Alone in a crowd: Forecastle 2022


Pooneh Ghana

Flag line a path at the Forecastle 2022 festival next to I-64 Crowd by Pooneh Ghana for Forecastle 2022

Brennan Eberwine

Day 1

2 p.m.


In the snaked line to get into the 2022 Forecastle Festival stood a few hundred people excitedly chatting with their friends about the festival, wearing bracelets sporting “GA” around their wrists while a man sold ponchos to the line in the gloomy weather. At 2 o’clock, the line finally started moving through the entrance. Once I got to the gate, Security glanced at my clear PVC bag, waved me through the metal detectors and I was sent into Waterfront Park.

I was traversing into an unknown that was supposed to be my moment of freedom and quintessential youth.

The usually barren, green field that is Waterfront park was transformed into a venue space with three stages. The main stage (called the Mast Stage) and the side stage (called the Boom Stage) were separated by Interstate 64 that also cut through downtown. 

Everything at the festival seemed to push me to be jubilant and ready to party but instead my mood matched the sky: gloomy and joyless. I was nervous. It’s difficult to admit, but I have trouble living without a set of rules.

I made my way over to the “media lounge” under I-64 just past the Boom stage where I met up with Meredith Snyder who was on assignment for On The Record Magazine. Meredith seemed in a much better mood than I was and wore a sheer top with jeans and a blue bandana wrapped around her hair. We headed into the lounge which was a simple white tent with long tables already occupied by several media people with mics and Canon cameras ready to interview artists and get photos. Around me on the tables I could see tall, white cans that read “Liquid Death” on them. I just assumed that all the journalists were blasted to match the mood of Forecastle but I later learned it was just mountain water.


2:45 p.m.


The first two sets, Charlotte Sands on the Mast Stage and The Homies on the Ocean Stage (adjacent to the Mast Stage,) opened the festival to a modest, but ready crowd. Despite two years away from the action the crowd seemed just as hyped as they would have been if the festival had been put on in 2020. The Homies beamed from the stage and the crowd responded with the same energy. I was still very glum, despite the bass vibrating my chest urging me to have energy. I didn’t know what I was exactly supposed to be doing. A reporter from the University of Louisville newspaper  who I never quite caught the name of joined Meredith and I during the set to watch. They didn’t seem to exactly know what to do either except clap when it was warranted. Journalists are taught to stoically examine a situation objectively, a philosophy I at first decided to bring into this festival but was starting to question at that moment.  After the set Meredith began heading back to the lounge to get ready to interview The Homies, an interview I didn’t understand how she had scored.

Meredith asked me to hold her camera for her while she talked to The Homies, a request to which I obliged. I did my best to hold her small camera, it was at this moment I realized how outclassed I felt trying to cover the Festival. Afterwards I went outside the lounge to cry. I did not understand where the anxiety I had was coming from but yet I still felt it. Maybe it was the overwhelming sense of underpreparedness or just anxiety from being around so many people. The reporter from the University of Louisville came over to talk to me as I was obviously not okay. He offered to bring me over some “Liquid Death” and sit with me for a minute, which I agreed to. He offered some words of encouragment and then left me to drink my “Liquid Death.” I ultimately decided to trek on through the festival and told Meredith I was leaving to survey some of the crowd and the music sets. I thought it’d look weird for a 17-year old to be drinking water out of what could be mistaken for a Miller Lite can at first glance, so I trashed my “Liquid Death” and headed out.


4:30 p.m.


The next act on the Mast Stage was Duckwrth, dressed in all black with dyed blonde hair. As I was walking across the field to the far left of the stage Duckwrth asked the crowd if weed was even legal in Louisville (it wasn’t) and then said we should do it anyway. When I got to a part of the crowd where the Kennedy and Lincoln bridges sat in frame with the stage I stopped and listened to the music. My mood improved, Duckwrth’s sound was upbeat and carefree, exactly what I needed.

