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by Brian Baker 03.27.2012
Posted In: Reviews, Music Video at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
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Review: The Shins - 'Port of Morrow'

No one could have imagined a more appropriate outcome for James Mercer when the creatively obscure rags of Flake Music led to the everyman populist Indie Rock riches of The Shins. Strangely, but perhaps predictably, Mercer’s recent career moves seem more indicative of diva behavior, signing with Columbia Records, dismissing his longtime bandmates and making The Shins something of a solo venture while exploring a new and admittedly fascinating aesthetic with Danger Mouse in their Broken Bells collaboration.

All of this has transpired in the long gap since The Shins’ last album, 2007’s largely brilliant Wincing the Night Away, and the hiatus, coupled with Mercer’s oddly twisting creative path, have served to intensify the scrutiny on the long-awaited fifth album from The Shins, Port of Morrow.

At first blush, there is a clear difference between the wide-eyed cryptic wonder of 2001’s Oh Inverted World and the more calculated and plainly spoken weariness of Port of Morrow. Perhaps the most marked difference between the old collective Shins and the new solo-centric Shins is Mercer’s place in the mix. On the first three albums, his keening voice and hallucinogenic lyrical constructs were sublimated into the music, while Wincing the Night Away found him rising above the music’s sonic profile (Michael Stipe followed a similar path on REM’s upward spiral). Mercer’s process is complete on Port of Morrow, as his vocals ring with confidence and clarity even as his lyrics still inspire some allusory head scratching.

The album’s first single, “Simple Song” (see the video for it below), lives up to its title by stripping The Shins’ melodic and lyrical complexity to its basic elements, with the chorus serving as a possible manifesto for the newly liberated Mercer (“I know that things can really get rough, when you go it alone/Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough, and play like a stone/Could be there’s nothing else in our lives so critical, as this little home”). There are moments that hearken back to The Shins of old with the obvious new tweaks (“It’s Only Life,” “40 Mark Strasse”) and a few new wrinkles (the Samba-flecked “Bait and Switch,” the straightforward Indie Pop bristle of “No Way Down,” the rootsy reverb of “For a Fool”).

For fans who have fallen helplessly in love with the Shins’ sonic atmospherics and delightfully indecipherable wordplay, Port of Morrow may be confoundingly understandable. Still, like every Shins album to date, Port of Morrow’s greatest rewards are revealed through prolonged exposure.


 
 
by Deirdre Kaye 02.21.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Reviews at 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Review: Mike Doughty at The Redmoor

There are certain musicians that have such unique, stirring voices, sometimes I want to press my fingers to their necks and feel the vibrations. Mike Doughty has one of those voices. He has a natural reverberation that makes every syllable sound like it traveled up through a canyon in his throat. That’s why Soul Coughing was such a success and, undoubtedly, a big reason for the packed-in crowd at Mount Lookout club The Redmoor Sunday night.

Billed as a "concert/reading/Q&A tour," when Doughty wasn’t bringing the room to near silence during his songs, he was happy to keep the crowd laughing. He read portions of his memoir, The Book of Drugs, sharing stories about his bandmates, tour life and run-ins with a clown and some Mexicans in California. He answered “gnarly questions” about Soul Coughing (his former band), shamed a drunk guy and heckled hecklers.

Doughty rose to fame in the late ‘90s with Soul Coughing. By the 2000s, the band had broken up. After battles with his former band members, drugs and alcohol, Doughty set out on his own. The Book of Drugs tells of those battles, while his latest album, Yes and Also Yes, takes Doughty on a path to further distance himself from those former demons. He no longer performs Soul Coughing material, but Doughty's entertaining presentation didn't need those old songs. He performed with only his guitar and one-of-a-kind voice to a room full of perfectly content fans.

Following every one of the dozen or so songs he performed, Doughty expressed his gratitude with a “Thank you very much.” He accepted shouted comments graciously, but shied away from what appeared to be the beginning of a long-winded comment by assuring everyone that the show wasn’t about him. It was about the crowd and entertaining them.

