time sing-a-long scene. Ever the earnest storyteller, Isbell plays it to the bone and for those listening –no, really listening– his powerful southern soulful bellowing baritone gets inside, touches deeply, and reaches the late afternoon Forecastle crowd.

Arcade Fire are a band whose music is ingrained in the fabric of post-millennium pop culture and for many, this Forecastle provided an opportunity for them to see and hear one of the biggest bands in the world at one of the greatest music festivals in the word. The stage was set up before Win and Regine and company even arrived, which led Jason Isbell (who played the main stage before the Canadian mega music stars) to joke about not being able to run around stage because “[Arcade Fire] has a lot of shit up here.” By the time AF stepped on stage, it became apparent that the extra work and stage setup was going to pay off. Launching the last day’s headlining set with “Everything Now,” the dystopian disco party pop sounded appropriate and looked amazing with the real, working mirrorball. Uproarious applause from the crowd and smiles from the band reflected back early on and all night with the joy of playing and hearing 21st century greatest hits “Rebellion (Lies),” “Intervention,” and “Ready to Start.” Talking to fellow Midwesterners, Rav and Em from Cincinnati, the couple revealed that although Arcade Fire was one of their favorite bands, they too had “never seen them live before! I know, we’re lame but we’re here now – no kids, no worries, right? Haha! I just hope they play my favorite song, “Wake Up.” The encore, like the whole evening, delivered for the Ohio couple as it did for everyone who stayed for the massive and massively loud Oh Oh crowd sing-along easily heard across the entire state that night. It was a closer for the ages.

Devon Gilfillian
Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Colony House
Ron Gallo
Saint JHN
Wax Fang
T Pain
Vic Mensa
War on Drugs

Words by Casey Bowers. Photos by Harry Acosta