Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Editorial: Forecastle Fracas (and the state of live events in Louisville)

 Now that Forecastle is over we can shower off the glitter and settle into normal living until we need to break out the fake blood next month for the 10th annual Zombie Attack to mark the end of summer.
 It's been good season for music in Louisville including Nick Cave (my personal fav), Broken Bells, Melvins, Elvis Costello, and a whole slew of great local going's on such as Poorcastle, Deloreans, Black Birds of Paradise, Twin Limb, Howell Dawdy (another personal fav), Lydia Burrell, Lady Pyramid, Old Baby, Anwar Sadat, and many many others.  I would never say TOO MUCH music, but more than any other year I can think of, almost every event I attended I had to choose between at least one or two others. For local bands playing out at bar on a night when 10 other bars have local bands isn't anything new, it may be a little frustrating but by and large it isn't going to take away from your experience too much.

For big name bands on the other hand, i have noticed a few large obstacles. Nick Cave played at the Palace on a week day, which is going to cut some people out who work early, and the very next night Elvis Costello played at the same venue, again on a week night, not only cutting out early workers but those of us who can only afford one $75 ticket a summer, much less in the same week. This may have to do with why they kept lowering the price of Nick Cave tickets, eventually doing a 2 for 1 deal.

I understand how event production works: a band says we want X amount of money to play, so the production company agrees and hopes to sell enough tickets at a certain price to pay the band, venue, advertising, etc and keep how ever much extra they can get. So it would make sense that they would sell tickets high to grab as much as they can, and eventually start to lower the price if they need to. But people see ticket prices at $100 and decide they can't go, and the result is the production company is trying to give away tickets a the door so Nick Cave doesn't walk out int a half empty room and decide to never come back to Louisville. In fact I couldn't afford to see Nick Cave but when I walked over to the Palace was given 3 free tickets inside a minute. I stopped count after I was offered 25 FREE tickets to see what turned out to be one of the best live performances I had ever seen.

We saw the same thing  later that week at the Broken Bells show at Iroquois Amphitheater, they couldn't give tickets away.  One issue was so many big names playing in town that week (Cee Lo Green & Lionel Richie also played) coupled with high ticket prices, many people like myself would have to loved to have seen all these acts, but can't afford it so close together. But once upon a time Louisville had the opposite problem, we couldn't attract national acts. The Replacements mentioned this at their set a Forecastle, that they used to play Lexington. Many acts went to Lexington as it was a College town, and we weren't a big enough college and at the time, just barely under the City status.

Now we are both an official CITY and with a large college presence and the outside world is taking notice of us. We just now have to figure out how to handle it. Personally I think starting off with high ticket prices is a no go. Obviously we have a selection of entertainers to choose from so we don't HAVE to pay big prices. Start tickets sales at reasonable amounts (say the $25 the nick Cave tickets ended up being instead of starting at $75+), sell the room out in 2 days, and you won't have to scramble with discounts, 2 for 1 deals, and handing out free tickets on the streets.

And this could also be said for Forecastle, at $200 & $400 a ticket there are plenty of people who would have gone if it didn't cost a week's pay to get through the gate. I only got a gate count for Friday, which I was told about 12000, which is about half of last year's one day total. But the whole weekend seemed light. which isn't a complaint, in year's past it was cramped and nightmarish trying wade through the crowds to get from one stage to another. but for vendors, entertainers and even the event organizers I am sure they could benefit from having more people even if it meant selling tickets at a reasonable price; say $100 for the weekend and no $400 VIP passes.

I am a socialist, i can't help it. I go into debt every year doing Zombie Attack because I want a free event where everyone can be involved, but i know events like Forecastle can't do that, but they shouldn't expect their loyal patrons to go broke just by walking through the gate. and for me it's insulting to these people that they have to see the folks who can afford $400 VIP tickets get preferential seating, air conditioned lounges, free ice cream and luxury toilets while the rest of wade through exploded port-a-johns and over priced snacks while melting in the heat. Everyone who supports you and goes to your event should feel respected, and this isn't just forecastle, this special treatment for rich people business was going on at the Nick Cave show and I'm sure at all the other national events this summer.

That said, there were many changes at Forecastle this year that I was really happy to see. In past post-forecastle editorials I had some major complaints at the lack of water, the non-existence of "activism", and the steadily declining number of local acts. Although the local acts in this year's line up where reserved to the heavy hitters: Slint, Jalin Roze, Old Baby, they did have a FREE kick off event at Against the Grain with local bands such as Second Story Man. and as for activism, there were two new additions I really enjoyed seeing, one was Sober Sailing, a tent for AA and NA members to come to get away from the booze infused everything at forecastle. I get that booze companies have war chests filled with cash just to sponsor music events, and it helps pay the bills, but for someone like me who has been sober for 7 years, it is difficult when it feels like everyone around you is telling you the only way to have fun is to be tanked.
The other unique 'Activist' related tent i saw was a tent filled with nice prizes (clothes, music, etc) that you received by earning points by picking up trash in the festival.

I also noticed the Forecastle Foundation has stepped up things dramatically by working with 2 foundations: Guayakia Foundation in South America and Kentucky Natural Land Trust (after all if you are looking to help others all you have to do is look out your own door) by donating $14000 to each.

I also Liked the addition of some acts that you might not see on the other regional Festival circuits such as Slint and Dwight Yoakam, and this may be due to an idea that's been discussed lately about why try to be every other fest in the area? why not make Forecastle a fest for Louisville/Kentucky! Bunbury Fest in Cincinnati seems to be doing this, with some "festival fodder' groups like Flaming Lips  but with local and regional acts like Foxy Shazam and Cage The Elephant. and they can manage a unique  3 day music fest for a mere $100 for a weekend pass. I think we can too.
We have already proven we can run with he big dogs, now let's show them we can do our own fest, for us, that's not just the same festival bands that are at every other fest, but a unique line up, for a price that means everyone can join in the fun.
Sober Sailing


Paul said...

John: You should comment about the fact that the Louisville acts don't get paid, which is why Cheyenne Mize was not there this year.

johnking said...

Paul, I wasn't aware of this... I could have guessed though, I knew they weren't paying local artists in the past.
we should be proud supporters of our city and it's talented musical pool, and let event organizers know how we feel.
thanks for your comment!