Sturgill Simpson and Jim James highlights of Forecastle 2015

Sturgill Simpson and Jim James highlights of Forecastle 2015

The Steel Drivers
Forecastle: Woodstock in Louisville

The Kentucky Connection: Native Sons Bring Down The House at Forecastle 2015

by Melissa Ratliff

Sturgill Simpson. Photo by Walter Cornett for Ace.

The Forecastle Festival has established itself as Kentucky’s own bourbon-soaked version of Woodstock.

Forecastle is a three day, multi-stage outdoor concert series that takes place in Louisville’s historic waterfront. As evidenced by the throngs of concertgoers, the 100 degree heat index did little to stifle the crowd’s or the bands’ enthusiasm.

Four stages operate on the lawn. The larger acts performed on either the Boom stage or the Mast (main) stage. Despite one snafu Saturday morning, things generally ran on time. The previous night’s storms caused damage that needed attention and delayed the gates opening almost two hours.

In previous festivals, there was an eclectic mix of music, but most of the music this year, with the exception of rap artist Fat Tony, were indie bands. Some acts were familiar to the Louisville crowd as former participants of Louisville’s Waterfront Wednesdays series that operates in the summer months. A South Carolina based-band, Shovels & Rope, has a large Louisville following as they had previously graced Waterfront Wednesdays and local watering holes Zanzibar and Headliners (and are veterans of Forecastle Festival).

Shovels and Rope

The husband and wife duo took turns on the drums and guitar playing an alt country mix which appealed to several Kentuckians who gathered around the Boom Stage to watch them Saturday.

“I’ve seen them every time they’ve been to Louisville. But she (Cary Ann Hearst) wears the pants. You can tell by her voice,” an enthusiastic concert-goer told us.

Louisville is slowly becoming well known as a music friendly city. Several festivals have come and gone through the years but Forecastle has a strong presence in the city that has outlasted other festivals of the same caliber. Whatever the formula for success is, after a decade of sticking with it, Forecastle seems to have stumbled upon it.

On Saturday, the two main acts both had a significant Kentucky Connection and unfortunately a bit of time overlap that had many scuttling over a small footbridge that separated the Boom and Mast stages.

On the Boom Stage, Sturgill Simpson would be playing a set from 8:00 until 9:15. Beginning at 9:15, Louisville’s golden son Jim James would be playing a set with My Morning Jacket on the Mast Stage.

Sturgill Simpson is hailed by many as a second coming for country music. His style is reminiscent of Waylon Jennings or Johnny Cash. Born in Jackson, Kentucky, Sturgill spent his high school years just outside of Lexington in Versailles. That being said, his roots are more Appalachian than Central Kentucky and Simpson is unapologetic about the moonshine outlaw style of his music, and he has no reason to be sorry. Simpson, for lack of a better word, rocked.

Bowling Green natives Cage the Elephant kicked off their set with (a version of) My Old Kentucky Home. Frontman Matt Schultz pictured here, prior to his dive into the pit.

There was a two-hour delay for the gates opening at Forecastle, causing a lot of swooning and anger via social media. It also pushed back concert times quite a bit. The extreme heat of the day caused a lot of the less thermo-tolerant to procrastinate their arrival until twilight.

“I waited until dark. I’m a wimp when it comes to heat,” said Aaron Ellis, who works for WAVE 3 News in Louisville. He came only for the My Morning Jacket set despite his weekend pass.

Whatever the frustrations of the day, they seemed to wear off as the sun set and My Morning Jacket began. MMJ has a sound that soars to the heavens…or at least all the way to New Albany.

The audience fell into a collective trance as Jim James’ voice lured the crowd like the pied piper.
MMJ played well in to the night and when it was over, the crowd shuffled out still in a daze. Most of the bands mentioned MMJ’s upcoming set with adoration and it was clear to see why. The hype surrounding My Morning Jacket is well deserved.

Sturgill Simpson and Jim James, two Kentucky sons, brought the evening back down to a lovely conclusion and proved why Forecastle is a uniquely Kentucky experience. The only things missing were horses and basketball.