Doughty had no hearts to win over with his humor, sincerity or flawless show -— this adoring crowd already belonged to him. But he put his heart into his answers and his music, anyway. Mike Doughty treated his fans like his friends, which is the kindest way to treat a human.

On behalf of everyone there: Thank you, very much, Mike Doughty.
 
 
by Mike Breen 11.12.2011
Posted In: Live Music, Reviews at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Review: Beirut at Bogart's

A great concert can transform a venue and transport an audience to its own little world. Last night at Bogart's, Zach Condon and his very successful Indie-meets-World-music ensemble Beirut did both in front of a wildly appreciative, sold-out crowd.

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by Brian Baker 04.25.2012
Posted In: Reviews, Music Video at 12:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Review: Alabama Shakes' 'Boys and Girls'

Remember the first time you saw Erika Wennerstrom sing in front of the Heartless Bastards and watched amazed as she pummeled her guitar and sang with a ferocity that made her neck veins dance like a cobra in a snake charmer’s basket? Brittany Howard approaches her role fronting Alabama Shakes with a similarly wrought intensity and to a familiar result.

Like the Bastards and Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Howard and Alabama Shakes channel ’60s Blues Rock with a contemporary edge on their excellent full-length debut, Boys and Girls.

It’s not hard to play spot-the-influences with the Shakes, as the broad experience of the individual members found them looking for the commonalities between James Brown and Otis Redding and Led Zeppelin and AC/DC while working up an early set list. The mega versatile Howard finds them easily with a fluid guitar style that can be Doo Wop sock-hop one minute (“Heartbreaker,” the title track), elephant-gun recoil the next (the Joan Armatrading-steered-by-Jimi Hendrix howl of “Be Mine,” the loping groin kick of “Hold On”). Vocally, she wails with the hellhound authority of her Soul and Blues influences while pushing the needle into Rock God territory; comparisons to Janis Joplin are not the least bit out of line.

Boys and Girls would be an impressive accomplishment from a band in its middle period, but it’s made all the more amazing considering the Shakes have only been together for three years and this represents only their second release. Howard and her cohorts in Alabama Shakes have an impeccable sense of Blues Rock classicism and an exciting sense of how to give it a good rowdy slap into right now.


 
 
by Deirdre Kaye 09.30.2013
Posted In: Live Music, MidPoint Music Festival, Reviews at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
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MPMF Day 3: Anchoring Down at the Taft

Great news, y’all! I made it through another MidPoint without getting raped or mugged. (Getting mugged might not be so bad, though. “No, officer, it was definitely not me who bought Duck Dynasty underwear at Walmart.”) I know you were concerned for my safety.

I did MPMF quite a bit differently than I have in years past and I have to say, I think it contributed to it being the best one yet for me.

First, I forwent going with friends. I like my friends in small doses and on a couch talking about TV and girlfriends/boyfriends. Trying to coordinate concert plans with them, though, has always been an ordeal. Some of us are more hipster than others.  Going it alone sometimes feels slightly sketchy, but mostly I think it helped my experience. I wasn’t forced to stand in any hot, cram packed rooms to see bands I was less-than-thrilled to see.

Second, I decided to spend my entire Saturday night in just one venue. I did this for a few reasons: 1) Everyone I wanted to see was in that venue; 2) Cheap parking close-by. Therefore, I spent my Saturday night either pacing around outside the Taft Theatre or swaying back and forth inside the Taft’s Ballroom.

And, ya know what? I had a damn good time.

The Taft is my favorite venue in town. Whether it’s in the seated portion or down in the basement, it just has an amazing vibe. I love those bright white bulb-lights out front around the marquee. It makes the whole place sparkle. It just looks like you could pick it up and sit it in the middle of Gatsby’s New York City. Downtown Cincy has plenty of art deco touches that I dearly love. However, nothing makes me feel more fancy and more ready for a special night than standing outside the Taft. In addition, the basement Ballroom, where all three of Saturday’s bands performed, has this comfortable, almost sexy darkness to it. You could get into a little bit of trouble in some of those shadowed corners. I wouldn’t judge you if you have. I might be disappointed you never invited me, though.

