(As continued from ‘Halfway’ Part 1: Derby City gets Down, which detailed the sets of opening acts BoomBox, Twin Shadow and RJD2)
If Halfway to Forecastle was no more than a decadently delicious taster for 2012’s 10th Annual Forecastle Festival, then Friday’s opening acts BoomBox, Twin Shadow and RJD2 were some rather tasty hor’dourves for the skull-vibrating spectacle brought on by co-headliners Big Boi and Pretty Lights. It’s a pleasure to report that all courses satisfied equally, and as for the the opening acts’ relation to the headliners (vis a vie Halfway‘s relationship to expectations for next year’s event), I’m glad I had a chance to warm up.
Early on Friday there had been a number of lawn chairs to spot amongst the crowd, but by the time Big Boi was set to take the stage around 10pm the Waterfront Park wharf was standing room only (not sure what happened to all the chairs). Out-of-towner Nicole Emelson proudly noted that she and her friends had been camped out on the front row since early evening, while a nearly frantic louisville-native Emily Greene was ecstatic that, “Louisville has come up with such an awesome festival.” Cases upon cases of bottled water were stacked up in the pit in front of the stage to ensure that the sweaty behemoth of a crowd stay hydrated, and while this was done in a very orderly fashion early on, by the end of the night the water was flying.
In what seems a requisite move for a hip-hop artist/verified hit-maker of his stature, Big Boi was fashionably late to his own set. 9:45pm came and went, and then 10pm, and by the time the artist’s entourage began doing final sound checks around quarter-after the crowd’s eagerness had elevated to such a fever-pitch that spontaneous combustion seemed imminent. Best known as one half of the prolific Georgia duo Outkast (opposite Atlanta-native Andre 3000), Big Boi finally took the stage to a flurry of screams and most certainly did not disappoint. The artist labeled the first part of his set “warm-up time” and stuck mainly to crowd-pleasing hits. Indeed, the term “crowd-pleasing” cannot be over-emphasized, as at the end of his second song he pointed to an especially enthusiastic young man in the front row and asked, “what do you want to hear?” The request was ‘Ms. Jackson’, the second single off Outkast’s fourth album Stankonia (2000).
Big Boi kicked off an exploration of his recent solo efforts in the second half of his set with the track ‘Ghetto Musik’, off of Speakerboxxx (a Big Boi solo effort released as Outkast’s fifth album in 2003). It’s a tribute to his unbridled showmanship that the energy of the crowd only escalated over the course of his time on stage, even when moving into some of his lesser-known tracks. Throughout the set members of Big Boi’s entourage were pulling fans out of the front of the crowd to join him on stage and by the time he was finished the insatiable ‘jamming-out’ of the audience had nearly swallowed him whole. “I can’t hear you Louisville,” an out-of-breath Big Boi shouted across the ear-drum-busting roar of festival attendees.
The on-stage name of Colorado DJ Derek Vincent Smith, Pretty Lights closed out Halfway to Forecastle with what was promised to be an unforgettable sonic/visual experience, but ultimately outlasted and out-blasted any sense of hype for an unequivocally unique, mind-blowing musical explosion/feverish tantric dance party. Pretty Lights’ singular style exists as a manic mix of digital sampling, combining elements of hip-hop, dub-step and crossing through every genre in between. Accompanying the music in Pretty Lights’ renowned live show is an assembly of LED panels, both built into the platform from which Smith performs as well as towering behind him, which compliment the sonic madness of the set with an equally-jaw-dropping visual barrage. The combined experience is so inexplicable that it absolutely demands to be experienced. Check out the highlight video below of Pretty Lights’ performance at Bonnaroo 2011 for a taste of the mayhem.
“Dub-step is great and all, but let me hear from my old school hip-hops fans,” Smith yelled, to an uproarious explosion from the crowd as he moved from an extended set of bass-laden dub-step to some funky beats that would had Run DMC grinning. Pretty Lights revels in mixing and mashing every genre out there, and in perfect concert with the act’s namesake, which comes from a Pink Floyd concert poster that read “Come and watch the pretty lights!”, Smith’s rendition of Pink Floyd’s ‘Time’ was truely inspired and a personal highlight. Check out the MP3 below via PrettyLightsMusic.
When all was said and done, the thousands of attendees to Halfway to Forecastle reluctantly filed out of Waterfront Park; each of them sweaty and almost all with a huge smile (and a lucky few of them headed for the festival’s after party at The Ice House). Whether or not you think the electronically-themed evening would have been your cup of tea, there is no denying its remarkably enduring sense of fun, and I suspect that most were or would have been hard-pressed to resist the seductions of its reverb-heavy charm. With Halfway behind us it’s time to count the days until summer 2012, when the 10th annual Forecastle Festival proper promises to make the biggest bang yet.