LouFest 2016 @ Forest Park, St. Louis, MO

Words and photos by Duane Clawson
After a three-year hiatus, it was nice to return to the front of the stages of this awesome St. Louis based music festival.  Three years ago, when I last covered the festival, it was still relatively a small, grassroots festival.  My how things have changed!  The new and improved LouFest has four stages, massive amounts of local food and beverage vendors, and plenty of unique arts and crafts.  As always, the musical styles represented at LouFest are as varied as those that attend.  When C3 Presents took over the festival three years ago, their goal was to make it as diverse as the city that hosts it.  The diversity was most evident in the choice of headliners, Chris Stapleton on Saturday night, and LCD Soundsystem on Sunday night.

Day one at LouFest welcomed concertgoers with a giant mud pit, created by the torrential rains in the 48-hours prior to the festival.  My lack of anticipation on how much of the festival had grown, found me parking in the back forty and walking my first mile of the day just to get to the festival!  With 36 bands over two days, choosing what bands to cover at LouFest can be a daunting task.  Personally, I tried to pick bands that had previously not been featured previously in the 10-year history of MTC MAG.  As with all festivals there were some hits and some misses.

My first hit of day one was, The Heavy!  Not remembering their song, “How You Like Me Now”, was featured in video games and several TV shows, seeing them live was a great reminder.  Lead singer, Kelvin Swaby, has a stage swagger that is a perfect fit with the band’s smooth Neo Soul vibe.  Band of Horses performed a highly-energetic set leading up to day one headliner, Chris Stapleton.  Covering Stapleton in a festival setting was slightly different than seeing his show at The Fabulous Fox Theater in June, but the crowd reaction was the same:  “this guy is mind-blowing!”  Mixing up his set just a little from June, Stapleton included a great cover of Hank Williams Jr’s, “Outlaw Women”!  Driving home barefoot, with my mud-covered shoes in the trunk, I sang along with all the Chris Stapleton songs I could find on my phone.  Clearly I cannot get enough of this entertainer!

The road to LouFest, day two, started with a quick visit to the 911 flag memorial, located on Art Hill in Forest Park to pay homage to those that have perished fighting the war on terrorism and take in the sight of nearly 7,000 American flags on display (yes Colin Kapernick, I stood up the whole time).  With the mud a bit firmer on the festival grounds, I found it much easier to navigate my way from stage to stage.  Bonnie Bishop’s appearance at the festival was creating a buzz in the media area.  I can report her performance was a great way to resume what was started on day one with her singer-songwriting style mirroring that of Chris Stapleton’s.

Greensky Bluegrass harmonized nicely with a sunny, blue-skied St. Louis afternoon.  But that harmony would soon give way to a rowdy, blues-drenched performance by the legendary Buddy Guy!  Trying to comprehend the things that this 80-year performer had seen in his lifetime was mind-boggling. But watching him smile as he played for kids that were young enough to be his great grandchildren, made me realize why he keeps doing what he does, playing the blues!  From here on out, the LouFest lineup was nothing but stellar.  As I said earlier I was trying to cover acts that had not been featured in MTC but there was one act I had to cover one more time, The Kills.  First seeing this band with Scott a few years ago, I immediately fell in love with this power duo consisting of Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart.

No festival would be complete without a little bit of controversy, and LouFest was not immune, when Ms. Lauryn Hill was announced as Sunday’s co-headliner.  With her spotty performance record at past shows in mind, one could see the concern in LouFest organizers faces when Ms. Hill made a brief appearance in the wings of stage right, but turned quickly and disappeared.  Her band came to life as Ms. Hill took the stage some 15 minutes later and a sigh of relief was breathed as she turned in an extremely-tight hour long set!  Hill sat for several songs on wooden bench, playing acoustic guitar, a skill she does not showcase nearly enough.

Making their return to the concert stages of the world, and bringing LouFest to a crescendo, was the highly captivating, LCD Soundsystem.  After nearly a 5-year hiatus, LCD has returned to test the performance waters at various festival dates throughout the spring and summer of 2016.  LCD Sounsystem’s electronic rock sound, with spacey delays and echoed vocals, were a sharp contrast to the previous night’s closer but also a testament to the musical reach of the festival.  LCD proved once again they were the right band at the right time, as their mellowness was as welcomed as good sipping whiskey at the end of a long, St. Louis day.  I received an email from LouFest organizers proclaiming, “By almost every measure, 2016 passed our already optimistic expectations.”  And LouFest, I couldn’t agree more!  Cheers to a great 2016 and cheers to a swift return in 2017!  Thanks to LouFest for letting us in to your world!  Listen Live Entertainment I cannot give you enough kudos for hosting a great event and being most accommodating to the media personnel covering LouFest!

Photos of the festival are below:



Saturday

The Heavy
 Quaker City Night Hawks
Frightened Rabbit
Band of Horses
Big Gigantic
Chris Stapleton
Sunday

Bonnie Bishop
Judah & the Lion
Greensky Bluegrass
Buddy Guy
Vince Staples
The Kills
Lauryn Hill
LCD Soundsystem
Contributed by Duane Clawson
LouFest 2016 @ Forest Park, St. Louis, MO LouFest 2016 @ Forest Park, St. Louis, MO Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on 1:00:00 PM Rating: 5

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