Have you ever marveled at the improbable stacking of smooth and heavy rocks by an artist? It takes planning, balance, and an understanding of how to make them all fit together. It’s amazing to see everything come together in such harmony. That was Louisville, Kentucky’s Forecastle Music Festival this year. They will thank the crowd for making this year another success, but the credit goes to the staff. Their planning, consideration, and foresight brought everything together for a celebration of music, dancing, and bourbon.

I’ve written about other music festivals emphasizing the role of the audience in attendance. I don’t want to take anything away from such a friendly, gracious, and fun crowd that literally asked to be photographed, but damn Forecastle, you run a tight ship!

If you’re in customer service, the concept of swimming like a duck may be familiar to you. Above the surface of the water is a seemingly effortless stride. Below the surface is controlled drowning to stay afloat. Even when turbulence is approached, the guests feel confident that the staff will take care of it. The people at Forecastle did just that. Even after the respite due to the weather on Friday, the schedule was adjusted to result in a later evening, nothing more (or less). The next day, one audience member fell faint at the main stage and the crowd and staff came together quickly. If there were any other issues, I was not made aware. People played in the fountain, chilled in the shade, danced it out in the new Party Cove, or enjoyed the well-staggered music performances throughout the event.

I had my favorites going into the event, and left with a lot more! Here is a account of the top performances (in chronological order).

The Festival started off with a bang with Black Pistol Fire on Friday with some of the strongest blues rifts and possibly the highest energy performance of the weekend and made a new follower out of this photographer.

On the Main stage, Grouplove lifted the spirits back to 11 after the storm and started a party.

Moon Taxi’s Trevor Terndrup had women swooning and swaying for their entire set.

The Avett Brothers started off with kazoos, but closed the first day with as much feeling and fun that anyone who has seen them perform has come to expect.

By midday Saturday, a good majority of attendees had wizened up to the heat. If they weren’t planted in the few standing rows closest to the stage, or in a great position to lounge on a blanket with friends, they realized another sound idea was to enjoy the music from the shade of the overpass.

Myzica welcomed us back the second day with bubbly tunes that bounced around the surface of fun and depth.

The Arcs brought a lot more to the stage than just a side-project, garage band. Dan Auerbach brought with him a fantastic cast of supporting musicians.

There isn’t much that can be said about Alabama Shakes that has not already been said. If you weren’t here, just make sure you witness how powerful of a vocalist Brittany Howard is live.

On Sunday, The 10-piece, Suffers explained the connection between love and food and their importance in music.

Femi Kuti provided us with a generous dose of afropop sound and culture.

AlunaGeorge had a huge girl fanbase, but was my favorite surprise of the festival!

Gary Clark Jr’s presence on stage was enough for the crowd to be energized during his set. Fortunately he also brought his guitar and knew just how to play it too.

Brandi Carlile and the twins nearly set the stage afire with emotion, purpose, and music.

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