Bear’s Den opened the night and, since I’d seen them recently, I didn’t feel too bad when I spent the better part of their set outside on the phone. It gave me the chance to people watch, which is always a ton of fun at MidPoint. MPMF pulls in a jumbled assortment of people to tramp around downtown with their wristbands. I saw people my parents’ age, dressed rather fancifully, chat with security and then slip down into the basement. I also saw an insane amount of frat guys, plus one very drunk Reds fan and his seriously concerned girlfriend. (I still don’t know why she unleashed her concern to me. But I really hope she finds a new date for next year. Like, maybe someone who won’t put her life in danger?) Oh! And I saw one seriously fabulous drag queen. (I appreciate your use of neon, girlfriend.)

Despite missing London’s Bear’s Den, I know they rocked. Not just because I’ve seen them and I love them, but because they still had a line of fans waiting to meet them when the final act went on at midnight. I think Cincinnati fell in love on Saturday. I’m giddy for Bear’s Den and for Cincinnati. Good choice, my friends.

I caught Cincinnati’s Bad Veins, though. Of course, I’ve seen them before, but I never mind the chance to see them again. Those two boys can make a ton of noise. Even with a few sound/mixing issues, they still managed to keep the room enthralled. That may have had something to do with Ben Davis’ bellowing into the microphone or climbing to the top of the monitors. I have no musical talent whatsoever and my balance is minimal at best, but I was envious as he stood towering above me with his hands on the ceiling and an entire room of people staring up at him in awe. The Veins are a genuinely good band. Not “good for a local band,” but good enough to root for them to keep gaining fans across the country.

Later, I watched Davis stand in the back of the room talking to a couple people for a surprisingly long time. They seemed to devour everything he said. He has dangerous levels of charisma. It was fun to watch.

As much as I love Bad Veins and Bear’s Den, I’d spent all weekend eagerly awaiting Daughter’s performance. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t expect many people to show. I guess because I remember when “Daughter” was just Elena Tonra. I slinked my way pretty close to the stage and gaped at Tonra as she charmed the pants off everyone in the room. When it got stuffy a few songs in, I turned around and was speechless by the sheer amount of people that had suddenly come in behind me.

It makes sense, though. Jesus. Her voice is beautiful. If you were anywhere else in the city on Saturday night, you messed up. She sent heads to the shoulders of girlfriends and, shockingly enough, most cell phones managed to stay in purses and pockets. It’s not that she wasn’t worth capturing. It’s that she was too captivating for anyone to have any other thoughts other than keeping their eyes glued to her face and their ears filled with her voice. Oh. The bow across the electric guitar was a great (albeit not very new) approach, too. It added a nice eerie feel to Tonra’s already haunting voice.

As I left, I had big plans to reflect on the concerts and do a little pre-writing for this review while walking to my car. One of my favorite former co-workers waylaid me, though. So much for avoiding my friends. Cincinnati is too small for that. I didn’t mind too much; I got all the dirt on who had left and who (sadly) was still around.

Eventually, I said goodbye to my ex co-worker, wandered away from Taft Theatre’s bright lights and into the ever darkening street.  As I meandered, it occurred to me just how much of a feat MPMF is for us. Cincinnati may be a city, but we’re not a very big one. How do we manage to talk so many stellar bands into visiting us every year? How is it possible we have something as beautiful as the Taft? How do we produce such a bounty of awesome local bands?

My best friend likes to joke that Ohio has bred more astronauts than any other state. He says it’s because Ohio is awful and space was as far away as they could get. However, I think we’ve bred so many astronauts for the same reason we’ve spawned bands like Walk the Moon and Bad Veins and all of the other great acts playing MPMF and for the same reason we put on such an great festival. We’re small but mighty. We put our hearts into the things and the people we love. Even if they don’t deserve it. (I’m lookin’ at you, Bengals.)

 
 
by Mike Breen 09.14.2012
Posted In: Reviews, Live Music, Local Music, Music Video at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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REVIEW: Tonefarmer's 'Helium 3'

Alt Rock quartet celebrates first LP in five years tonight in Northside

Local Indie Rock quartet Tonefarmer has returned with its first new recording in five years, Helium 3, which gets the “album release party” treatment tonight at the Northside Tavern. The band will be joined by Canoes and The Ready Stance for the free, 10 p.m. event.

