Kentuckiana gets a taste for craziness, and vice versa

Forecastle Festival, having gained quite the attention over the past few years, has undergone quite the makeover.  J.K. McKnight’s prophetic vision of a multi-faceted, full-scale arts and music festival fully inflated this year, when at least 10,000 fruitful, diverse souls gathered on the Great Lawn at Waterfront Park to bake like bread in the July heat, voraciously drink free Coke Zero, watch Cirque Berzerk performers juggle long rods of flame, and overall have a damn-mighty good time.

Forecastle, the seed of which McKnight planted under the shade of Tyler Park in 2002 – with a budget of about $100 – is gradually blooming toward the ranks of monster festivals such as Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, minus the $500 admission ticket. From past headliners such as De La Soul, Girl Talk, Del Tha Funky Homosapien, and The Black Crowes, to bands as notorious and prolific as this year’s Smashing Pumpkins, Devo, and The Flaming Lips – who on Sunday night could’ve been sent straight from Jupiter – the Forecastle apparatus is acclaimed nationwide. Outside Magazine recently named the festival one of the “Top 15 Outdoor Summer Festivals,” and, according to Spin Magazine, Forecastle has become “one of the top 101 things to do in America.”

Forecastle 2010 was a rebirth – a reinterpretation of the Appalachian outdoor festival tradition set to an honestly modern template – which included the roar of Spaghetti Junction overhead and a jumble of booths below, selling pipes, sunglasses, T-shirts, coffee, Bob Marley screen prints, cheese fries, beads, decadent 8x10s of the Kentucky countryside, and eco-friendly carnival games compiled of empty milk cartons and cardboard. Brazenly holding forth at the rear of the Great Lawn was the bleat of an LCD screen, which, at one point, transfixed bandana-wearing, sunsprayed spectators – backs turned to the main stage – as they took in the Netherlands vs. Spain World Cup game. American enough, their muggy roar easily drowned out the sound of the music. 

Forecastle by nocturne oozed the deep, pummeling dub-step rhythms of Eoto at the gulleyish Ocean Stage – a cozy stomping ground for the beat-hungry, neon-gnawing ravers who crammed in quickly, hopping like monkeys, shaking the brittle Waterfront trees. Scenes like this mean something profound and evolutionary: The ravers have truly reached Louisville! Not only this, but our tastes are expanding. The festival hosted four different stages simultaneously, with a diverse palette of genres. From the sweaty blues hurl of the Black Diamond Heavies to the freakish circus swirl of Foxy Shazam to the buzzing electro-swarm of chaos straight-outta-purgatory that is Bassnectar, Louisville’s fingers were dipped in an eclectic range of sodas. Forecastle has grown up to become quite a mottled, Technicolor, polka-dot funhouse – and the ravers know it. The strobes and lasers of Bassnectar’s show painted abstract reflections on the façade of the half-built KFC Yum! Center to the delight of the encore throng, and by 3:40 the next day, the Great Lawn was a sizzling frying pan upon which ravers slept like babies and burned like toast. 

But while Forecastle hosted a phalanx of ravers and foreigners, and the decibel-count of the rock/electronic acts surely caused some ripples in the Ohio, the festival also had its share of mountain-folk – like the long-bearded, tan-skinned, plaid-shirted wanderers, lumbering over the dozing couples on blankets; or the man from London, Kentucky, eating grapes from his backpack. It all leads back to a very important, innately Kentuckian trait: no matter how many colorful throngs find their way to the Ohio Valley, there will still be some sense of Appalachia in whatever grows on the riverside.

Cooper Burton is a wild-eyed student at St. Francis High School. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .