‘Halfway’ Part 1: Derby City gets down

It's go time

Those who were anywhere near Waterfront Park Friday night most likely heard the reverberations, but it is the lucky thousands whom comprised the Halfway audience that are most certainly salivating for more. Halfway to Forecastle 2011 has come and gone, and while a great number of satisfied eardrums out there are in need of some well-deserved rest, I suspect that just as many are already asking of 2012’s festival, “Are we there yet?”

BoomBox, Russ Randolph (L) and Zion Rock Godchaux (R)

Kicking things off on the main stage at 6pm, and with 90 degrees worth of sunshine still in full effect, Alabama duo Russ Randolph and Zion Rock Godchaux, who perform under the moniker BoomBox, did nothing to cool things down. With a tophat-toting Randolph on sequencers, groove boxes, and turn-tables and Godchaux (whose getup was reminiscent of vintage Stevie Nicks meets Big Bird) on guitar, BoomBox let loose their signature sound, a bass heavy sort of electro-funk with a groovish-drawl and a psychedelic tinge. Yes, that description was out there, but one need only listen to be just as baffled at the duo’s mastery of stylistic melding. Zion’s mother Donna Jean Godchaux-Mackay was a member of the Grateful Dead and BoomBox is just as experimental.

Zion at the office
Earlybirds sheltered in shade
The Shadow knows
George jams

One and a half hours and 10 degrees later (much to the delight of the masses of shade-seekers that marked the early evening) Twin Shadow cast itself upon the Halfway crowd. Situated on the main stage in front of the banks of the Ohio, Twin Shadow front-man George Lewis Jr. joked with the audience, “we’ve played in front of a mountain and we’ve played in front of sweaty drunk people, but we’ve never played in front of an intimidating river that could swallow us whole.” If that comment reflected any actual fear it did not show, as Lewis proceeded to unleash his David Bowie-esque, harrowing vocals, amidst the slightly washed out (but jubilantly so) laid-back heavy-glam of Twin Shadow. A standout track for the set was the band’s performance of Castles in the Snow, in which the fragile howl of Lewis’ voice was nothing short of haunting. (check out the admittedly bizarre music video for Castles in the Snow below)

RJ doing work

As corroborated by the sentiments of Louisville native and delightfully over-eager interviewee Carissa Sipin, if there was one act that Halfway attendees were most excited about other than headliners Big Boi and Pretty Lights it was RJD2. According to his website, DJ RJ Krohn, “originally began his career in Columbus, Ohio, DJing in 1993 with a pair of turntables bought from a friend.” That proved to be a very wise investment. Considered by some to be one of the most influential DJs of the era, the electronic stylings of RJD2 were in full display at Friday’s festival, existing as a pop-culture water-slide of genre-bending mayhem. At some points channeling the perfect soundtrack to a strung-out version of ‘Shaft’ and shifting just as fast through heady contemplative psyche, hip-hop and even gracing the edges of dub-step, RJ was all over the map (and in the best way possible).

Having some fun

When asked what brought him to Halfway to Forecastle, another Louisville native, AJ Miller noted that he was only passingly familiar with the performers but had first and foremost come, “to support the city.” In what might possibly be the highest tribute to Forecastle founder JK McKnight, Miller added that he would be leaving with several favorite new bands. From right around the corner, Nashville, Cinncinnati and parts beyond, thousands came to Waterfront Park Friday night and it’s difficult to believe that many left unimpressed.

But wait, there’s more! Stay tuned for ‘Halfway’ Part 2: Derby City goes nuts.

P.S. What's cooler than an ice luge shaped like a boat?