Recorded with producer/bassist for The Afghan Whigs John Curley at his Ultrasuede Studios, Helium 3 is not only Tonefarmer’s first album since 2007’s Meanwhile, it’s also the first to showcase the band’s current steady lineup of Rob Hamrick (vocals/guitar, formerly of local pioneers Sleep Theatre), bassist Chris Mundy, guitarist Kevin Welch (The Underwoods) and drummer Todd Drake (Magnolia Mountain, Ruby Vileos). Given how impressive the band’s mature Dream Pop sounds on Helium 3, it’s a lineup they should probably stick with.

The album’s 10 tracks all hover in the same sonic realm — mid-tempo, emotive Pop/Rock songs buoyed by a swaying, hypnotic vibe and spacey atmospherics. But the lack of diversity from track to track is more than made up for in the strength of the songwriting and performances. Like the more grounded highlights of The Verve’s Urban Hymns album (think “Lucky Man” or “The Drugs Don’t Work”) or the softer, romantic moments of the Smashing Pumpkins, Hamrick and Co. have crafted a collection of compelling songs that stand as the best of their impressive discography.

Opening track “The Moon is Calling” sets the tone, beginning as an airy bed of string sounds and Hamrick’s distinct voice (like a smoother Frank Black) before building to Tonefarmer’s trademark style. The rhythm section’s rock-solid foundation allows the highly memorable and spine-tingling melodies and chiming, sparkling guitars to send the song into the stratosphere. Other highlights include the catchy “Weeds” (a single in waiting) and the lovely twilight-mellow and transcendent hopefulness of “Curious Longing,” the perfect closer.

Click here for more on Tonefarmer and here to preview and purchase Helium 3 (and other Tonefarmer releases). And check out this cool live clip of the group performing the album's lead track live at the Tavern late last year:


 
 
by Alex L. Weber 04.29.2009
Posted In: Live Music, Reviews at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Live Review: MDC at The Mad Hatter

A small, diverse crowd ranging from thirtysomething fans and overweight mosh-marchers to lanky, high school kids and excessively tattooed crust-punks packed into Covington’s humid, poorly ventilated (yet ever-endearing) Mad Hatter on Tuesday night for an evening of average-to-fantastic Speed Punk and Hardcore.

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by Mike Breen 08.03.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Reviews at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Review: 46 Long's 'Tennessee'

Local acoustic Blues duo celebrates new LP release tonight at Arnold's

Eclectic acoustic Blues duo 46 Long is set to release its latest full-length, the dynamic Tennessee, tonight at downtown’s Arnold’s Bar & Grill. Showtime is 9 p.m. and the shindig is a freebie. The show will be a brand-new experience for fans of the duo. The group will be debuting a lot of new material and the first set will feature drumming assistance from percussionist Joe Pro. For 46 Long's second set tonight, the twosome will go "full band" with the addition of bassist Bobby Loggs and some other special guests.

Though “dynamic” and “eclectic” might not be the first words to come to mind when you think “acoustic Blues duo” — all three words suggest inherent limitations — 46 Long is both of those and more. Eschewing Blues clichés while still staying fairly faithful to the music’s rich tradition is a difficult balancing act to pull off, but Tennessee finds the twosome subtly integrating sounds from a broad spectrum of influence without losing their core, distinct sound. In the end, it’s one of the more creative Blues releases you’ll likely hear all year, yet the detours and tangents shouldn’t deter (most) purists.

On Tennessee, Blake Taylor (who primarily sings and blows a mean harmonica, though also contributes keys, percussion guitar and, uh, “crowbar” on the album) and Jonathan Reynolds (who sings and plays guitar while also providing bass and percussion) start things off with the stanky groove of “More,” then take the listeners through deft interpretations of gritty, Delta-esque Blues (like the title track), gruff Tom Waitsian eccentricity (“Lock It Up or Lose It”), full-bodied, swaggering AltCountry (a cover of the Starkweathers’ “One for Her, One For Him”), boogying Lyle Lovett-like Swing (“Don’t Drink”) and stompin’ Garage Rock (“Something Strange”).

