feature photo by Eli Johnson
At my first Forecastle Festival, I cried so hard that a stranger near me asked if I was okay. I was standing six feet from the edge of the stage as Brandi Carlile began to sing her 5th song of her set, “The Eye,” and I lost my whole small town gay heart right through my tear ducts. Seeing Carlile perform was one of two major highlights of my first Forecastle experience. The second occurred later that same day when I watched Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes come onto the stage, with a body like mine, skin like mine, and a voice textured with pain that I knew so well. This was the first time I’d ever seen someone who looked like me, and loved like I do, live on stage.
On January 5, Forecastle Festival announced it’s 2022 line-up after having canceled the last two summers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like with any large festival, the reaction to the line-up from festival fans was mixed. Over its 20 year run, the festival has grown and changed greatly from its humble Tyler Park beginnings. As I scanned the list of artists I noticed a big difference from the past several years I’ve been to: it’s diverse!
As a non-Louisville native, my first experience with Forecastle Festival wasn’t until 2016. As a child I had frequented small music festivals. Our house was bursting at the seams with musicians; we even had a family metal band for a while, who doesn’t? Beyond the constant forming, breaking up, and reforming the bands in my family experienced, as long as I can remember, live music was a constant. So when I moved out of my small town of Danville, Ky to the big city of Louisville, going to Forecastle was an absolute necessity.
On paper, music festivals are a live concert goer’s dream come true! You have the opportunity to see dozens of incredible acts for the price you’d pay to see just a couple of the headliners at solo shows. Plus, you’re a part of a community of like minded music lovers, all stoked to just take time away from life to simply listen. What a dream! The reality of music festivals tend to involve scorching hot summer days with little shade, clear plastic bags, blinding levels of body glitter, and wallet draining vendors, but the talent makes it all worth it.
This year Tyler, The Creator will be the first Black queer man to headline Forecastle Festival. He’s joined in the line-up with other incredible queer artists Phoebe Bridgers, Princess Nokia, Clairo, Fletcher, and trans female powerhouse Laura Les of 100 gecs. Forecastle Festival hasn’t seen diversity like this before, but it’s always held the framework to move the festival world forward. My mouth hit the floor when I found out that the iconic queer, hella feminist group, Sleater-Kinney, headlined one of the first iterations of Forecastle Festival back in 2006!
Bryan Benson, Forecastle Festival Promoter said in an email that Forecastle always tries to make sure they have diverse representation of musical talent across many different genres.
“This year’s lineup is a great realization of that effort,” he said. “Every festival lineup takes on a life of its own once we start to get in to the process of booking. Usually we try to identify a few key top line acts and then start to riff on what the rest of the lineup could be from there, but every lineup is different in terms of process and there are so many factors that change the course of the lineup along the way (artist availability, etc.)”
Benson added that Ultimately Forecastle’s goal every year is to put together a well-rounded, and multi-genre lineup of amazing artists that they think Forecastle fans will connect with and be excited about seeing on the Waterfront.
He couldn’t be more correct.
I think the reality for this diversity is that festivals, plainly, have to stay relevant. A lot of the artists featured in this year’s Forecastle Festival found new audiences and success on platforms like TikTok and Soundcloud. Open-source and free spaces where you can be yourself and find your community quickly and lovingly. I can’t wait to be the stranger in the crowd this summer, who checks in on person crying their queer heart out to an artist who is out and proud, just like them.