THE MODERATELY FED ARTIST
By AUSTIN WHITELY
Before this year’s Forecastle, the last concert festival I attended was Sounds of the Underground at Waverly Hills, August 11, 2007. It was the place to be for any 19-year-old metal head who equated the rockstar way with aggressive music and an aggressive lifestyle. We festival goers pre-gamed as much Heaven Hill as humanly possible. Some used flasks to sneak in their supplies. I deemed my belly a suitable enough container. The benzos and opiates stashed in my pockets would be enough to level me out.
Only bits and pieces of that day come to mind, mainly the glory and the downfalls, such as almost getting kicked out for walking away with some stationary Mountain Dews and watching Gwar decapitate a Virginia Tech Massacre stand-in and feed his head to their giant worm.
That’s what you did at concerts, I thought. If you didn’t remember it, you probably had a blast. And that’s how some people still view concerts. I don’t want to be that guy anymore. I want substance. I want purpose. I wanted Forecastle.
At least, that’s what I said when New Southerner offered me the media pass. Actually, my response was more like, “Fuck, yeah, I wanna go.”
So off I went. The greeters slapped a media wristband on me when I arrived, and oh, I thought I had arrived. First things first. I’m a small-town volunteer blogger, and I like free stuff. I gladly took up the offer of free goodies at the media tent, where I found some unenthused reporters (media passes weren’t new to them) and unlimited Red Bull.
Jacked up and looking for some mental stimulation, I brushed up on my cartography skills. Forecastle made it easy on the geographically disinclined by providing a pretty map with big pictures.
It wasn’t enough. My legs wanted to walk, and my eyes wanted to see. So I ditched the map and set off to find what Forecastle had to offer, besides the ear candy, since the festival’s slogan, after all, is “Music – Art – Activism.”
Soon I spotted a boat … on land. With repurposed, painted water bottles as “water,” it seemed to float. One artist painted a likeness of himself as Poseidon, God of the Sea. I ambled around the craft, envying the artists’ work, and spotted a painter taking a breather. I asked him what it was all about.
“We’re just a bunch of local artists,” said Chris Chappell. “We’re supposed to paint ocean scenes, but I’m only doing these strokes,” he gestured to his handiwork. “At least they’re blue,” I said as he went back to creating.
Next, a “Sober Sailing” banner caught my attention. “So-burr,” a two syllable word the tongue loves to emphasize when under the influence, briefly reminded me of reenacting the “speed li-mit” skit of the Farley/Spade comedy Black Sheep.
I got the rundown from the guys at the Sober Sailing booth, which provides a “safe place” for sober music fans to enjoy concerts. It’s a national organization that frequents U.S. concert festivals. Recovering alcoholics and addicts can find concerts a particularly precarious situation. However hard it might seem to imagine a concert with clear senses, it can be done. In fact, many addicts and alcoholics couldn’t have made it through the event sober without the group’s twice daily meetings.
Eventually, I found myself asking a volunteer, “What is a forecastle, anyway?”
Her response: “It’s, like, the front of the ship, where all the awesome stuff happens.”
To the front of Waterfront Park I went. The “Mast” (main) stage was the show stealer, the largest of the four stages (Boom, Port, and Ocean). However, to the right of the Great Lawn, the centerpiece of Waterfront Park, two 8 x 20 canvases stood brightly colored, sunbathing, while artists mingled in and out, like worker bees relating to a hive.
Every hive has to have a queen. But in this case, it was a king. Petersen Thomas, a local artist, explained the massive pieces: “I think of the layout beforehand, water/ocean based, and, from the morning of the first day (of the three day festival) ’til, like, 3 a.m. of the last day of the festival, we’ll paint.
“We’ll paint musicians into the main parts of the piece, and we’ll try to throw in whoever we see standing around. At the end of the festival, we cut up squares of the canvas, and we auction off the pieces. Or we have prearranged prices negotiated for certain sections.” Proceeds, he said, go to the Forecastle Foundation.
I may or may not have negotiated my noggin into the canvas. This can neither be confirmed nor denied at this time. Proper media relations be damned.
Two Gulps of Activism
Little did I know that the canvases were just the tip of the iceberg that sunk me into position to soak up all the activism Forecastle had to offer. Located directly behind the canvases was the Forecastle Foundation home base. I walked in to eager faces and welcoming gestures.
Beau Sequin, of Guayaki – Yerba Mate, led me in. “Would you like a drink with the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate?” he asked.
Feeling as though I was entering an infomercial, and that saying “No” would somehow erase the positive energy the guy was emanating, I said, “Sure.” Peer pressure never tasted so good.
After we relayed some mutual information, Sequin clicked off the demonstrator voice that comes along with a booth-type job. As we talked freely, the luster of his beliefs still shone through.
“We’re teaching children in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina to indigenously farm their land. Ninety-five percent of the rainforest down there has already been subject to clearcutting,” he said.
I digested the information, along with some Yerba Mate, and I moved down the line.
Next up, the Pine Mountain Wildlife Corridor, by way of the Kentucky Natural Land Trust. There, I learned that this little part of Kentucky was one of the most rare habitats in the world. From Virginia to Tennessee, the KNLT has been trying to create a contiguous strip of untouched forest needed to maintain survival of many rare plants and animal
I stepped back for a moment, not understanding why a booth promoting a Brazilian beverage and rainforest agriculture was next to a Kentucky preservation project in the middle of a concert festival. I looked down the row and spotted “Forecastle Foundation.”
That brought it full circle for me. Both Guayaki and Pine Mountain Corridor are partners/projects of the Forecastle Foundation. They represent what are called “hot spots.” These hot spots are only 2.3% of the world’s land surface, yet they house 77% of all vertebrae species and 50% of the world’s plant species.
Yes, that’s right. Kentucky is part of a meager percentage in a good way.
Austin Whitely is Auzman Propaganda, Man, a solo artist from Shepherdsville, Kentucky. He co-founded the Homegrown Art, Music & Spoken Word Show, an open-mic and art exhibition series held bimonthly in Bullitt County. Auzman Propaganda, Man’s debut release, “Greatest Hits Vol. 3 & 4,” is available through CDBaby, iTunes, and other online venues.