Other standouts on Tennessee include a sparsely percussioned take on Morphine’s “Thursday,” and “The Best Revenge,” a dark, ominously atmospheric track that’ll send creepy shivers up your spine.

The recording is refreshingly natural (with only some distortion here and there to add shadowing), the perfect setting to wrap your ears around the duo’s ace musical skills. Taylor once again proves he’s one of the best Blues harmonica players in the region, playing the mouth harp like a saxophone, a vocal part, a rhythm guitar or pretty much any other instrument you can think of.

If you’ve given up on the Blues because you think you’ve heard it all before, pick up Tennessee and let 46 Long show you otherwise.

Here's a live clip of the duo performing the new LP's title track.


 
 
by Brian Baker 02.27.2014
Posted In: Local Music, Reviews at 10:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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REVIEW: Denim Road Band’s ‘Blame It On the Stars’

The combined musical experience of the members of the Denim Road Band easily eclipses the century-and-a-half mark and encompasses every conceivable type of band and genre of music; local show/dance/cover outfits to nationally recognized entities playing Classic Rock, Blues, R&B, Jazz, Fusion, Top 40 Country, Funk and everything between and beyond. 

DRB's sense of history and classicism invests their original material with the same soulful expanse and crisp Pop approach of the defining bands (The Doobie Brothers, Hall & Oates, Santana, Steely Dan) that have provided DRB with inspiration and a template for success.


There is certainly a formula to what the Denim Road Band does live and in the studio, but there's a huge difference between having a formula and being formulaic. On their third album, the silky smooth Blame It On the Stars, DRB hits the same markers as its previous discs (DRB's eponymous 2009 debut, 2010's Back to Mexico), utilizing George Harp's crystalline-yet-earthy vocal range, Craig Ballard's sinewy percussion and the almost impossibly adaptable journeymen rhythm section of bassist Robbie Lewis and drummer Kevin Ross to maximum groove effect. 


Woven within that tightly knit fabric is the impeccable guitar work of Jim Zuzow, who channels everyone from Tom Johnston to Walter Becker to Steve Miller to the guitar legacies of the Eagles and Santana, creating a sound that is reminiscent of past Classic Rock glories

but delights in advancing the flag a little farther up the hill. Denim Road Band sets up shop at the corner of passion and professionalism and delivers the sophisticated goods with a showman's flair and a fan's devotion.


For more on Denim Road Band, click here

 
 
by Savannah Burke 07.21.2014
Posted In: Live Music, Festivals, Reviews at 02:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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REVIEW: Louisville’s Forecastle Fest Day 3

Beck helps end Forecastle's 2014 edition on a perfect note

The third and final day of Forecastle finally arrived. The fest’s weekend felt much longer than, well, a weekend, though each day seemingly flew by. By this point, the festival started to feel like home. 

I entered the media tent expecting familiar faces, waited like a patient puppy in front of its food bowl for happy hour, snagged a band interview or two and wandered from stage to stage. Despite my tired eyes, I knew that I could get used to this. Like all good things, though, Forecastle had to come to an end. But not before one last day of fun.

I got to the fest just in time for The Weeks at the Boom Stage. After interviewing the band the previous day, I was looking forward to seeing what they would present live, and I wasn’t disappointed. A Southern-rooted band (Mississippi-rooted, to be exact), the Rock vibe was heavy with lead vocalist Cyle Barnes belting out his husky, Caleb Followill-esque lyrics. These young and rowdy dudes proved to be the perfect start to a sunny afternoon of music.

I scooted away from the stage to browse through the artist tents behind me. As I’ve said, I’m a total sucker for band posters, so off to shop I went. Thankfully my new friend Coltin found me before I could spend too much and we made our way to happy hour in the media tent.

