About 60,000 revelers crowded Louisville’s Waterfront Park this weekend for the annual three-day festival. Unlike last year, when bad weather shut the festival down twice, this year the rain mostly held off â but so did the sun, until yesterday, when the temperatures crept up into the sunny 80s and it finally felt like a summer festival in Kentucky.
By Sunday, the day-time energy is on reserve mode as weekend-long festival warriors have learned they need to slow their rolls until after dinner if they’re going to make it to the final encore.
Lucius opened their early-afternoon Mast Stage show with a slow burn on “Go Home,” but sooner or later everyone in the band is a drummer, and they banged their way through a kicky set that included a sublime rendition of “Nothing Ordinary.”
The highlight, of course, was their cover of My Morning Jacket’s “Wonderful (The Way I Feel).” Smart musicians know the way to Louisville’s heart.
We switched moods over on the Boom Stage with Sharon Van Etten, who turned in a commanding performance on this last date of her national tour, mixing in older songs with selections from her latest, “Are We There.” Stand-out numbers include “Don’t Do It” from 2010’s “Epic,” the Mazzy Star-esque ”Break Me” from the new record “Are We There,” and that album’s closing track â a solid contender for song of the year â ”Every Time the Sun Comes Up.”
Jenny Lewis donned another magical rainbow suit for her strong set on the Mast Stage, where, seriously? Had a rainbow-painted unicorn galloped across the stage, I would not have been surprised.
Lewis previewed her new album “The Voyager,” opening with her first single “Just One of the Guys,” which I bet you already have on repeat, with some vintage favorites sprinkled between new numbers. Stand-outs include the title track from 2008’s “Acid Tongue” and the new “Love U Forever.”
And in a nod to the hometown hook, she brought out her collaborators and former Louisvillians The Watson Twins for “Head Under Water,” and they sat in for several numbers (including “Rise Up With Fists!!” from “Rabbit Fur Coat”) and reappeared again at the end of the set.
Under Interstate 64, a massive crowd got dancy at the relatively small Ocean Stage for Tune-Yards. Merrill Garbus and cohorts kept them moving with their experimental and weird eight-bit-inspired music. Delightfully strange, Tune-Yards got a Forecastle crowd moving on a day marked largely to this point by mellower performances on bigger stages.
The sun started to set on Sunday with a riotous performance by the newish-ly reunited post-punk pioneers The Replacements. Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson were in fine form Sunday, and their dogged refusal to really acknowledge that one of their sidemen was Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong just proves they’re still the coolest guys in the bar.
To his credit, Armstrong looked the whole while like he had wandered in from another stage and maybe if he just played it cool nobody would notice that he was there. In other words, totally in on the crossover-episode joke. Some people (and by some people, I mean me) have been waiting to see this show since back when a reunion sounded like a distant, cruel joke, and some people were in heaven.
They roared through their catalog for the hour and 20-minute set, reaching all the way back to 1981’s “Sorry, Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash” and back up to their greatest hits record bonus track “Merry Go Round,” while still giving their golden age proper due. For fans of their prolific mid-’80s period, you got an epic run â “Androgynous,” “Tommy Got His Tonsils Out,” “Kiss Me On the Bus,” “Valentine,” “Favorite Thing,” “I Will Dare” (all of my favorite things!) and a killer ending with “Left of the Dial,” “Alex Chilton,” “Can’t Hardly Wait,” and more.
Cheekiest moment: Westerberg smashes his guitar on “Merry Go Round” (it’s been a while since I’ve seen some decent property destruction at this level) and then hands the splintered remains to Armstrong. Stinson quips that “Billy’s gonna take that home and eBay it. He needs to buy a little lunch.” Armstrong assured the crowd there would be no reserve.
Other significant evening sets include The (howling) Reignwolf at the WFPK Port Stage and Ray Lamontagne, whose packed Boom Stage crowd of Replacements-neutrals overflowed well into the adjacent underpass vending area.
Louisville’s waited a good long while for Beck, and he didn’t disappoint in his headlining set that opened with “Devil’s Haircut” and dropped a funk line on Waterfront Park that carried the party right up to last call. Beck has always been his own singular thing, a quirky mix of party records, deep funk and weirdo blues. He might well be a genre unto himself. Good news: older material like ”The New Pollution” â not to mention his Ã¼ber-vintage first hit “Loser” â still holds up. (He even sold a very Beck-ian ”Billie Jean” interlude that could have fallen flat from a lesser performer.)
We got a little religion with our funk last night: Beck preached a call-and-response sermon lead into “Hell Yes” (off 2005’s “Guero“) and he brought us down to the river with a killer harmonica on “One Foot in the Grave.” But if it was madness you came for, a distortion-laden “E-Pro” carried the band into the kind of weird moment we were waiting for: Beck cordoning off the stage with yellow crime scene tape, then coming back for an encore with a little “Midnite Vultures” to dance us off â “Sexx Laws” and an improv-heavy “Debra” that included some updated details for the Facebook era and a nod to Willie Nelson, which fed into an epic rendition of “Where It’s At” that included, perhaps improbably but in the grand scheme of things, something we should have been expecting, a snippet of “The Humpty Dance.” Before he left us last night, Beck did pronounce Louisville “Make Out City.” Let it be so.
WFPL’s Joseph Lord contributed to this story.