The day began with a total downpour, which delayed our arrival until a bit after 2 pm. After a beautiful drive through the rolling hills and farms that lined Estill County, we entered the wide open valley that housed the 2017 version of the Moonshiner’s Ball. A festival created by and for the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers. In its fourth year, the festival has a bit of a countrified hippy feel. That’s not a knock, just a description that seemed suitable given all the tie-dye, curls, puppies and lawn chairs. Don’t let that taint your vision though, it’s very child-friendly and family-oriented.
The venue itself is a massive farm, nestled in a beautiful valley that some would say is in the middle of nowhere. To those people, I’d say, learn to live a little. Your journey brought you to the absolute perfect spot for a festival, especially this particular one. There are no traffic jams, overpriced tourist traps, obnoxious city folk or reasons to be in a hurry. Bring your lawn chair, a cooler full of your favorite beverages, an open mind and enjoy the musical ride put before you. I assure you, you will not be disappointed.
The “food court” housed several really awesome food trucks. Highlighted by the Gastro Gnomes and Rolling Oven. The latter of which was a shipping container mounted on the back end of a box truck that opened up into a full view kitchen. It was flat-out awesome and seemingly a favorite amongst the crowd, solely based upon the sheer number of pizza boxes we witnessed.
There were several artisans and t-shirt vendors on-hand. Selling everything from the aforementioned tie-dye to band merchandise and horseshoe welcome signs. If you can’t find something awesome to spend your money on there, you’re simply just not trying hard enough.
Onto the real reason we were here though, the music. First up, was Quiet Hollers, and they were an unexpected surprise. They’re a band from Louisville that honestly, wasn’t even on my radar. Their sound was a bit in the Bruce Springsteen lane, with a fiddle instead of a sax. Which may sound odd in description, but they pulled it off well. I’ll certainly be digging into them a bit deeper.
We then took the few steps over to the West Sixth Brewing Main Stage, where Lexington native Justin Wells brought his brand of outlaw country. Justin has had a long career, but a short one as a solo artist. He began with Southern Rock outfit, Fifth on the Floor. His well-traveled gravely baritone voice delivered a poignant set, that was highlighted by a fantastic countrified cover of Dire Straits track, So Far Away, that delighted the ever growing crowd. For me though, it’s his originals that are what make him worth your time and efforts. Part Jamey Johnson, part Skynyrd and part George Jones…Justin Wells is as authentic country as you can get.
After a short break, sponsored by West 6th Brewing…because it was hot if ya know what I’m saying…We returned to the music.
Next up was the alluring siren, Margaret Glaspy. Her set was one of the more interesting on the day. Dressed in a denim jumper, Margaret quickly established herself as a force to be reckoned with. Her sultry, almost snarl-like delivery was the perfect compliment to her slow-driving rock infused tunes. Her simplistic delivery and ease in her performance left you unprotected at times and she took full advantage by delivering one of the most compelling sets of the day. The longer she played, the deeper the connection. Margaret certainly earned several new fans on this night, including myself.
What can I say about The Wooks? Well, to put it simply, this band is exactly the type of band that embodies the spirit, music, personality and comradery of The Moonshiner’s Ball. Their set was absolutely blistering and a definite fan favorite on the day. I recently reviewed the band’s album here on Capture Kentucky, so if you want to know more about their music, be sure and check out that article. I’ll sum up their performance as simply and succinctly as I possibly can, AMAZING. Find the time to see this band live. You will not be disappointed.
Our last band of the day was The Marcus King Band. If you’re unaware of young Marcus, I am so happy to be the one to introduce you to his music. At the staggeringly young age of 20 years old, this young man has already begun carving out his niche in today’s musical landscape. His style is blues rock, infused with soul and delivered with heart. Marcus can be described as the heir to the throne when it comes to jam bands. Mentored and inspired by the great Warren Haynes, Marcus and his flat-out amazing band are 100% the real deal. I’ve witnessed well over 1,000 bands in my time on this earth, but never one that possesses the sheer power that The Marcus King Band holds. Believe me when I say this, if you enjoy the blues, make it your life’s mission to see this band on stage. In 30 years, you can tell everyone that you saw the beginnings of what will then be a legendary career. It may seem like I’m pushing an inflated description of this young band, but if you witness them live, I can guarantee you will absolutely agree. Prove me wrong, I dare ya.
We had every intention of staying for the Lil Smokies and Golden Dawn Arkestra, but the rains began to settle in, so we made the trek home. Ending day one of quite possibly the most “Kentucky” festival we’ve ever witnessed. Mother Nature may have inevitably won round one, but we can’t wait for round two!