We started the festival season with Forecastle Festival high on our list, and this weekend’s experience didn’t disappoint. It took us a few extra days on our recap because we went straight from the festival to family vacation – but we can’t wait to share this with you guys!
If you are interested in learning about some of the basics and amenities – check out our previous Forecastle posts here. This time around, we are going to take you on our deep dive into the Forecastle experience from last weekend. Here’s this year’s lineup in case you need a quick refresher.
One of our team members, Sarah (lovingly known by us as SJC), helped out with the early coverage. She drove down from New Jersey and got to spend Thursday afternoon exploring Louisville. She had a blast exploring the downtown area and other parts of the city as well. Sarah found an awesome pizza place called The Post a little outside of downtown and reports back that the pizza was amazing, rivaling some pizza places in Jersey and New York. That sounds like high praise to me.
SJC was the first of our team into the festival, arriving shortly after gates on Friday. She had originally planned to only stay Friday – but ended up winning a full weekend VIP pass from Cold War Kids.
She spent the early part of Friday exploring the grounds, trying some different bourbons and going to tastings.
In the early afternoon, she scoped out the Outsiders pizza spot that was giving away free pizza at the top of every hour and got to see an acoustic set from Cold War Kids. They performed a few songs with a 2 piece band, including Nathan Willet (on guitar + main vocals) and Jonnie Russell (on piano + backing vocals). The performance was followed by a meet and greet.
After that, SJC turned her focus towards the big stages – seeing great performances from Portugal The Man, electronic duo Snakehips, Judah & The Lion, and of course The Killers. Mr. Brightside has to be one of the absolute best songs to scream sing along thousands of other festival goers – and the rest of The Killers set was also equally awesome.
We usually have a lot more to report about food, but it was hot that first day and our appetites weren’t quite on par. But don’t worry – there will be a lot more food talk below. One thing SJC did point out right away on the food front was just how many awesome vegetarian and vegan options Forecastle had. She felt like there was almost always at least one thing on every stand’s menu that she could eat along with tons of specialized options as well.
SJC did a great job holding down the fort on Friday. I had so much FOMO and couldn’t wait to arrive for Day 2 of Forecastle. I flew Southwest direct from BWI to Louisville. My flight was slightly delayed, but I still managed to get in super early and the whole process was smooth. I especially loved the racetrack starting horn as the noise to warn that the luggage was getting ready to come out at the baggage claim. With a rental car secured, I drove the short distance to downtown Louisville and headed to the hotel. Our room wasn’t quite ready, but that gave us time to have a snack and a quick reunion in the lobby. With clothes changed and luggage sent to our room I was eager to get to my first day at the festival and took the short walk (10 minutes tops) down to the waterfront park.
My wristband pickup at the box office right next to the gate went smoothly, and I made a YOLO decision to snag a VIP band as well. That turned out to be a great way to beat the heat in air conditioning and an opportunity to check out a lot of the amenities. Entry was smooth as well and within just a few minutes I was inside. SJC and I spent the first hour or so exploring the grounds, the steamboat, the Yacht Club, and the Bourbon Lounge. It is such a cool concept to have the steamboat there – providing A/C indoors, snack bars and cool views of the festival from the boat’s porches. It was a fun way for us to catch up before heading over for drinks.
Membership to the Bourbon Lodge is about $30 (it also comes with the VIP ticket). Included in that cost is a cool cup and 15 tickets that are used towards the purchase of bourbon, cocktails, and tasting experiences. The Bourbon Lodge is air conditioned and houses a ton of different bourbon brands – it also provides lots of seating options. It seemed like a necessary step to make bourbon a big part of the first day, and I kicked it off with an Old Fashioned from Old Forester. Over the two days, I had the opportunity to try bourbons and cocktails from a bunch of distilleries and to attend a tasting (more on that later). We grabbed some loaded tater tots (covered in cheese, bbq pork and all kinds of other goodies) to eat with our drinks.
When I first got into the festival, I caught part of the set by bblasian – a Louisville native and rapper who put on a great set at the Ocean stage under the overpass.
Despite a big focus on food on my first day, I caught some great sets from Chelsea Cutler, Israel Nash, part of Maggie Rogers, and Midland.
One of the best sets I saw at Forecastle and over my festival season was Nelly’s evening set on day 2. I had been looking forward to seeing him for awhile, especially after I missed out on his set at a previous festival. He definitely did not disappoint. Not only was the performance fantastic – the crowd just had an amazing vibe. There was a ton of singing along to basically every song and a lot of dancing. Probably one of my favorite moments was when the crowd sang just as enthusiastically to “old school” Nelly and then moved right into singing just as much to Cruise (Nelly and Florida/Georgia Line). It was honestly one of my favorite sets I have seen this year, enough so that I did something I don’t usually do and got right in the middle of the crowd.
