PREVIEW: Forecastle Festival 2018

Forecastle Festival 2018: Louisville’s Largest Multifaceted Affair Celebrates 16 Years of Diversity in Music and Kentucky Culture.

Ahh…festival season is once again in full-force here in Kentucky, this hot and steamy July. In the seemingly endless sea of festivals that transpire across America this summer, building something genuinely of-its-own is a complicated task. Louisville’s annual music, activism and Kentucky culture celebration, Forecastle Festival, now in its 16th year, has accomplished that task. Built from the ground-up by its founder, JK McKnight, Forecastle Festival has morphed itself from a small Tyler Park neighborhood gathering in 2002, to the largest platform in Kentucky for music, art and culture, with festival organizers expecting to welcome more than 60,000+ people to Louisville’s Waterfront Park, July 13-15.

Whereas many organizers across America’s festival landscape tend to cater to a more narrow set or singular music genre or style, Forecastle Festival does the opposite, and casts a much wider net across the genre spectrum. Even though Forecastle was taken over by industry giant AC Entertainment just 5 short years ago, the Festival’s diversity hasn’t changed so much, to its own credit. From various interpretations of Rock n’ Roll, to Country, to Hip Hop, to EDM, to Bluegrass – and anything in between – Forecastle Festival pledges allegiance to no one particular genre of music. Virtually any artist from any style, from anywhere, could cross one of the four stages on those muddy banks of the Ohio River. There is literally something from everyone, where unity seems to be the end result of it all.

The big three headliners on this year’s rendition is Kentucky’s Country Rocker Chris Stapleton; indie-alt rock leviathans Arcade Fire; and however you wish to classify Modest Mouse. The diversity continues where you will also see artists like singer-songwriter Father John Misty, to indie hip-hopper Vic Mensa, to Midwest alt-country pop star Margo Price, alt-country punk rockers Lucero, and Bluegrass melody makers Punch Brothers. Forecastle also has its roots in welcoming artists from Louisville’s original music scene, therefore that will be on display by way of indie-rockers Houndmouth, straight up rock n’ rollers White Reaper, plus Louisville Orchestra’s main maestro Teddy Abrams, who will continue to build upon his past Forecastle performances with an opus built around a plethora of other Louisville musicians. The complete lineup can be found at:

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Music isn’t the only focus at Forecastle these days. Remember, you’re in the land of Bourbon, too. Good ole’ Louisville, Kentucky could easily be considered the world’s mecca for Bourbon, and Forecastle celebrates Kentucky’s internationally know sweet fire water with an ornate Bourbon Lodge, produced by the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Complete with memberships, the Bourbon Lodge will allow Forecastlers to swig down and soak up as much bourbon and knowledge that one would expect from a diverse group of Master Distillers. This is the 2nd most popular attraction at Forecastle and a great place to escape the Ohio Valley’s typically brutal July heat with a little A/C, too. 

A variety of Louisville and Kentucky area businesses, food trucks and craft brewers will be on display in the Kentucky Landing area of the festival grounds, too. You can download a map by clicking here, if you want a visual of the lay of the land ahead of time.

The last thing I will leave you with – at this point – is something that no other media person will provide you with. It’s literally just a funny little checklist of random things that I’ve saw, experienced, and for one reason or another decided to jot down in the series of notes that I have kept, in various states of mind, from the 10+ years that Forecastle Festival has been tolerantly gracious enough to allow me to report on. Think of it as the people-watchers’ checklist of random things that make Forecastle, Forecastle: Artists making art. People jams. Bourbon over-indulgers. Burlesque Gypsies. Tree-huggers. Dirty hippie dudes. Dirty hippie dames. Clean hippie dudes. Clean hippie dames. Beardos. Dreadlocks. Tye-dye. Bassheads. Potheads. Bald heads. Ohio River-bathers. Socialists. Liberals. Ecological sermons. Political sermons. Drunken sermons. So-called Journalists. Stage-divers. Body-surfers. Cops with nothing to do. 10 foot tall Hunter S. Thompson mannequin. Hacky-sack circles. Sleeping drunkards. Girls breaking up with boyfriends. Lifeguards patrolling over dirt and pavement. Sweaty people drinking PBR. Sweaty people making out. Sweaty people drinking PBRs and making out. Teenage make-shift obstacle hurdlers. Omnipresent Mary Jane aromas. Muhammad Ali portraits in fancy bathrooms. The Mayor in VIP.

You get the picture, right? I know, you totally want to buy the ticket, and take the ride, in the immortal words of Hunter S. Thompson. However, if you have not already, here is where to do so:

See you out there.

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*Jason Ashcraft is a freelance contributor for Performer Magazine, based out of Louisville, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee. You can read more random readings from him via his blog:

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