At first glance, the Alabama Shakes are your average-looking band. They don’t quite have that skinny jean, pencil mustache, coiffed-hair look down. But guess what, that’s ok because this group doesn’t need any specific selling look to make them stand out since their straight up soulful sound does that for them and has a little leftover to spare. The Alabama Shakes rocked out the Mast Stage shortly after Dawes. Fans stretched from left to right of Waterfront Park as far as the eye could see. It was a madhouse. And for good reason. Brittany Howard, lead singer and guitarist bashfully smiled behind her glasses for a mere second then switched into stage mode, jamming, “Hold On” a song that was featured in the Oscar winning film Silver Linings Playbook. They sounded as good as they did on the soundtrack but took advantage of the festival setting and artistic freedom, slowing down the end a little bit giving the singing-a-long fans just a few more seconds to-no pun intended-hold on a little bit longer. Howard doesn’t hold back when she sings. She simply can’t. Her ability to sing soul is so innately programed inside of her being that it just gushes out in the most emotionally, robust fashion. For a relatively newer band on the scene--with this being their first Forecastle appearance--the Alabama- based band generated a sea of admirers on the Waterfront. Mid set, Howard paused to talk with the audience saying how much she looked forward to performing rock and roll. The way she exclaimed it came off as giddy and so honest. Her truth and childlike excitement was contagious as the crowd roared back. She followed up her statement saying, “I wouldn’t bullshit you. That’s not my nature.” There was a hiccup of a pause as she looked up and her thankful smile turned into a grin as she asked, “or would I?”
Dawes Undaunted by Forecastle Evacuation It was only a few minutes before Dawes’s set that their equipment was being draped in heavy black plastic and the wristband-wearing fans of Forecastle were asked to evacuate the Waterfront Park yesterday afternoon. It was the second day of Forecastle and the energy hadn’t yet diminished, regardless of the high speed winds and scattered rain drops. However, without too much ado (an hour later to be exact), Dawes went on to perform for the eager fans that loyally flocked back around the Mast stage ready for some entertainment-and Dawes did just that. Taylor Griffin, vocals and singer for the band led the group right into their set, pausing briefly in between songs to show their gratitude for the storm missing the Festival.
“So it looks like the storm has cleared. For a second we didn’t even think we were gonna get to play this. So thanks everyone for coming back. We’re called Dawes,” said Griffin as he plugged into the next song in the Saturday afternoon set.
The band-crowd interactions didn’t stop there as they went on to sing, “If I Wanted Someone” changing the original lyrics from, “I want you to make the days move easy” into a seemingly more appropriate, “I want Forecastle to make the days move easy," to rowdy applause.
The band’s easiness came off as cool and highly collected. Each song ended simply without flash or an exaggerated resolution. Griffin’s lead vocals coddled by the rest of the band’s harmonies sounded full and refined. Everything about Dawes came off as natural, sheer talent. The most theatrical thing about the performance was Griffin’s habitual quirk of sticking his tongue out and against his upper lip in concentration as he played his guitar and the occasional storytelling hand seasoning the lyrics he sung out into the crowd.
“This song’s about being in a rock and roll band,” said Griffin as they went into, “From the Right Angle.”
Even in the lower, slower moments where the vocals were up and the tempo slowed ever so slightly there were just these beautiful moments of blissful, peaceful melodies. The band didn’t take advantage of the dramatic crescendo, turning their set into a movie soundtrack. Instead they just played the way they wanted to making it a very refreshing listening experience for the Forecastle crowd.
Shovels & Rope: A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, and a whole lot more
Shovels & Rope of Charleston South Carolina give folk music a whole new meaning with their draw-out-of-the-lines-kind-of approach. The duo showcased their “little bit country, little bit rock and roll” attitude Saturday afternoon on the Mast Stage at Forecastle. Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent have talent seeping out of their pores with their beautiful harmonies, attitude and playful spirit.They switched from acoustic to electric after the second song giving the audience on the Waterfront more variety but remaining within the bounds of their individualized sound. Watching Shovels & Rope perform at the Mast stage was like witnessing a young couple coyly flirt as they went back and forth exchanging harmonies, instruments and mischievous grins -- it was addicting and hard to take your eyes off the husband-wife duo. Their passion for each other came alive and spoke through their songs Saturday afternoon. Hearst sang with a deliberate tone that remained delicate and pleasant. Hearst sang with fury but had the sweetest blue eyes making her music approachable and delightfully intriguing. Her country pipes blended well with her hubby’s indie-sounding vocals. They wound down their Saturday afternoon set with their toe-tappin’ song, “Hail, Hail.” The song had swing elements that effortlessly married into their rockabilly beat. After taking their bows and making their way towards the back of the stage, Hearst ever so slightly turned back around to get one final look at the massive crowd that had swarmed around the stage. Her A-line dress twisted up and flowed around her as her white grin flashed, framed by her ruby red lipstick. Her eyes showed gratitude no thank you could ever say.