Downtown Louisville was flooded by crowds of festivalgoers for the 14th annual Forecastle, featuring acts from bluegrass to rock — and of course, plenty of Kentucky bourbon. This year’s festival was headlined by The Avett Brothers, Alabama Shakes and Ryan Adams, but the supporting acts were just as memorable.
On Friday afternoon, the weekend began with a soulful tone thanks to gospel and blues singer Liz Vice along with Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals. The Avett Brothers shook up the crowd at the end of Friday night with a mixture of old favorites as well as new songs from their recent release “True Sadness.”
The folk continued on to the next morning, when Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear took the stage. The mother-and-son duo played a fun set that kicked off the day, followed by Shakey Graves, Dr. Dog and Local Natives. Extra energy was found on the Ocean Stage throughout Saturday, with acts like rapper Danny Brown and Durham, North Carolina-based electronic duo Sylvan Esso, who got the crowd jumping and dancing while they sang along.
Alabama Shakes closed out Saturday night with a nearly two-hour set of fan favorites and jam sessions from Brittany Howard. But before Howard came on stage, a couple of special guests shared a special tribute with the audience. The crowd was led in chants of “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” by Mayor of Louisville Greg Fischer to honor the late Muhammad Ali. John Ramsey, friend and eulogist of Ali, joined Fischer on the stage to share some words of his own. “Tonight, let’s pay it forward,” Ramsey said. “Let’s be about inclusiveness. Let’s be about love and unity.” The crowd — which Ramsey estimated was about 25,000 people — joined hands simultaneously as Ramsey spoke. “We want to send a message to the rest of the world and that’s unity, hope and compassion,” Ramsey said. “Everybody’s tired of everybody hating everybody.” Following Ramsey’s words and one last, “sting like a bee,” Howard’s voice shook the whole city as she belted out tunes from the bottom of her heart.
Sunday’s low-key vibe included acts like Anderson East, Joan Shelley and Gary Clark Jr. during the day. The energy returned Sunday night when Brandi Carlile took the Mast stage for a standout performance from the singer, who surprised the crowd by switching between solo acoustic tracks and headbanging rock and roll. Ryan Adams left the crowd wanting more with his stellar guitar riffs and improvisation as Forecastle came to a close with a perfect sunset ending over the Ohio River.
Written and photographs by Laney Ruckstuhl