While I was standing my friend Ari Eastman approached me, wearing almost what he always wears, all black outfit, except shorts instead of long black jeans and a hat. He said that he also came alone to the festival and was just hanging out alone. I explained why I was there and then we observed the crowd.

Generally most people dressed in outfits that looked like what characters in “Euphoria” would wear, including glitter that coated hair, faces, chests, and shoulders. They were young and in the middle of all of it. I was technically also young but would definitely not be described as “in the middle of all it” as pointed out when I couldn’t recognize any of the Manual students Ari pointed out to me. You could see the inner crowd jumping and motioning their arms back and forth to the beat. The energy then diseminating the farther away from the stage until the standing room gave way to the sitting room where people lounged on towels they brought to the event. 

Ari’s presence made me feel less uneasy, I figured I just had a stick up my ass and continued to listen to Duckwrth’s set.


5 p.m.


Duckwrth’s set ended and a great herd of people began heading over to the Boom stage where Wale was performing. As I crossed under I-64 where loose soil kept tripping me I tried to keep looking for people I recognized from Manual to no avail. Ari and I silently decided to settle closer to the Boom stage than where we were for Duckwrth but not so close that we were shoulder-to-shoulder with other people. We were behind a man slightly shorter than me dressed in jeans and a striped long-sleeve button down. He looked like he was going to a Brooks & Dunn concert. As it got closer to Wale’s time to perform people jostled and pushed past us to get closer to the stage, a ritual I guessed simply came with the territory of festivals. 

Wale came out and started performing with an intense bass that rattled my chest and traveled into my neck. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster except without the motion. Ari pointed out people throughout the crowd, including a kid who looked about 8 years old before we decided we weren’t too attached to Wale’s performance and went back under I-64 toward the Mast Stage to camp out for Earl Sweatshirt, an artist I had not heard of before but Ari was excited to see. 


5:15 p.m.


We ended up on the opposite side of the Mast Stage closer to the Kennedy bridge than before and closer to the stage, the crowd had not yet left Wale. Ari remarked that he was jealous that I could see over the crowd so well. I looked around as people started to again start towards the mast stage and fill in the gaps around us. Occasionally people were able to squeeze past us, looking for their friends who had saved their spot. There was someone in front of me wearing a patterned short-sleeve shirt who borrowed their friend’s flask disguised as a sunscreen bottle to take a swig. 


5:45 p.m.


In the Earl Sweatshirt crowd the smell of weed was the strongest, with columns of smoke rising from the crowd every 4 seconds or so. I was hoping the contact high that I was supposed to receive from the overwhelming amount of weed would calm me down but I still felt riddled with anxiety and angst. 

Earl Sweatshirt came on to perform his set, which I enjoyed. About 5 minutes into Earl Sweatshirt, a brunette girl wearing a pink tank top tapped me on the shoulder and shouted into my ear “you’re really tall!” I said “yes.” she said “how tall are you” I replied that I was 6’6”, a number she told to all her friends while I stood next to her awkwardly, trying to listen to the stage. Eventually she went deeper into the crowd while shouting to me “Bye tall guy!” 

I stood listening to Earl Sweatshirt for 10 more minutes before deciding I wanted to go back to the press lounge to attempt to write something, I told Ari I was leaving and we parted ways. 

While I was the one being pushed past I thought it was rude, but now as the person who was attempting to get out of the crowd I now understood it would have been worse to try to shout over Earl Sweatshirt to say “excuse me” and “sorry” to every person who you passed. 

As I walked through the field to the press lounge and saw the people with their friends and covered in glitter I felt more square than I had ever felt. I thought I was probably approaching the festival experience wrong, which was a problem if I was going to write a story about Forecastle that didn’t make me sound like a giant narc shaming people for smoking weed at a music festival, which seemed to be as necessary as wearing a tie to an interview. Sweating in a mass of people for 3 hours in hope of getting close enough to the stage to see the one act you want to see sounds unbearable without some amount of stimulant.

