July 18, 2015
Review by Matt Wickstrom
After not making it to Louisville’s beautiful Riverfront Park on Friday for the opening day of Forecastle, I was more excited than ever to get my first taste of arguable the biggest music festival in the bluegrass state. Saturday’s festival lineup was packed top-to-bottom with great artists, including The Word, Shovels and Rope, Sturgill Simpson, and hometown favorites My Morning Jacket.
After making my way through security and onto the festival grounds, I immediately began making my way towards the Mast Stage, which The Word were getting ready to take the stage. The Word features Robert Randolph from Robert Randolph and the Family Band primarily on the steel pedal guitar; John Medeski on keyboards, and Chris Chew, Cody Dickinson, and Luther Dickinson from the North Mississippi All Stars on bass, drums, and guitar, respectively. The quintet did an amazing job blending together all of the various sounds and influences that have brought each of the band members notoriety in their other projects, including rock, soul, gospel, blues, and country. One of the highlights of The Words setlist, which lasted about 75 minutes, was their performance of an original tune ‘Waiting on My Wings’. The jam lasted just over ten minutes and saw Randolph jump from the guitar to the keyboards, and then to drums later in the track as Cody Dickinson traded them in in favor of the washboard. The diversity offered up by The Word makes each of their shows that much more enjoyable, and truly one of a kind each time they perform.
After The Word finished up, I began making my way through the sea of patrons to the Boom Stage for Shovels and Rope from Charleston, South Carolina. The husband and wife duo of Carry Ann Hearst and Michael Trent brought a very intimate feel to the festival with their set. The band had a very small set up on stage, with the two sitting close together, joined only by a small drum set and a guitar. The couple alternated performing on each instrument after nearly every song, and coupled their instrumental talents with amazing duets and incredible vocal range. Hearst reminded me a lot of Brittany Howard, lead vocalist for the Alabama Shakes, in terms of how strong their voices are, allowing them to take full command on-stage and allow their voice to radiate through the crowd. Hearst, who was nearly eight months pregnant during the Forecastle performance, offered up a touching tribute to the band’s hometown of Charleston after one of their songs, about a week after several african americans were gunned down at a historic black church in the town.
As Shovels and Rope finished off their energetic set around 7:30, I made my way under the overpass for Interstate 64 for some shade and a bite to eat. I ended up grabbing some delicious stir fry and a lemonade before making my way back to the Boom Stage to catch fellow Kentuckian Sturgill Simpson perform at eight.
Simpson and his four piece backup band, including an electric guitar, drums, bass, and keyboards, offered up a gritty blend of rock n country that harkens back to the good ole days, before mainstream country music began to blend into the poppy country music all over radio nowadays. Simpson sent electric vibes down the Ohio River Valley throughout his set, which was capped off with a cover of The Osborne Brothers ‘Listening to the Rain’. By the end of the song, the packed crowd taking in Simpson’s performance were all dancing as one as Simpson wailed away on his guitar, leaning back and kicking his feet up in the process.
As the sun descended and day turned into night, excitement began to build for the day’s last band, My Morning Jacket. Fresh off the release of the new album The Waterfall, My Morning Jacket, led by frontman Jim James, took the stage and broke into ‘Believe (Nobody Knows)’ a track from their new album. James amazing voice echoed through the crowd during the band’s next song ‘Mahgeetah’, from their early album It Still Moves.
My Morning Jacket welcomed many guests on stage during their lengthy set, including Conor Oberst from the band Desaparecidos, for the cut ‘Wonderful (The Way I Feel). Also joining Oberst and MMJ on stage for ‘Wonderful (The Way I Feel) were members of the Louisville Orchestra, whom also joined the band for performances of ‘Believe (Nobody Knows)’, ‘Like a River’, and ‘Gideon’.
My Morning Jacket ended Saturday night at Forecastle with a six song encore, featuring on my my favorite MMJ songs ‘Run Thru’. The tune starts off with a lengthy electric guitar jam that sent an eruption through Waterfront Park. The fast start to the song eventually slowed down as James began serenading the crowd, and then picked up again as the chorus kicked back in. The encore was closed out by another of the band’s early tracks, ‘One Big Holiday’. Former MMJ guitarist, and James’ cousin Johnny Quaid joined the band for the duration of the encore. He left the band in 2004.
My Morning Jacket’s full setlist from Forecastle can be found below.
Set I: Believe (Nobody Knows)^, Mahgeetah, Off the Record, Wordless Chorus, Compound Fracture, The Way That He Sings, Spring (Among the Living), Wonderful*^, Like a River^, Gideon^, In its Infancy (The Waterfall), Victory Dance, Circuital, I’m Amazed, Tropics (Erase Traces), Lay Low
Enc: Steam Engine, Phone Went West, Run Thru, Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2, Good Intentions, One Big Holiday
Notes: *w/Conor Oberst, ^w/Louisville Orchestra
Entire encore w/Johnny Quaid