Chicago Represents At Forecastle Fest

By Samantha Abernethy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 17, 2012 8:40PM

Instead of taking a quick bus down to Union Park last weekend, the lineup at Forecastle Fest tempted us to drive the whole way down to Louisville. The festival is curated by Louisville natives My Morning Jacket, and while the lineup is heavy on acts from Kentucky and Tennessee, Chicago's best musicians were there to represent. Most notably, Wilco headlined, while Andrew Bird and Neko Case were near the top of the bill, plus Anti-Records' Kelly Hogan and Bloodshot Records' Justin Townes Earle.

Many bands spend their summers on festival-centric tours, and there were several bands that performed at both Pitchfork and Forecastle: Sleigh Bells, Cloud Nothings, Real Estate, Beach House and Atlas Sound. That doesn't help the feeling that all of these festivals sound and look the same. So what made Forecastle different? We think it was a combination of fewer bands and southern attitude that kept this festival a little more laid-back.

There was also a regionalism to Forecastle that isn't seen in Chicago's larger festivals, perhaps as a result of the festival being curated by My Morning Jacket. Many of the bands knew each other, and the camaraderie showed as special guests popped in and out of one another's sets. Jim James even showed up with Preservation Hall Jazz Band during a soundcheck Saturday afternoon before the gates opened, a treat just for the vendors and security.

Rain delayed the opening of the gates Saturday, so unfortunately Justin Townes Earle played an abbreviated set. He still had us swaying while the sun returned, and he fit in some of our favorites, including Chicago shoutout "Rogers Park" and his cover of the Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait." The main stage at Forecastle is on the banks of the Ohio River, bookmarked by scenic bridges. That's the perfect backdrop for a violin and a whistle, and Andrew Bird played to the sunset crowd Saturday, as pretty as ever.

Bird also joined My Morning Jacket on stage for part of the band's 2.5-hour set Saturday night. Bird actually performed strings and whistles on MMJ's 2005 LP Z. MMJ also invited the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on stage with them, and Dean Wareham joined them to cover George Harrison's "Isn't It a Pity." The most ridiculous and entertaining event of the weekend was MMJ's cover of George Michael's "Careless Whisper" in which Jim James threw bananas out to the crowd singing, "buh-buh-buh-bananas-nanas."

Neko Case performed the soundtrack to the sunset on Sunday, and Kelly Hogan joined her on stage for the set. We caught Hogan's full set on Sunday afternoon, and she blew us away. Having Hogan and Case on stage together was like eavesdropping on two best friends' conversations—if those two people also had beautiful voices. After MMJ's guest-centric performance Saturday, we were hoping Wilco would bring up a couple of friends to join them Sunday. Instead it was a straight-forward setlist with no encore.

You can't please every one, and Forecastle didn't try. They appeased the electronic crowd with Bassnectar headlining Friday, plus the Red Bull stage for dance/dub acts and a ridiculously fun Girl Talk show Saturday. But if you didn't want to hear a single "wub wub," the rest of the music existed somewhere in the midst of folk and country and rock, much like Kentucky itself.