As Sir Rob Thomas once sagely, pithily professed in “Smooth” by Santana, featuring Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, “Man, it’s a hot one.” Because Forecastle is a thing we do in July when the weather is hot and turbulent, as opposed to in September, so it should come as no surprise. I really only mention it because it’s the best lede my sun-saturated brain could think of. Whatever. But like in years past, Mother Nature decides that Sunday will serve as the hottest day of the festival for whatever reason, or simply it is that day that the struggle becomes the realest. My ears still rang from Nothing’s sonically-tremendous set the night before, which felt like standing in a nuclear reactor and caused my testicles to fully retract. I also battled a nasty hangover, because, you know, your 30s — so kicking off the day with Femi Kuti and the Positive Force, the heir of Afrobeat, provided some much needed manna. Kuti’s set came replete with a veritable orchestra, with the belly dancers, to boot, resplendent costumes and lengthy Afrobeat anthems that weaved through different movements. We like to talk about those “special Forecastle moments,” and this was one of them. Swift and efficient roundhouse kicks reserved for anyone at the festival who missed this (but springs a chub whenever Vampire Weekend comes on WFPK).
Now, it was time to go engage with some brand activations — marketing jargon for stuff like, ya know, the big cigarette tents, or the giant Coca-Cola headphones adjacent to a booth for sampling America’s favorite carbonated corn syrup, in the event you haven’t had it before. I’m not being ironic when I say I love these things, and, this weekend, I’m extremely pleased to say I got jacked in to the virtual world, thanks to Chaco. The sandal company offered up not only a retail component, in the event you needed to Mr. Rogers it at the festival with a last minute $100 shoe change, but also a booth with multiple Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets. Once I uploaded my consciousness into the mainframe, I encountered The Lawnmower Man who was … nah, I’m just playin’, there were four adventure modes, and I chose Hawaiian cove for a 360 degree immersion on top of oceanic cliffs and waterfalls and friends I haven’t made yet, having a big time. I have seen the future, and everyone likes bulky sandals.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra summoned, at least from what I could tell, the second-largest audience for the under-the-overpass Ocean Stage, behind Saturday’s radioactive Danny Brown set. Man, they were awesome, ripping through a cross-catalog set of beachy, balmy, funky, rhythmic, light psychedelia, with a new lineup (including Rubin Nielson’s new drummer from Lexington). A really fantastic set, followed quickly by Steve Gunn’s breezy, primitive American heady folk. Unfortunately, this seemed to be the lowest-attended set of the weekend. Just me, a giant Hunter S. Thompson puppet gettin’ down and maybe a couple dozen others. Too bad. Perhaps it would’ve helped if everyone knew this guy helped upstart Kurt Vile and the Violators?
I had to swing by Death Cab For Cutie’s sunset engagement at the Mast Stage, so I could remember being 16 and feeling misunderstood and sad about a girl rejecting me. Man, did I have some feelings whilst headphoning with The Photo Album back in 2001 (and they played “Why You’d Want To Live Here”). Forecastle almost felt a little too massive for Death Cab’s introspective brand of scarf rock, but Ben Gibbard’s soothing vocals create for a nice wind-down, while you stuff your face with gator tail from Phat Daddies during the golden hour.
Speaking of my face, Speedy Ortiz melted if off again during their make-up date from last year, closing out the Port Stage, and their live show is much more muscular than anything on record. Sadie Dupris struck up some affable stage banter, with a shirt reading “Gender is Over (If You Want It)” draped over her amp, before sending out sonic EMPs over the crowd and disabling any drones around Waterfront Park. Like last year, WFPK had the best stage over the weekend, featuring a lineup that, curiously, rocks harder than most of their daily programming.
A really phenomenal day of music, Forecastle Fest 2016 closed out with a whimper. I tried to make it through Ryan Adams — I really did — but I had to bounce. It was the end of a long hot weekend, and that guy’s kind of a snooze (granted I’m generally indifferent to alt country and most of the in-store playlist at Chipotle).