Music

OutKast Fires Up the Audience at Day One of Forecastle Festival

From the minimalist indie rock of Spoon to the extravagant performance by OutKast, day one of Forecastle did not disappoint.

The Forecastle Festival

City: Louisville, Kentucky
Venue: Waterfront Park
Date: 2014-07-18

Photography by Mark Manary

In its twelfth year, Louisville’s nautical-themed Forecastle Festival, held on the city’s sprawling Waterfront Park, offering backdrops of both the skyline and the Ohio River, has gone big. With mega-headliners OutKast and Jack White and an impressive roots-heavy undercard, the festival expects record crowds this year, most of whom showed up early on Friday to kickstart the weekend as a steady mist did little to dampen the crowd’s spirits.


Benjamin Booker, the 22-year-old singer-guitarist and his raw-blues trio, got things going on the festival’s main stage, smoldering through lean, pickless guitar grease on his Epiphone 335. Booker drank a PBR tallboy and applied his raspy fire-flue vocals through an hour of jump tunes and stanky-basement jams. No guitar solos for this kid, just Chuck Berry chords and tremolo honey. Things got sleazier as they warmed up, even when the bassist played the fiddle and the drummer switched to mandolin.


Irish troubadour Foy Vance held court on one of the fest’s side stages, playing solo acoustic, fingerpicking on a Gibson hollow-body and belting alley-cat ballads like “You and I” and floating into a potboiled falsetto on a gorgeous “Joy of Nothing”. In a newsboy cap and you-must-pay-the-rent mustache, Vance got playful deep into the set, first by offering a stunning cover INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart” and then switching to keys to lead the crowd in a singalong of Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven”, of all things.


Against Me! came to Forecastle to rock the audience’s brains out as Laura Jane Grace sang herself hoarse and drummer Atom Willard went at it hammer and tongs during a blistering, none-more-black hour and fifteen. “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” and “Unconditional Love” led to ardent fist-pumping as the drizzling rain continued to fall throughout. Grace was a rock stud, singing “Black Me Out” in a full-throttled yowl and person-handling her guitar on a razorblade version of “Thrash Unreal”. Grace gave a shout-out to the LBGT community after “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” and got the crowd galloping to “Pint of Guinness Make You Strong” as the rain picked up during a the final run of a set that would prove to be one the day’s strongest.

St. Lucia, the New York by way of South Africa synth-popper, headed up a dance party on a small stage underneath the downtown overpass, the driest and hardest-drinking stage of the afternoon. Sporting neon ‘80s Hobie-wear, the band pummeled snare drums and keyboards, and frontman Sean-Phillip Grobler, moaned over “All Eyes on You” and the throbbing “September” as the crowd packed tight to the stage.


Meanwhile, half-pint folkie Willie Watson played an acoustic solo show on the Port Stage, toggling among clawhammered banjo and guitar, highlighting songs from the terrific new Folk Singer, Vol. 1. The former Old Crow Medicine Show multi-instrumentalist is all about folk authenticity, with his dust-bowl denim and hillbilly whine. He’s a deft player and vocalist, tapping and frailing like John Hartford on “Long John Dean” (on banjo) and “Keep It Clean” (on guitar).


Watson had plenty of sonic competition over on the main stage as wet peals of Gary Clark Jr’s guitar spilled across the lawn. Wearing a white t-shirt and Lil Abner hat and slinging a Gibson SG, Clark prowled the stage with nonchalant runs and thunder-thumb fingerpicking. "You Saved Me” was a highlight, with Clark scaling up and down filthily and crosscutting with his rhythm section’s ocean-groove beats. “It’s been real fun”, Clark drawled before launching into a set-closing “Bright Lights”, wearing out his guitar’s fifth fret with a series of fox-in-the-hole solos.

Local Natives played to a capacity audience on the Boom Stage, the fest’s second-largest, as attendance started swelling for the band’s percussion giddyup and three-part-harmony pop attack. Fresh from 12-hours of flight travel, the band hit the stage with worker-bee intensity. Hit singles “Airplanes” and “Wide Eyes” came late in the set, getting a bit overdainty at times with all the cymbal-and-keys affectations, but their thick blend of instrumental clatter and airy melodic singing won over an audience ready to bust loose on the fest’s opening night.


Spoon was next on the Boom Stage, opening with the one-two punch of “Rent I Pay” and “Don’t You Evah” before getting the crowd percolating with “Small Stakes” and setting a relentless pace that resulted in a career-spanning 22-song set. The band threw in a handful of cuts from their upcoming new album but otherwise stuck to their classics, hitting a run in the middle of sharply played fan favorites “I Turn My Camera On”, “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb”, and “Got Nuffin”. With rotating spotlights behind each of the five band members and a backdrop of a woman’s red fingernails looming over them, Spoon played their stlylish popsmart rock with precision and considerable thump. Britt Daniel’s straight-razor vocals were in fine shape for this show, his best moment coming during “I Summon You”, even when his acoustic guitar cut out, and a tambourine-infested “Trouble Comes Running”.


Everyone on the riverfront had been waiting all day for OutKast—Benjamin Booker, Local Natives, and Black Lips had all expressed their excitement for the headliners earlier in the day—and the classic rap duo didn’t disappoint. Continuing in its role as the festival-hoppers of the summer, the band has honed their set into a fierce 25-song onslaught. Andre 3000 and Big Boi sounded terrific, backed by live bass and drums (generously augmented by the DJ’s backing tracks), two horns, two backup singers, and sixty-thousand fans who knew all the words. Thankfully, OutKast performed full, faithful versions of their songs, opening with “B.O.B.” and “Gasoline Dreams”, an earthquaking beginning that announced their intentions for full-immersion ass-kicking. The duo played five straight cuts from Aquemini early on, the best of which was “Da Art of Storytelling, Part 1” with Andre cruising charismatically on his verse.


It was impossible to take your eyes of Dre all evening, in fact—sporting a white wig and a black body suit that read “Obvioulsy Obvious”, Dre sashayed around the stage, flirting with the audience, and providing the evening’s most electrifying vocal performances, particular on a mid-set solo turn of the slow-burning “She Lives in My Lap” and a fever-pitched “Hey Ya!” that was abetted by a stagefull of Daisy Duke-wearing girls plucked from the crowd. Big Boi’s solo spot was tougher, setting a flamethrower to the audience on “Kryptonite” and the soul-daddy punch of “The Way You Move”. Toward the end of the set, “Roses”, “So Fresh, So Clean” (featuring a backdrop of cows, strangely), and “The Whole World” sent the big crowd into the night, capping a long and misty day of music in Louisville.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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