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It looks like this weekend hasn't been great for festivals in the Midwest -- as I mentioned in day one's post, headliner Sam Smith's set on Friday was cut short due to weather. I'd only barely gotten back to my temporary home when strong winds and torrential downpours swept through Louisville. Apparently Pitchfork back in Chicago had much of the same today, based on what I've seen on the Twitters. Forecastle's Saturday start was pushed back about an hour as the crews prepared the festival grounds for visitors. It was perhaps the worst time of day to have hundreds of people waiting in line, however, with no cover from the shade and many without any water (unlike other festivals, you're not permitted to bring in any water, even if it's in sealed containers, although there are plenty of places to fill up your own water bottle once you get in). After some confusion over when gates would open, the audience was finally allowed in, the schedule was adjusted, and the music began.
I started my day out by catching a few songs from Nashville-based singer Jeffrey James. His energetic, full-band pop songs were a great way to start out what had been a frustrating morning. It was maybe a litte too hot to dance -- most of the people hanging out at the Port Stage were sitting up on the hillside, under the trees -- but this was certainly music that you could shake your butts to.
Next up was Mariachi El Bronx, who I've been trying to see for ages but always miss for some reason. If you're not familiar, they're the alter ego of punk band The Bronx. In an effort to challenge themselves and experiment with different songs, they released their first Mariachi El Bronx album in 2009. Apparently more people than just the Los Angeles based band wanted to hear the songs, though, as they've only released one "traditional" punk album since then, while they've put out two other mariachi-influenced albums since. Anyhow, their set absolutely did not disappoint -- the blaring horns and soaring violin carried loud and clear from the festival's main stage, with a healthy crowd gathered for the set.
I was glad to catch a few songs from the Conor Oberst project Desaparecidos, back together after being on and off for several years. Their set was very loud and politically tinged, as one would expect from an Oberst project, although maybe the slightly angry mood of the set wasn't quite right for sunny mid-day music. At any rate, high school/college aged me was super pumped to get to be seeing Conor Oberst in any context. 32 year old me, however, just wanted to take off her shoes and lay down in the grass for a while (I did).
Kentucky native Chris Stapleton has been described by some as having the best voice in Nashville, and that's an assessment that I definitely would not argue with after catching his set today. While Forecastle showcases artists of all genres, one of the reasons I love the festival the most is that I can see country/bluegrass/Americana artists that I most likely won't get to see anywhere else -- at least, not in Chicago. After writing songs for others for years, as well as being the lead singer for the SteelDrivers (performing Sunday at Forecastle), Stapleton has finally stepped out on his own with his first solo album. Stapleton played some excellent country rock that was a highlight of my day.
I was first introduced to Shovels & Rope two years ago at Forecastle, so it was great to see them again. Their new album, Swimmin' Time, was one of my favorites of 2014, and the high energy and big sound of husband/wife duo Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst is always something to behold. Their set was just as good this time around and featured some of my favorite songs from both albums. The best I can describe them is like an Americana-influenced Matt & Kim, which is probably not fair to any of the parties involved, but that's pretty much always where my mind goes.
I closed out my second day at Forecastle with a set from Sturgill Simpson. I'll admit that I've never heard of him before, but everyone else clearly had. The picture below shows just how close I was able to get for his set -- the stage was packed! Simpson's music is country influenced, but he's not afraid to play with sounds and influences to create something more well-rounded. I may not know much about him now, but I'm certainly looking forward to checking out more of his music.
I headed back "home" before headliner My Morning Jacket came on. I've seen them a few times before over the years, and while they always put on a fantastic show -- particularly in their home base of Louisville -- I decided that things like showers and real bathrooms were a little more worthwhile. I'll be back at it for one more day of music -- until then, here's a man in a monkey mask for your entertainment.
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