No stage chatter was going to slow down Cloud Nothings. The Cleveland natives were on a rampage to play hard and fast, no interruptions allowed. Dylan Baldi seems like a quiet guy who just happens to front an insanely loud rock band. Most of the songs in the set came from 2012's Attack on Memory. "Fall In" sounded great live, a rush of melodic garage rock that urges the body to jerk back and forth. Bass player, TJ Duke, added crucial rhythm to a very feedback-heavy set.
The band stretched "Wasted Days" from a nine-minute song into a 20-minute assault. Speed-of-sound riffs slowed down and stretched out into druggy interludes that gave the band a break from the heavy shredding. It was hard to distinguish whether some of it was part of the song, or just ambient musings. It may have lost a little traction with the crowd, but Cloud Nothings pushed into the next song without a problem. Anyone with a tolerance for walls of sound kept up just fine.
Deer Tick was next to take the same stage. Starting with my personal favorite, "Art Isn't Real (City of Sin)," off their debut record, we were in for a varied set full of country, folk, and rock 'n' roll. Every member of the band started the show with a pink cowboy hat. "We're full grown men, but we act like kids," John McCauley howls in the country swinger, "The Bump," a pretty apt description of their behavior. He's known for getting naked and lighting dollar bills on fire inside his mouth in the middle of shows, but he must have been in the mood to behave at Forecastle.
"Main Street" and "Miss K." added nicely to the set. The band alternates singers, so when the drummer took the mic, McCauley jabbed, "He can do more than drum. He's also really good at Scrabble." The whole attitude of the show was easygoing like that. It was a welcoming atmosphere for fans and new listeners alike, the perfect kind of band to see outdoors on a hot day.
Fruit Bats seem to be the perfect example of easy living. Such Fruit Bats songs as "When U Love Somebody" have the carefree feeling of a night under the stars with that special someone. It's hard to not just drift off during the set, taken away by the acoustic musings to that favorite daydream. Eric Johnson's distinctive vocals cut through intricate pop songs with just the right amount of reverb to take the edge away.
Budding singer-songwriter Cheyenne Marie Mize was given an unfortunate slot competing with Neko Case, so not nearly enough people got to hear her powerful set. "Wishing Well," a favorite, is an a cappella swampy folk song with tribal-like percussion. Her voice is incredible, a soulful, smoky tone that truly shines. Some of her songs tiptoed into a murky area, but as soon as she found her edge, her crowd was drawn to her.
And then it was a waiting game for Wilco, a band that I had seen live, but never in the festival setting. While Forecastle reached so many peaks throughout the weekend, this was the real treasure. "Poor Places" opened the set, one of the five songs that they played from their classic record, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It was a slow start, warming up for the feedback-drenched "Art of Almost," where Nels Cline displayed his first insane guitar breakdown of many. "Impossible Germany" was mind-blowingly euphoric; a revelation that maybe the right guitar solo can change the world. (Maybe I'm being hyperbolic? But let me be. It's Wilco.)
The keyboards twinkled so gently on "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" that it seemed to allude to the delicacy of the song's subject. Like many of the band's best songs, it ends in a mess of feedback and twisted emotions. "Heavy Metal Drummer" transitioned fluidly into "I'm the Man Who Loves You," in the same order as the album.
And living we did this weekend. Forecastle 2012 actually brought me back to life, woke something inside of me that's been desperately missing. Waterfront Park has since been cleaned, the stages removed, but the memories... those stay there. The figurative ship has sailed, but if we're lucky, it will dock again in the same place, at the same time next year. And we can only hope that it lives up to this 10th anniversary, a landmark for both the festival and the city of Louisville.