It is quite possible that this is the most pizza I have ever consumed in a three-day period, but when free food calls, one must answer. After taking advantage of the day’s free amenities, Coltin and I attempted (and failed) to get into the Bourbon Lounge, so found our way to the Mast Stage for Brett Dennen. The songs that Dennen write are simple — They aren’t trying too hard, but they’re pleasant, and Dennen’s vocals tie everything together quite nicely. After several songs, though, it was time to wander again, so to the Boom Stage I returned.

Trampled By Turtles was next on my list, as I was scheduled to interview them that evening. Day 3 was much hotter than the others — the cool breeze that carried us through Days 1 and 2 had left us, and bodies glimmered in the summer sun. If you’re getting the idea that this stopped anyone from basking in the heat for their favorite bands, you’re wrong. I realized this as TBT began their set, the audience dancing without hesitation. Perhaps this proves to be true for most shows, particularly at a festival such as this — our bodies ache, our feet hurt, we are “hangry,” but once the music begins we forget it all. We are taken to a different place. TBT did this for their audience as the incredibly fast-fingered Erik Berry on the mandolin drove the crowd wild. It was a sight to see.  

Day 3 required much more wandering on my part and floating between bands, so, knowing that I needed to at least catch a few songs from Jenny Lewis’ set, I made my way to the Mast Stage. Wishing my beagle Rilo (named after Rilo Kiley) was with me, I swayed to Lewis’ songs from her latest album, The Voyager, and was quickly reminded of why I fell in love with her old band some years back. Lewis is a little sassy and a lot of fun, rocking out on stage with her band dressed in white and rainbow suits. After a few songs it was time for my last interview of the fest.

I met with a few guys from Trampled By Turtles in the media tent for a quick chat, though I was admittedly distracted by the sounds of Nickel Creek in the distance. I wrapped up our interview and bolted to the stage like I’ve never brisk-walked before. With a smile on my face and happy tear in my eye, I was thrilled to watch a band that I’ve adored since middle school. 

I cannot begin to describe how happy I was to see Nickel Creek, especially considering they played so much of their early material. Songs like “The Lighthouse’s Tale”, “Reasons Why” and “When You Come Back Down” from their 2000 self-titled album and “This Side,” along with the instrumental tunes from 2002’s This Side, were all featured, and each song sounded as perfect as the recordings. After so many years, Nickel Creek sounds as beautiful as ever and the band even has a new record out, A Dotted Line. I think I could have died a happy gal after seeing them.

After Nickel Creek, until Beck’s Forecastle-ending performance, I travelled from stage to stage (mostly in search of food) and ran into Adam, a fellow photojournalism pal from school. It was nice to see a friend after only briefly seeing familiar faces throughout the day, so together we went to dance to Flume. It was quite literally a party under the freeway as the Australian DJ blasted his beats from the stage, hands in the air and a sea of bodies moving in sync. Once that set ended it was time for Beck, and Adam and I ran to the stage. 

Over the course of Beck’s first few songs we managed to weasel our way toward the front, getting closer to the main stage than I had been the entire weekend. There couldn’t have been a more perfect end to Forecastle. 

Beck sang the beautifully airy and springtime-sounding songs from his latest release Morning Phase, but didn’t fail to bring the party with old favorites like “Loser”, “Girl” and more, eventually ending the night with “Sexx Laws” for the encore. One would never realize that Beck has been at this for as long as he has. His energy was amazing; bouncing across the stage between band members, the party atmosphere was what we needed to wrap up the night (and fest). 

The audience was immense but was perhaps one of the friendliest crowd I encountered over the weekend — not sure if that’s due to the realization that our tired feet would soon get the rest they needed or perhaps it was just the booze. Either way, Forecastle ended with one of the best shows of the weekend, and we left on the perfect note to wrap up the fest.

Things to know for Forecastle if you plan to go next year: Wear comfortable shoes. Know that if you come in sandals, you will leave with very dirty feet. 

Stay hydrated. Keep water with you, especially if the weather is as hot as Day 3 this year. Music festivals require long days, so don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Come with a schedule. You can create a custom schedule on the Forecastle website and print it out, something that helped me immensely this year in keeping track of things. Don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone, though. Discovering new music is what festivals are all about!



 
 

 

 

 
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