Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Forecastle Band Lineup

It's summer again, time to spend hundreds of dollars to get sunburned among thousands of others trying to hear that new band from Brooklyn that you read about on a blog. That's right, it's festival season!

The Forecastle Festival, now in its eighth year, is the most jambitious festival in Kentucky. While it has not yet achieved the fame, respect or success of festivals such as Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza or Coachella, founder J.K. McKnight has single-mindedly attempted to make a great thing happen in Louisville.

While his intentions are to be praised, nothing in life is perfect, and we are happy to help those attending this year's festival by indicating how to best spend your time – what bands shouldn't be missed, what bands might make you happy while annoying your boyfriend, and what bands will send you running for the nearest beer stand.



Cage The Elephant – All the way from Bowling Green, these fellows have made waves at bigger festivals than this, probably because they sound like nice college boys having fun — imitating Weezer, The Strokes, The Pixies, etc. — and people are easily entertained.

The Whigs – From Athens, Ga., these earnest rockers are a tight, disciplined trio, unfurling new wave melodies with raw power. This is the band Kings of Leon think that they are.

Zappa Plays Zappa – A collection of Frank Zappa alums, this band is led by his famous-because-he-shares-the-same-last-name son, Dweezil, presumably because it's the easiest way they can all make money. It's the kind of jazz-rock fusion you'd hear on a cruise ship, lacking Frank's iconoclastic individuality and purpose.

Pretty Lights – “At a time when music lovers from almost all subcultures, and genres are finding common ground in the basic form of bangin' beats, Pretty Lights is giving the people what they want; electro organic cutting-edge party rocking beats that fill venues with energy and emotion, and send dance floors into frenzies.” From their own bio; I think they're being serious.

The Black Keys – A rock 'n' roll duo from Akron, Ohio, they are better than most at imitating the British Invasion bands who imitated old American bluesmen. Though often classified as “blues-punk,” they really have little to do with either genre, though they do utilize both's concepts of simplicity over flash.


Erin Hill and Her Psychedelic Harp with The Space Rats – Though this sounds like a trippy “Muppet Show” sketch, it's really just another kooky lady in the Tori Amos/Fiona Apple mold. This New Yorker plays a harp and might be diverting for a couple of songs.

The Young Republic – From Nashville, these youthful rockers have a lot of energy and a good string section, if not a lot of focus — they can't decide which '90s alt-rock band they want to be: Cake or Cracker or Matchbox 20?

The Lions Rampant – A Cincinnati trio that's at least honest about its influences — Blues Explosion, The Black Keys, etc. — with nary a mention of John Lee Hooker or Muddy Waters on its MySpace page. Fun if you like garage rock bands who sing lyrics like “Give it to me/Give it to me.”

Bad Veins – Another Strokes-ish new wave band, this one from Cincinnati. Decent but uninspired. Their first record's not even out yet, so check back in three years.

Hackensaw Boys – These Charlottesville bluegrass boys do a fine job of infusing their old-timey ideas with modern energy.

The Elmwood Band – Dave Matthews-esque jam rock from Nashville. So… yeah.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – From Muscle Shoals, Ala., the ex-Drive By Trucker is working hard out there to be Wilco and not Son Volt. Credit is due to a man who tries to make music based not just in rock, but soul and country as well, aware of history but living in the present.



The Detroit Cobras – John Waters' waking dream, this band of mostly women is a ferocious, fun group that tears up obscure soul songs with wit and skill. A highlight for music lovers of all ages.

The New Mastersounds - I don't get how none of the faux-freaks who love so-called jam bands listen to actual jazz, yet somehow can appreciate a well-done approximation of the real thing like this. These Brits have played with Lou Donaldson and Idris Muhammed, names which will mean nothing to fans of Umphrey's McGee.

Dead Confederate – From Athens, Ga., these intense, emotional guys make big, soaring anthems that are very serious. Fans of local favorites Elliott and Workers will enjoy them, though drunk people looking to party might want to check out the Southern Comfort tent instead.

The Black Crowes – They're no Rolling Stones — or Led Zeppelin, or Aerosmith, or ZZ Top, or AC/DC — but they sure do try. Honestly, though, it seems like we hear more these days about their love of weed than their records.

Widespread Panic – Fans are called “Spreadheads.” You might be surprised to know that they recorded a cover of “And It Stoned Me” for a compilation called “Hempilation.” They will play on two nights, though each performance will already feel like two.


Paper Airplane – Retro '70s pop meets modern indie rock from southern Ohio. Their melodies are cute and poppy and occasionally off-key, fit for a band who describe themselves as “a Wes Anderson movie come to life,” if that's still anyone's idea of Heaven.

Madi Diaz – Her bio declares that she has “a staggering voice and a gift for poignant melodies and innovative arrangements.” Yes, you'll love this ambitious Nashvillian, if you love childlike melodies and shouty vocals.

Arnett Hollow – Wow, an actual local band getting exposure? That's nice! These bluegrass revivalists, who include Bonnie Prince Billy collaborator Cheyenne Mize on fiddle, are promoting a new album and are always worth hearing.

