It’s no secret that there are many different festivals from which to choose these days; I can say from experience, though, that one of the best events in the country is Forecastle Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. Located in downtown Louisville, right on the bank of the Ohio River, Forecastle offers a unique and beautiful experience. Ever since my attendance at last year’s extravaganza, this weekend has been circled on my 2017 calendar.

We kicked things off on Friday with soulful Los Angeles-based band Chicano Batman. whose latest release, Freedom is Free, is one of my favorites so far this year. The group took the stage in their matching 70’s tuxedos and flooded the airwaves with their wonderful blend of latin, R&B, soul, and rock n’ roll. Owning the stage, they gave it all they had as we sweat it out with them in the beating sun. With songs tackling equality, love, friendship, and fear, the message rang loud and clear as the crowd responded to the testaments received. Chicano Batman put a smile on my face that lasted the rest of the day.

We took a short walk down to the Boom Stage to check out Brooklyn rock band Real Estate, whose mellow surf rock sound will quench the thirst of any music lover. The melodies are rich with smooth harmonies and transcendent soundscapes that create a strong platform for the thought-provoking lyrics. Though their songs are filled with questions, it seems as if they aren’t truly looking for or demanding answers. The questions just need to be asked.

We are made our way back to the main stage to see one of today’s best touring bands, NEEDTOBREATHE. The outfit, which hails from Possum Kingdom, South Carolina, brought their roots rock n’ roll to the main stage–and every member of the crowd bought what NEEDTOBREATHE was selling, and demanded more. The passion and energy bounding from the stage was infectious, and in spite of the heat that seemed crippling at times, the crowd freely reciprocated the band’s energy. With ripping guitar solos, soaring vocals, and a charisma rarely found between band members, NEEDTOBREATHE put on an amazing show from beginning to end that highlighted their ever-growing catalogue.

As the sun went down, I made my way to the Port stage to see one of my favorite artists on the planet, John Moreland, one of the most prolific songwriters alive who has slowly made a name and a career for himself by releasing one fantastic album after another. His latest record, Big Bad Luv, holds a special place in this writer’s heart. With just a two-man band, Moreland and his accompanist began playing his signature heart-wrenching Americana tunes. Every word pierces, the pain audible through his growling voice. With his wonderfully unique way of packaging and presenting stories and emotions, John Moreland proves he is here to stay.

Friday’s finale just so happened to be Louisville natives and new Nashvillians, Cage The Elephant, known for their high energy, balls-to-the-wall live shows—and Friday’s set at Forecastle was no exception. For the entirety of their hour-long performance, the intensity never waned, the pace never slowed, and the band only picked up steam. Matt Shultz was everywhere, on the stage, on things on the stage, and in the crowd, sweating it out with the fans. Cage the Elephant put on an awe-inspiring and epic show for their hometown crowd–the entire festival stopped, and the audience was rocked.

[This review was crafted by the multi-talented James Farley; you can follow him at https://jamesfarleymusic.wordpress.com. These lovely photos were provided by the incomparable Nathan Pirkle; you can see more of his genius on display at http://nrpirkle.wixsite.com/photography]

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