God love the Rolling Stones, after 50 years, they are still out there playing rock concerts to stadiums of fans. But it is reasonable to wonder what it would have been like to see Mick Jagger fronting the band in his 20s or 30s prime.
Seeing a Cage the Elephant show kinda gives you an idea. Frontman Matt Shultz’s moves like Jagger have been noted in the past. But as he took the main stage on the first day of the Forecastle Festival, he spiced up the comparison wearing a green tuxedo-like suit that seemed like something Sir Mick might have in his closet and singing the bluesy “Cry Baby.”
Dancing, vamping, jumping on risers to play to the crowd, and quickly losing his scallop-collared jacket, sans shirt underneath, Shultz was a model of frontman charisma and energy that translated to the rest of the band; particularly guitarist and brother Brad Shultz, who went and played in the crowd for a while.
Cage last visited Forecastle in 2015, with a similarly scorching set. But this time, the catalog was enhanced with the Grammy Award-winning album “Tell Me I’m Pretty,” which was generously sampled Friday, along with classics like “Spiderhead.” Shultz did stop long enough to mention the band’s Kentucky roots, formed in Bowling Green. Indeed, the band topped a very Kentucky day at Forecastle that started with Louisville trio Twin Limb christening the 2017 main stage with a haunting, electric set.
The band returned in the evening over at the Port Stage as part of Teddy Abrams & Friends or the Forecastle Symphony. Whichever moniker you like – Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer seemed to like Forecastle Symphony, if that makes any difference to you – this is the second year for the group, a collective of Derby City musicians organized by Abrams, music director of the Louisville Orchestra. Abrams promised the crowd “every genre of music” at the outset of the show and was working on delivering, offering up doses of jazz, blues, indie rock, hip-hop and bluegrass, in the time I was there.
The Port Stage, which is run by Louisville public radio outlet WFPK, launched earlier in the day with hometown band Quiet Hollers, which has been building a reputation for introspective and inventive rock, like what you hear on the group’s brand new album, “Amen Breaks.” Hollers played a terrific small-stage show at May’s Moonshiner’s Ball in Irvine, but handled the larger venue with authority.
One-time Northern Kentuckian John Moreland played the evening set at the Port stage, producing a torrent of acoustic guitar, with a sideman whose name I didn’t catch, in the service of gut-wrenching songs such as “Oh Julia.” Echoing classic American songwriters, it was easy to understand the hype about Moreland.
But you didn’t have to be a Kentuckian or expat to put on great – lo, surprising – performances on Friday. Everyone expected Cage the Elephant to blow up the main stage. The same expectation may not have been there for Needtobreathe, but the South Carolina band lit up the Mast Stage with a high-energy set that pulled in a crowd that, by a show of hands, was seeing the group for the first time.
And how much did I like Chicano Batman? That’s what I listened to on the way home to Lexington Friday night. The group looked like a wedding band that escaped the 1970s in ruffle-shirt tuxedos, but brought Latin-infused flavors or soul, funk and even some disco that was much more energetic than their cool current album, “Freedom is Free.”
Closing out the Mast Stage Friday was electronic duo Odesza, making its Forecastle debut. The crowd for Odesza was not as intense as Cage, but there were definitely adherents, and the music provided a lovely soundtrack for the close of a successful first day.
On Day One, I did not make it over to the Ocean Stage, under the Interstate, but it was pumping all day with hip-hop and EDM to an enthusiastic audience. Maybe Walter or I will get by there today. Two Days left in Forecastle 2017, and today’s big name is another Kentucky born-and-bred star: Sturgill Simpson.
We will be posting updates from Forecastle all day on our LexGo Facebook page.
Follow Rich Copley on Facebook and Twitter, @copiousnotes.
If you go
What: Three-day music festival with multiple stages featuring Odesza, LCD Soundsystem, Weezer, Cage the Elephant, Sturgill Simpson, P.J. Harvey and many more.
When: July 14-16
Where: Waterfront Park, 300 E. River Rd. in Louisville
Tickets: Starting at $69.50