Western Kentucky University alumni Noah T. Gary, a computer science December 2017 graduate from Ogden College of Science and Engineering, walked into Waterfront Park for Forecastle Music and Arts Festival weekend with his friend Wilson.

“I came to the festival alone,” Gary said to a new cluster of friends and veterans of Forecaste from Bowling Green. Justin France and Ena Handzic quickly observed and took Gary and Wilson, a neon light dressed pineapple, in. Wilson was lit for the invite; the totem pole helped Gary’s new friends find each other when lost in a sea of music fans.

Between drinks and dancing (better be Bourbon), the group of nearly 10 saw must-see acts and musicians they know from frequenting dive bars around Kentucky including their hometown favorite, Tidball’s Sound and Spirits. Dive bars deliver buzz, aka, that “music discovery” magic, in Kentucky. In fact, Tidball’s Sound and Spirits alumni awakened their audience at Forecastle grounds.

Case in point: Travis Goodwin’s appearance on the keys at Portugal. The Man on Friday.

“Oh my goodness,” Megan Salyer-Castle, co-owner of Smokin’ Buttz BBQ said while seeing Goodwin amazing the crowd of thousands. “We’re going to get you up front so you can see your friend.”

Goodwin, personal friend to Tidball’s and no stranger to festival life as he is dubbed by strangers as “Festival King,” performs Wednesday at the first Rayland Baxter set Tidball’s will host, making the circle of friends and Forecastle alumni complete.

Moon Taxi and Bendigo Fletcher are another two of the many added this year. The staff of Tidball’s say the same exclamations for Moon Taxi as they would their friend Goodwin and his new fan Salyer-Castle: unforgettable.

“Unforgettable performances back in the day while honing their craft. We still keep up with their schedule and all their music,” co-owner Brian Jarvis said. “We are very proud of their success and love how their sound has evolved.”

Dive bars dig into the nostalgic, serendipitous nature of finding music as opposed to today’s discovery tools like apps with fancy algorithms. In turn, festivals peruse rosters bars post on their websites. Commercial hopes drive “music discovery” and so this leads to supply of discovery tools and apps, for example your catered Discover Weekly playlist from Spotify, that isn’t met by demand.

Instead, serendipitous instances like Goodwin’s keys solo are in demand. Festival organizers thrive on this, their fan-base demands it so during a four or three-day get-a-way of never-ending music in a multi-stage platform in an enclosed but multi-acre lot.

Any and all keen music, activism and bourbon fans can be voluntarily trapped in their happy place when at Forecastle Music and Arts festival.

Either front-row center or lounging farthest away and taking in crowds in the tens of thousands, these global events have positively changed lives, according to attendees. Music Is The Drug clothing brand founder Chelsie Cahoon, experienced her first Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, also part of the AC entertainment, in Manchester, Tenn.

“Who else was there and got to savor this bliss?” Cahoon said, wearing her brand’s royal purple backpack. She continues throughout the festival season. “If you spot my purple bag come give me a hug and let’s rage.”

Neuroscientists have explored the connection between music and the pleasure it elicits. Leading these studies, groundbreaking researcher Marin Seligman developed the PERMA model of well-being as a way of bringing science to the human feeling.

Seligman’s PERMA model: P- Positive emotion, E- engagement, R- relationships, M- meaning, A- accomplishments. Early on in Seligman’s book, “Flourish,” he describes engagement by asking the following: Did time feel like you were in Nickelodeon’s 2000's film “Time Stoppers” ? Were you completely absorbed in the task? Did you lose self-consciousness? And ding, ding, ding: many attendees at music events would respond yes to at least two of the three questions.

Other factors could combine in the process of absolute lucidness, but let’s not feed that elephant in the room. Sober and drug free throughout her life, Cahoon, a self-titled twenty-something “rave queen” said “music is the drug that unites us all.”

While seeing the familiar, including the likes of Simple Plan at the final hurrah of the iconic Vans Warped Tour and the new like Louisville locals and garage pop artists, Boa, at Forecastle Music and Arts Festival, Cahoon healthily discovers bands through festival stops far better than with any apps. The art of finding new bands to listen to can be refined into a science, of sorts. It also correlates to finding new friends through venues. Connections through dopamine, essentially.

Researchers Haruka Shoda, Mayumi Adachi, Tomohiro Umeda investigated how a fan’s psychological reaction differs in live and recorded music contexts. For their study, they recruited 37 people to listen to six classical piano pieces (Bach, Schumann and Debussy) played live from seven pianists. After ten weeks, participants returned to listen to pre-recorded performances. And as science proves, live performances appear to have a stress-reduction effect on the audience when monitoring participants heart rate.

When also finding new music at random, for example: the supporting band on tour or friend with the band you paid a fee to see, is identified with socialization, novelty, escape/excitement and loyalty, according to Yolal and colleagues. Festival King Goodwin, again is another example of this.

When do you not hear a stranger or close friend say “I don’t go for the line-up, I go for the experience?” at least once. That’s novelty. Forecastle Music and Arts Festival is a reunion of sorts--attendees, artists, vendors, Bourbon enthusiasts and the press. This is novelty: you can attend the same music festival every year and still have something new, hence the aforementioned phrase, “I go for the experience.” It re-routes the release of dopamine.

Forecastle Music and Arts Festival provides time and space to explore for its attendees. New food, nostalgic amusement attractions similar to the ones spotted in the original Netflix series Stranger Things. Hey, no spoilers on season three, don’t worry. This globally-known festival increases tourism, standard of living, improvement and maintenance of the environment, and cross-cultural knowledge and understanding of Kentucky aka Bourbon Nation.

It is beyond the music. It is the experience to immerse new music and escape the day-to-day grind, surrounding yourself with new people and potentially reaching for that follow-back on Instagram when a connection is made.

“Had a great time with you guys!!,” Gary said to his new festival family, Kentucky crew on Instagram. “ Thanks for accepting me into your group! :)”

“The power of the pineapple bringing people together,” Handzic responded on the post recapping the good vibes Forecastle Music and Arts Festival offered ending with the hashtag, #keeplouisvilleweird.

Until next time, Forecastle. All aboard.

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