The weather may have been scorching hot all weekend at the Forecastle Festival, but the talent on stage Sunday was even hotter, led by Aaron Lee Tasjan, Foxygen, Spoon, Weezer and more.
Turning up the heat early in the afternoon on the Port Stage was Aaron Lee Tasjan, whose intricate songwriting and intoxicating guitar licks captivated a crowd that quickly built from the start of his set. Tasjan’s performance saw the artist go back and forth wailing tunes including “Ready to Die,” a song beginning with a minimalist approach before slowly building into a frantic guitar solo by Tasjan; “Little Movies,” a tune about squandered love backed by grandiose instrumentals and “B---- Can’t Sing,” a hard-driving tune off his debut record “In the Blazes” that Tasjan introduced by saying he wrote the song after an altercation he had with an obnoxious fan in the crowd of a show he attended years ago. Tasjan’s Forecastle performance rivaled his set earlier this summer in Irvine at The Moonshiner’s Ball, which was performed under lightning-streaked skies as opposed to Sunday’s blistering sun.
Making its return to Forecastle after last performing in 2013 was L.A. based duo-turned-orchestral ensemble Foxygen, headed by Sam France and Jonathan Rado. Foxygen recorded it’s latest album “Hang” backed by a full 40-piece orchestra, with many of those sections being present for their set Sunday, albeit pared down from their studio sessions and minus woodwinds. The group, known for it’s antics both on and off the stage, brought a bottled up energy that burst in its show, with France jumping, dancing and prancing around the stage from the opener of “San Francisco” into a plethora of hits off the latest record “Hang” including “Follow the Leader,” the album’s lead track that draws comparisons to the eclectic sound of Electric Light Orchestra; “Avalon”, a tune backed by a happy-go-lucky melody and ever-changing pace that reminded me of a musical score in a Disney movie on a collision course with ABBA; and “America,” an instrumental-driven song featuring a rising and falling back and forth between the group’s brass sections and Rado on piano.
Providing a change of pace from Foxygen’s amped up set was Big Thief. Fresh off last month’s release of its second album, “Capacity,” the Brooklyn based quartet played a mellow set with ample space for lead singer Adrianne Lenker’s angelic voice and storytelling to take center stage. Lenker tells the stories of many characters through her songwriting, including on the new album’s lead track “Pretty Things” and follow up “Shark Smile,” which both made appearances in the group’s set on Sunday afternoon.
Rounding out a stellar afternoon of performances on WFPK’s Port Stage was alt-country rising star Rayland Baxter, who quickly accumulated a group of young adoring fans on the rail during his set under the descending sun. Baxter was joined for the majority of his set by Cage the Elephant guitarist Nick Bockrath, including during a performance of “All in My Head” off Baxter’s 2015 album “Imaginary Man” and a cover of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” in which Baxter and company were also joined by a trombonist.
Sunday’s two biggest draws were veteran rock bands Spoon and Weezer, neither of which disappointed, with each playing songs from their full catalogs. Spoon was first up, closing out Forecastle’s Boom Stage. The group is fronted by vocalist and guitarist Britt Daniel, who came equipped with a contagious presence that quickly radiated to the crowd, which enthusiastically sang and danced along throughout the set to hits such as “Inside Out”, “Hot Thoughts,” “I Turn My Camera On” and “Rent I Pay.”
Capping off the 16th annual Forecastle Festival was Weezer, which took the stage shortly after 9:15 p.m. Sunday evening to a raucous crowd of fans young and old holding up their hands in the shape of “W’s” and chanting “Weezer”. The group kicked off its set with “California Kids” off 2016’s self-titled white album before taking a trip back in their discography to “Hash Pipe,” “My Name is Jones” and “Pork and Beans,” with the crowd eating up every bit of the performance. With a large block “W” hanging from the rear of the stage just in front of a large projector screen, Weezer continued into the night, seemingly determined to cover as much of its musical library as possible, with frontman Rivers Cuomo leading the group on “(If You’re Wondering if I Want You To) I Want You To,” “Perfect Situation,” “Say it Ain’t So” and more.
Matt Wickstrom: @wickstromwrites