After that, it was back to the Bourbon Lodge for a Blueberry Jamboree from Four Roses. In the meantime, I grabbed a quick bite at Southernmost Falafel (one of my favorites from a few weekends ago at Firefly). Their fresh Gyros are amazing and I was super excited to see them on the food list.
After a long day of travel and a hot day in the sun, we headed out part way through the headlining performance. SJC was headed for a Sub Radio show at a nearby dive bar and I was headed for bed.
Before we split up for the night, we took a relaxing dip in our hotel pool and hot tub. Honestly, I have never felt so refreshed after a long festival day. I need to add indoor pool to my list of festival hotel must haves. There was nothing quite like it, especially after carrying the camera and bag for the day.
I did some planning for Day 3 and then headed to bed early. SJC had an adventurous night – she can tell you more about it, but it sounds like it was a blast!
My plan for Sunday was to make up for missing out on the first day, so I was up and ready well before gates. I headed in right as they opened with time to grab a quick drink and some photos before things started to get busy. My first set of the day was Evan Giia. This was my third opportunity to see her this season, and to take pictures. One of my favorite moments was looking down the rail and seeing that nearly everyone on it was female. Major girl power to start the day. Evan brought the same energy and awesome personality to her set as she has all season and I swear she looked right at me at one point.
After her set, I headed over to the Bourbon Lodge to try a lemonade cocktail from Larceny and to cool down a little before heading back out to catch parts of both Mt. Joy and Yungblud. Both were very good!
I took the opportunity to hit my first media lounge happy hour – snagging delicious pizza from Outsiders and some cool Four Roses swag. I also got one of my favorite drinks of the weekend – bourbon and Cherry Ale 8-1 (apparently a local soda – 10/10 would recommend). Full of pizza and delicious drinks, I explored the VIP area and got a complementary and very cute festival hairdo.
I was more prepared for the heat by day 3, so I also headed over to a food stand that promoted itself as local favorites from the Valu Mart. I picked up some Velveeta chips and queso, a Lean Burger, and a Cherry Ale 8-1 Freeze (omg!!!!). I headed back to enjoy some more A/C at the Bourbon Lodge and found myself just in time for a tasting. For 20 tickets (approx $20) you can do a small group bourbon tasting and they are generally led by great people from the distilleries. For example, I did the Old Forester tasting and the founder’s great grandson was one of the leaders of the tasting. We got to try four bourbons and got a short 20 minute lesson. Overall it was a great experience, and something I would recommend doing at the festival. It also gives you a good opportunity for shade and cooling down.
After the tasting and food, I headed over to catch the end of Dawes and all of Whethan at my favorite stage under the road.
My last show of the day was a dance party with Lettuce. One final awesome hour enjoying the music, the sun, and the spirit of Forecastle. As a result of the stage’s location, there was also the added bonus of getting to see people dance their way into the festival to the jammy tunes of Lettuce. I spent a few moments treasuring that this feeling was exactly why I love festivals and can’t wait for the next.
Continuing my “cherry” theme of the day, I bought a Cheerwine and vanilla ice cream float from Ben and Jerry’s and took one last leisurely walk around the festival grounds.
After that, we headed out to pack and get ready for an early morning flight.
A Few Final Takeaways:
- Forecastle does a great job of keeping the grounds clean. There were tons of trash and recycling cans and it was definitely one of the cleaner festivals I have been to
- Sarah and I both loved the chalkboard style boards posted up at each stage listing the name of the band currently playing. When you arrive to a set after it starts or head in and are hearing a new band, it is cool to know who it is without having to pull out the schedule or app.
- It was hot, but Forecastle did a great job of providing shade and cool places. One of the most unique was a spot where there is a fountain/aqueduct basically running through the park. Festival goers took the opportunity to lounge and cool off sitting on the steps with their feet (or more) in the cool water.
- Forecastle had so much free swag and giveaways. This is probably far and away the festival where I ended up with the most awesome free stuff – especially from some of the bourbon brands.
- Speaking of bourbon . . . I honestly cannot stress enough how cool – both literally and figuratively the Bourbon Lodge was. It was not only a refuge for A/C and a cold drink, the various bourbon tastings and ability to try cocktails from so many brands was such an integral part of my festival experience.
We hope to have some more photos to share once we get done editing. In the meantime, all the photos in this article (except for the meet and greet photo -credit to Cold War Kids) came from our Iphones.