In the press lounge, Meredith had also just finished watching Earl Sweatshirt and was chatting up two journalists from Ohio and Las Vegas about the festival. I was jealous of how easily she seemed to just go up to random people and ask them questions rather than stew and cry like I had been doing. The two journalists asked how late things stayed open in Louisville, which I had to sadly inform them that nothing stayed open much past 8 around here unless it was Bardstown Road. 

I grabbed another “Liquid Death” to drink while looking up the schedule and obsessing over whether I should still stay or not. COIN was getting ready to go on so most of the press lounge began to clear out and travel to the Boom stage to get pictures. That seemed to be the main difference between festivals and concerts, the movement from stage to stage to chase whatever artist’s sets you hoped to catch. The other option was to camp out to see the act you really wanted to see up close.


6:45 p.m.


I headed to the Boom stage to see COIN perform, a large lady bug had been placed on stage for decoration behind the band. The enthusiasm of the crowds seemed to crescendo throughout the day as bigger acts began to perform, but I still could not feel happy. 

A woman approached me and asked if I could spot her friend from my vantage point, she said he was wearing a red Ferrari hat which I could not find. She eventually spotted him right before I did and then left to be with him. I felt like the I-64 overpass I was next to, a structural feature useful to guests as shade or a thing to help spot their friends.

Essentially, I was the “Liquid Death” that looked like a Miller lite, something attempting to be something cooler than what I actually was. I wanted to look and feel like a carefree, cool person who could handle jumping up and down with their friends, wasted listening to Clairo but instead all I was was a lonely, dettached amateur journalist attempting to critically examine a music festival. I was milquetoast and though nobody probably cared, I felt like all those eyes actually on COIN, were on me. So I began to make my way out of Waterfront Park

The festival outside the 3 stages housed tents of merchandise, food, and other miscellaneous vendors, mostly under I-64. Long lines were formed outside the food vendors and though the food looked fried and wonderful, all I felt was sickly.

At the entrance/ exit of Forecastle was a person holding up a large sign saying “HELL IS REAL” and a list of reasons why you’d go to hell. I checked probably only 2 or 3 boxes. I wondered why he was wasting his time but later came to the conclusion he liked the performance of damning people. 


Day 2

4:10 p.m.


With the promise of friends, better weather, and more enticing music acts, I headed to Waterfront Park for Forecastle again. This time I hoped misery wouldn’t be the main emotion I felt throughout the day.

Louisville is usually a very sleepy, uninteresting town, its cracked sidewalks barren in the sun while cars cruise by on the wide streets downtown. But as I approached Main street the city the city’s subdued quietness began to melt away as I saw people dressed in their most exciting outfits, clearly headed to the Waterfront.

As I walked down Brook Street to the entrance, smelling thick of sunscreen after getting burned a bright red on my neck in the gloomy weather, I already began hearing the pulsating music on the stages I would soon see.

I wandered around a bit, greeting the familiar feeling of listlesness I had the first day. The bass that had vibrated in my chest the first day also returned. The acts seem to  “festivals make me really nervous,” Chelsea Cutler, who was performing on the mast stage said. A statement I took to heart as an affirmation to stick out the festival.

I eventually got a text that read that my friend Bri Woods had arrived with Caroline Toler. I told her I would wait for her at a row of flags next to I-64. While waiting I observed that the hottest accessory had changed from the glitter of Day 1 to the sunglasses of day 2. Vipers, Ray-Bans, and Aviators all jumped out. The shades seemed to communicate a person’s reason for going to the festival, what artists they enjoyed, and who they were. 


5 p.m.


With Bri at my side I trekked under the interstate to the Boom stage to watch Beabadobee’s set. Although I didn’t know most of the words, the mere presence of friends made the performance more enjoyable to me than any performance on day 1. 

Singer-songwriter Beatrice Laus professionally known as Beabadoobee performed on the Boom Stage on Saturday.
Beabadoobee by Kara Smarsh for Forecastle 2022 (Kara Smarsh)

That’s when it hit me that that’s what makes these things so popular with people, seeing a bunch of music acts that you may or may not know is much cooler when you’re with your friends who are willing to get wasted, or at least dress up funny with you. I still thought the aesthetics of the festival was the most important part. A good picture for Instagram is proof of your happiness, emotions are less valuable when they’re innate rather than visible.