The Broderick – Bloomington boys who play peppy modern rock a'la The Shins or Weezer. Popular sound these days, eh?

The Afromotive – The notion of middle-class Americans dancing to other middle-class Americans imitating the music of 1970s Nigeria is a bit much to take, but this 8-piece Afrobeat band from Asheville manages to do a decent job of imitating the music of Fela, or at least Antibalas.

The Deep Vibration – This Nashville group's Neil Young-in-Memphis rock 'n' soul is ragged but purposeful, and will surely keep their audience captivated. Don't get too high and miss this late afternoon highlight.

US Royalty – Remember that dance-punk thing that was all the rage, like, seven years ago? These D.C. guys sound like they're trying to get all the girls to dance, and then to hook up with them in the bathroom.

AutoVaughn – Yet another non-country act from Nashville, their energetic '80s rock will certainly delight fans of Duran Duran.

Trevor Hall – This young fellow has flowers tattooed on his chest and sings in what I can only assume is supposed to be a reggae patois. Peter Tosh's nightmare fuses his unique attack on reggae with a very shiny corporate rock sound that will delight anyone who thinks that John Mayer is a great poet.

The Royal Bangs – An energetic, driving pop-rock band from Knoxville that has made a name for itself on the festival circuit.

Annuals - A much-blogged about group of youngsters from Raleigh whose melodic, intricate pop-rock has earned them tour spots with the Flaming Lips and Bloc Party. (Hey, wouldn't those be great bands to see at a local festival?)

Man Man – A definite highlight of the weekend is this inventive, wild group from Philadelphia who can't help but be compared to Tom Waits, Mr. Bungle and carnies at a strip club. Or, instead, you could see Widespread Panic play 20-minute keyboard solos.



Outformation – Jazz-Southern rock fusion from Atlanta. Though they are a skilled group of musicians, the vocals are so tuneless that it's hard to enjoy them. This Marshall Tucker Band/Outlaws style was briefly popular during the “WKRP in Cincinnati” '70s, but might not appeal to listeners today under 50.

Umphrey's McGee – Their bio says that they are “Midwestern monsters of improvised rock.” But wait — isn't Umphrey's a jam band? Not these days. “We trimmed a lot of the fat,” guitarist Jake Cinninger says on the band website. Sounds like they feel guilty that this stuff goes on for way too long and melodies remain undeveloped.

Yonder Mountain String Band – From that hippie haven Colorado comes a bluegrass/folk group that takes the time to write lovely songs then play them with style. A talented, surprising group well worth your time.

The Avett Brothers –Another fine bluegrass-ish band that doesn't pretend to have arrived from 1948, they spent years playing, improving and winning fans all over. Their upcoming Sony record should make them this fall's kings of NPR.

Widespread Panic – Is this a new set, or is the one from Saturday still going on?


Chemic – Wow, a second local band? Crazy! Their Death Cab-style indie/folk rock is charming and thoughtful, and loaded with potential.

Almira Fawn – Okay, so she's from Lexington. Anything else interesting about her? Oh, right — she's 11-years old. And has a song called “Chillax.” Yet, somehow, she's a lot more soulful than Taylor Swift or Sheryl Crow. Give her a chance!

Rosi Golan – This Israeli pianist's sensitive songs have been used on TV's “One Tree Hill” and “Private Practice.”

Pokey LaFarge & S. City Three – LaFarge, an occasional Louisvillian, is a modern Leon Redbone, enjoyably reviving the jazzy blues of the 1920s (he calls it “riverboat soul”) in a manner that will also attract fans of Devendra Banhart.

Jonathan Tyler & Northern Lights – These leather pants rockers from Dallas, now on tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd, sound like a cross between Kings of Leon, The Black Crowes and the Doobie Brothers.

Gringo Star – This Atlanta band is much better than their “hilarious” name indicates. Their version of BritPop stretches all the way from the mod Kinks to the stadium riffs of Oasis, and is a pleasant throwback.

Adam Franklin – A solo set from the guy from Swervedriver, a band that was the British version of Smashing Pumpkins back when MTV showed videos. Shoegazing optional.

The Instruction –The third of three Louisville bands, these heavy rockers have a Glenn Danzig-meets-Jim Morrison vibe goin' on that makes them an atypical favorite of 91.9 FM.

Seabird – Modern rock from Cincinnati youth, the type oft-used on “One Tree Hill” or “Private Practice” to drive home the melodrama.

These United States –A little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll and a little bit indie, these D.C-via-Lexington guys have a literate, rollicking sound that suggests a Southern Bright Eyes, or any other decent Bob Dylan disciple.

Maps and Atlases – Seasick art rock a'la Vampire Weekend, TV On The Radio and The Sea and Cake. To be fair, they're much better at it than Vampire Weekend, who are probably too expensive to bring to a local festival, anyway.

Backyard Tire Fire – Amiable, solidly Midwestern schizophrenics who can't decide if they prefer '70s classic rock, '80s hair metal or today's quirky indie. The bio includes blurbs from members of Cracker and Los Lobos, so those under 40 may as well head out to the inevitable trichomoniasis-infested after-party with DJ WhoCares.

c. 2009 Velocity Weekly

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