BY EVAN ALBERT
Louisville’s Forecastle Festival celebrates its tenth anniversary on the waterfront this weekend (click here to read our preview), and this year’s Fest has been organized as a collaboration with Kentucky’s hometown heroes, My Morning Jacket — an occasion to discuss it all with MMJ drummer Patrick Hallahan. First question, “what kind of a role did you guys play as ‘curators’ of this festival?”
He says, “Well they already had some things in place but they kind of came in and asked us what would make a great bill. They pretty much gave us free rein for half of the artists. We started talking about after-party possibilities. We were pushing a kind of local village aspect each time we play our own show in Louisville and we incorporated that into the festival this year. There’s a local music stage that we curated. We also came up with the idea to have Preservation Hall Jazz Band play on the Belle of Louisville after we play. The Belle of Louisville is a steamboat that takes tours through Louisville’s waterfront. We thought it would be the perfect backdrop for the Prez Hall Jazz Band. We just brought in ideas to the mix… You know they really had a great thing going.
My Morning Jacket is made of mostly native Kentuckians. Does it feel like you are doing something for the state of Kentucky doing a big music festival like this?
Of course! I just feel like Kentucky gets overlooked in the grand scheme of the United States as a whole, and anytime we bring people here they are enchanted. They get why we love it here and stay here our whole lives. And so I think it’s a great opportunity to bring people into state and the city and show them what we have to offer. There is a reason that Jim and I still live here. We are really proud of the place.
What makes Forecastle special — different from other festivals?
I guess that is still being determined. I’ll tell you this — Forecastle is a homegrown festival. J.K. McKnight started it in a little park plot across the street from his house 10 years ago and has since seen it grow to the state that it’s in now. Kentucky is a place without a whole lot of cultural pull in either direction. We’re not really southern; we’re not really northern. We’re not really eastern; we’re not really western. So we are kind of left to our own devices here and Forecastle represents a good example of that. If you want something to happen, you got to make it yourself here. It is a very entrepreneurial state. [Forecastle] came from the heart and the mind of somebody who really cares about music and art and activism and he has seen it all the way to this level. It’s a beautiful thing.
Any plans to come back and play Lexington again?
We played at the old basketball gym [last year]. I’m a huge UK fan so it was nice to be there. We love playing in Lexington! The only problem about Lexington and Louisville being so close together is that it is hard to play them back-to-back. Promoters don’t want to put money on the line and not have people show up because they went to the other one. I think we are going to try to flip-flop the cities, because the band has a big history in Lexington as well. We were actually formed in Lexington believe it or not. We don’t really choose Louisville over Lexington for any other reason than people want to put on a show here. That’s a challenge to Lexington promoters to give us more opportunities to play! Seriously.
With both Lexington and Louisville having so much to offer… Could you imagine a “Twin Cities” music culture strengthening?
Of course! I would hope so! There’s a venue that…I can’t remember the name of it, but I saw Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings there.
That’s it. Yes. We went there and a Louisville promoter was booking that show. Our ladies went to that show and we were kind of blown away that Lexington and Louisville were working together finally. I don’t know why it hasn’t happened sooner. I think that we can utilize our strengths and make a twin cities music culture where we can both benefit. It’s just going to take somebody to do it.
If you were going to say anything to people about to go to Forecastle, what would you say?
Wow… Do you have two hours? I think this festival is based on a lot of love. There was a lot of love and pride putting this thing together. I think that people are really going to feel that when they walk in and see how the bands are lined up and how the bill flows through the weekend and how everything is aesthetically put together. This is a festival of immense pride and love.
Which locals should we look out for at the festival?
All of them! Oh yeah. Anybody we picked we would go see on our dime. That was our mantra. We aren’t going to pick anybody because it’s the cool thing to do; we wanted to build a festival that we would want to go see. An ex-member of My Morning Jacket, John McQuaid has a new band named The Ravenna Colt. There’s a fantastic band comprised of a group of musicians that I grew up listening to and watching play, Kings Daughters and Sons. It’s just like a Louisville super-group as far as I am concerned. Wax Fang… My sweet friends in Wax Fang. Daniel Martin Moore …he works alongside Ben Sollee from Lexington. He and Ben did a mountain top removal album together and they will be playing the festival. We weren’t just going for bands local to Louisville but to Kentucky as a whole.
It seems like you all had a lot of geographic pride putting this thing together.
Absolutely. How can you not utilize the state? There are tons of people that never get realized and all they need is the chance to play in front of a captive audience.