Caroline asked me how I wasn’t burning up in the flannel with the sleeves rolled up I wore with a ghost enamel pin that read “Phoebe Bridgers” on it. I said that I was used to wearing it, but to be truthful I was sweating heavily. Especially with the pvc backpack I wore with all my junk in it. The aesthetic you conveyed at Forecastle seemed to be the whole point.

5:50 p.m.


Beabadobee’s set ended which prompted another trek to the Mast stage where Quinn XCII was performing next. Bri and Caroline went deep into the crowd, which made me feel claustrophobic, even more so than when I was with Ari. So I told them I was going to leave for some water and to walk around some more. Being far away from the stage was nice, I felt less consumed by the music and more like it was a soundtrack to my experience at the festival.

I went back to the press lounge where I saw Meredith again chatting up some of the journalists at a long table. I sat in silence half listening to some story she was telling before leaving again. I decided to stay near the flags where a nice breeze had developed. I wondered if I was taking this too seriously. Festivals probably aren’t meant to be observed so clinically.


6:35 p.m..


Quinn XCII was commanding a very attentive crowd, it seemed everyone knew the words. I tried to go back to the spot that I was with Bri and Caroline in the crowd, which was already only about 12 yards from the stage, pushing past Fireball shooter bottles and dropped sunglasses on the grass to get there, but I learned they had both been sucked so deep into the crowd that they couldn’t leave and were going to stay put. Packed in like sardines waiting to be devoured by the next performance. I had no hope of getting up to them so I went back to the flags to try and find a friend. 

I had taken a liking to the flags over the past 2 days, they were bright and tall, an easy landmark to spot. A stable point in such an environment of chaos. 


7:30 p.m.


After standing at the flags for about 20 minutes, I saw my friend who chose to go by Lucy in this article and she approached me. I very quickly realized she was high out of her mind. I explained that Bri was trapped near the front of the crowd and that’s why I was alone but she didn’t believe me and led me down toward the front to try to get to her. Eventually she chose a shady patch of grass to sit on to wait for Phoebe Bridgers to start playing. 

Lucy asked how my writing was going, talked about the vibes of the festival, and also asked how despite sitting in a shady part of the field I was still in the sun. Her questions seemed to go a mile a minute and I had trouble responding or even understanding what we were exactly talking about. 

“Why did you go to this but not your prom? I’m having trouble processing,” Lucy said. This was the only question I really understood but did not have a response to. I too had trouble processing.


7:45 p.m.

Alternative musician Phoebe Bridgers screams while performing her song “I Know the End.”
Phoebe Bridgers by Kara Smarsh for Forecastle 2022 (Kara Smarsh)

Phoebe Bridgers came on and we rushed into the crowd to see her. Phoebe was the main reason I came to Day 2, I could be described as a “Pharb.” The opener was “Motion Sickness” a song I distinctly remember as the opener for her concert at the Iroquois Ampitheatre in October, which also happened to be the first concert I had ever gone to. She was radiant and I felt I had finally cracked the code. I was viewing an act I knew and loved, had a friend (albeit a very high one) by my side, and was feeling carefree for the first time.

Throughout her set my doubt and self-loathing melted away. Though I was closer to the speakers than I had ever been, I felt no vibrations in my chest, I was just surrendering to the set.

At her final song, “I Know the End,” she repeated “The End is Near” and then screamed her head off, something the crowd and I mimicked. It was refreshing to release all my pent up emotions like that, so rarely is there a reason to scream out loud despite how much you want to and this was the chance to do it. 

Though I did not come to Forecastle 2022 ready to dance to music, I somehow managed to make my way there simply by virtue of looking for it. The secret to a festival is connection. A connection to artists and to other people in the crowd.