Back in 2019, the grounds at Keeneland were invaded by music lovers from all over the United States. Their pilgrimage led them to the heart of the Bluegrass where Lexington finally hosted the music festival it deserves. You can read our recap and view our photos here. There were many highlights that year, and the momentum heading into 2020 was obvious and mighty. Unfortunately, a pandemic interrupted all of our lives, but I’m happy to say that the Railbird Festival at Keeneland is back! After a year off due to the pandemic, live music is finally returning to the beautiful grounds at Keeneland and we’ve put together a list of the artists that you just have to see.
Now onto Sunday! I hate to break the news, but you’ll be forced to make some hard decisions once again on Sunday, but not as many as Saturday. For what it’s worth, having an amazing lineup is always a plus, but missing favorites will always hurt. We’ll try to help you make some sense of it all, and guide you through the final day at Railbird.
The Burl Stage strikes again! You’ll definitely want to get there early as Grayson Jenkins takes the stage at 12:45. Grayson is a Kentuckian who happens to be releasing his brand new album, ‘Turning Tides,’ just two days before his performance at Railbird. His album features many Kentucky musicians and none more notable than Miles Miller, who plays the drums on the album. Miles is from nearby Versailles and plays in Sturgill Simpson’s band. ‘Turning Tides’ is one of our most anticipated releases here at Capture Kentucky. We love Grayson and we have a feeling you’re gonna love him too. So, if you’d like to get a leg up on Grayson Jenkins, you can read our review here.
If you aren’t aware of Southern Avenue yet, allow me to remedy that for you. Their set at 1:15 promises to be one of the most energetic of Sunday. Soul, funk, pop, rock, and real…you’re guaranteed a healthy dose of all of ’em. We suggest heading over to the Elkhorn stage and dance your a$$ off while the day is young!
Cha Wa is the one artist that I really had no clue about when I started this list a week or so ago. I usually pick a couple of artists to witness blindly, Cha Wa was going to be one of those artists, but when I stumbled upon “Wild Man” on a Spotify playlist, that changed instantly. I have absolutely devoured every song I could find from these folks from New Orleans. The result? I am completely enamored by Cha Wa and they are at the very top of my list to see on Sunday, maybe even of the entire weekend. They take the Limestone Stage at 1:30, I’ll see you there.
Having personally witnessed The War & Treaty twice, I can tell you firsthand, that these folks will put the boogie in your bones. We may have to miss Church on Sunday, but War & Treaty will take us all right back there. So meet me at the Elkhorn Stage at 2:45!
ARTIST CANCELLATION DUE TO TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS: I would normally just omit an artist that was forced to cancel, but Colter is too important to skip an opportunity to introduce him to folks that may not know his music. Canadian Colter Wall, who’s definitely an honorary Kentuckian, takes the Limestone Stage at 3 pm. Colter has many ties to Kentucky and the Commonwealth feels like a second home to Colter. Now I’ve always said that you should never miss an artist or band performing a show at home. This one falls into that category. The deep baritone that Colter possesses will draw in every soul that hears him. You should make certain that you’re one of them. Have a listen to his connection with Kentuckian Tyler Childers, you’ll immediately understand why he’s a must on Sunday.
You’ll want to venture back to the Burl Stage at 3:15 or so. Especially if you’re a fan of the Blues. Real Blues. In fact, Cedric Burnside has the Blues flowing through his veins. His Grandfather, R.L. Burnside, was a pioneer of the Blues and that is directly reflected in the music of Cedric. Check out “Step In.”
ARTIST CANCELLATION DUE TO HIP SURGERY: If you don’t know the music of Tanya Tucker, you’re in for a deep dive. One that spans several decades and has seen a resurgence in the last couple of years. Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings co-produced her latest album ‘While I’m Livin,’ which bought Tucker some street cred with an entirely new generation. Tanya is a Legend. Let her show you why at 4:15 on the Elkhorn Stage.
With Tanya Tucker dropping out of the lineup, you have no excuses if you miss Liz Cooper over on the Burl Stage at 4:30. Her style is a bit more Indie Rock than other artists on the bill, but if you catch her set before hitting up the next artists on our list, I think you’ll be happy you did so.
The Revivalists need no introduction, but in case you’ve been living under a rock, DO NOT MISS this band. These folks are known for their live shows and they’re gonna be eager to impress on Sunday as they have only played a handful of shows in 2021. They take the Elkhorn Stage at 4:45. I’m just gonna drop this performance from Red Rocks below for ya.
Zach Bryan takes to the Burl Stage at 5:45. This young man has all the momentum towards becoming an absolute superstar. His popularity grows exponentially every week. I’ll say this, much like I did with Billy Strings back in 2019, you will likely never get the opportunity to see this young man on a stage as intimate as the Burl Stage.
Of all the overlaps on the schedule, Band Of Horses overlapping Jason Isbell has been a very hot, sometimes angry, discussion on our site and social media. I get it, but the distance between the two main stages really, really hurts on this one. Much like the Grateful Dead, both acts have loyal fanbases that travel well, so splitting these two up just seems like a faux pas for Railbird. Band Of Horses takes the Elkhorn Stage at 6:00.
Enjoy my personal favorite Band Of Horses song:
As far as songwriting goes, there are few that match Jason Isbell. He has earned the right to be mentioned in the rarified air that houses names like Prine and Dylan, his song “Cover Me Up” is timeless and that song launched Isbell into a whole new stratosphere. Isbell used his time in the Drive-By Truckers to hone his chops and since his departure in 2007, anything with the name of Jason Isbell attached is as good as gold. We were fortunate to cover a very special intimate evening with Jason and his wife, Amanda Shires. You can read that review here. And you can catch Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit on the Limestone stage, beginning at 6:30.
Khruangbin is a name that, if I’m honest, I knew little about. I stay pretty busy chasing Kentucky music, so there are some artists that slip by me on occasion. While researching this article, I was met with the challenge of getting to know a band in a short amount of time, luckily for me, Khruangbin’s sound made that task very easy. As soon as I heard the vibe, the soul, the blues, the r&b, the funk, with a little rock and roll sprinkled on top, I was hooked. There’s even a little shoegaze in some songs. I’m definitely gonna be hanging around to see these Texans do their thang at 7:45 on the Elkhorn Stage, and you should too!
DMB. Nothing else needs to be said, honestly. The Dave Matthews Band is one of the largest acts on the planet. Their music and performances are constantly listed at or near the top of every conceivable music list out there. Their style is their own, and it’s that uniqueness is what separates them from the rest of the pack. Absolute Legends that happen to be playing a two-hour set from 8:45-10:45 on the Limestone Stage. There’s horns, so you know I’m already in. Do. Not. Miss. DMB.
The Railbird Festival is officially sold-out, so hopefully, you got your tickets already. There are new rules in place before you’re allowed to enter Railbird. I’ll leave you with the official statement from the Festival’s Facebook.
The safety of our patrons and our staff is our number one priority. As such, a full COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results will be required to attend Railbird 2021.
For patrons who are not fully vaccinated, a negative COVID-19 test result must be obtained within 72 hours (3 days) of first day attending Railbird.