Forecastle Festival has kicked off in Louisville for the weekend, and Friday’s festivities set sail with artists from a variety of genres.
Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds’ was first up and the Brooklyn brass-funk ensemble got things off to a nice start. Lead vocalist Arleigh Kincheloe brought a spunky attitude to the big band sound. If Kincheloe wasn’t prancing around the stage or sharing the same drum set with the band’s drummer, she was interacting with the crowd. The music was catchy and danceable, but their charisma made the Dirty Birds special. In the early afternoon, I couldn’t ask for a better band to be introduced to.
Next, we headed under the bypass to be greeted by People Under The Stairs – a Los Angeles hip hop duo that specializes in sampling music to put their own spin on.
I have to say that I probably would not enjoy this group much if I were only listening on my iPod, but their live show was creative enough to hold my interest. The music itself was kind of cookie-cutter rap, perhaps a little too unoriginal. However, People Under The Stairs went a long way to ensure that went unnoticed. The duo spent time on stage punching their equipment to improvise a beat over head-scratching samples like ACDC’s “Back in Black.” If only for musical purposes, this might feel a little gimmicky. But live it just felt like they were being spontaneous, and that’s all you can ask for during most rap shows.
Throughout People Under The Stairs’ set, they kept reminding they would soon be “partying like they’re in L.A.” But St. Paul and The Broken Bones was the surprise after-party from Alabama that I didn’t know I needed. I had been told how great the band was, but had never listened to a studio recording. After seeing the band live, I don’t feel any need to.
They are one of those rare bands that have a special knack for coming to life on stage, full of personality and bursting at the seams with musical ability. The seven-piece gospel soul band exploded with personality and range – from their energetic romp onstage to “breaking each person here’s heart,” as lead singer Paul Janeway put it.
St. Paul may have proven their worth, but eventually it was Cage The Elephant that stole the show Friday. The Bowling Green rockers have a reputation for their fiery stage presence, but any compliment you hear about the band is an understatement. You simply have to see them in person to understand their energy. Cage The Elephant ripped through songs from their latest album, Melophobia, while performing their wild antics.
For example, each song featured multiple instances where lead singer Matthew Shultz darted out into the crowd to perform. Shultz constantly screamed out lyrics while standing on the shoulders of fans or simply swimming atop the sea of people. Good luck trying to stick with your friends in this crowd. The audience was boiling with excitement over the band, and the crowd turned several times to be closer to Shultz during one of his up-close and personal freakouts. Cage The Elephant is a must-see and should be considered one of the pride’s of Kentucky rock music.
After Cage The Elephants’ unbelievable ride at the Main Stage, I needed a way to regroup. Big K.R.I.T. offered his blend of passionate lyricism and relaxing hip hop instrumentals at the Ocean Stage, and it was just what I needed. The Mississippi rapper prides himself on his southern heritage and it comes through in the music.
Big K.R.I.T.’s delivery is so over the top that you can’t deny him. Many of the tracks were laid back head-nodders about southern traditions like Cadillacs and impressive car speakers, but his interest are much more compelling through his descriptions. He pours his soul into his set and the crowd gladly accepted him. I saw Big K.R.I.T. in Nashville in November, but the Forecastle crowd was more impressive. K.R.I.T. may have performed “King of the South” during his set, but he proved that he’s one of the most talented hip hop artists in all of America Friday evening.
Finally, it was time for breakout R&B star and headliner Sam Smith. The Grammy award-winning singer was warmly welcomed by the crowd once he announced that this was his first concert since having a throat surgery three months earlier.
Unfortunately the weather turned sour and in roughly half an hour, the show had to be called off due to a severe weather advisory. While Smith was on stage, he impressed with his smash radio-hit “I’m Not The Only One,” as well as classic funk covers “Ain’t No Mountain High Enougn” and “Le Freak (Freak Out).” Even during his shortened set, I saw a side of Smith I didn’t know and became a fan.
Forecastle Festival will continue Saturday with artists like The War On Drugs, Cherub and Kentucky artists Sturgill Simpson and My Morning Jacket.