In 2017, The Moonshiner’s Ball was the first festival that I covered as Capture Kentucky. I covered many shows and we featured many festivals on my old site,Unsung Melody, but most were out of state.
As Capture Kentucky began to evolve into what you’re reading now, I quickly came to the realization that festivals like The Moonshiner’s Ball are way more important than large overpriced festivals. Mainly because there importance immediately impacts the culture that I care most about and that’s my community. My State. My friends. Besides, without festivals like Moonshiner’s, where would the bands on those large overpriced festivals get the traction to make it to those bigger paydays?
Another thing that makes a smaller festival so much more enjoyable for me, is that 90% of the artists on the bill will be lucky if they break even for the weekend. They’re playing because they love it. Their passion is contagious and more often than not, you’ll see some of the most spirited, emotional and unforgettable performances you will ever experience. These stages are the bands proving grounds. They want to walk away with new fans, but most importantly, they want make a connection. Those connections become the bonds that hold it all together as the artists suffer for their art.
Last year, the bands or artists that made those bonds with me, were Con Brio, Johnny Conqueroo and everyone’s favorite artist nowadays, Mr. Tyler Childers. I was so impressed with the talent that Travis Young and the Moonshiner’s Ball brought in, that I didn’t even research the acts this year. Why? Because that’s how much confidence I have in the folks at the Moonshiner’s Ball.
I regrettably wasn’t able to attend Friday or Sunday, so my article will have to focus solely on Saturday.
The first set that I caught was C The Beat. An eclectic collection of musicians young and old. Their music is larger in scope than that of a simple rock and roll or country band. Their sound is much bigger, due not only to the horn section, but also the world culture that they infused within their music. While quite a few folks were just rising up from their party the night before, C The Beat earned many new fans and attracted a decent dance troupe up front to boot. I even spotted the Johnny Conqueroo boys enjoying this one.
This gentleman was sitting across the creek playing along with C The Beat. I had to stop and give him a sticker. He was quite the harmonica player and he was AWESOME!!
Next up, on the main stage, was The River Whyless. This folky, indie rock inspired quartet from Asheville. NC brought an ambience that was layered with wonderful fiddle work and very warm harmonies. The harmonies were what drew me in, but it was the fiddle work that made me a fan.
I’m a huge fan of musicians that know just ask much about what to play as they do on when and what not to play. Vocalist/Fiddler Halli Anderson was mesmerizing as she intertwined her haunting melodies and ghostly playing through the audible landscape. Two big thumbs up from this guy!
Next up are a band that I have written about often, but if you’re new to the site, please allow me to introduce you to Magnolia Boulevard. These folks are some of my favorites. Guitarist Gregg Erwin and keyboardist Ryan Allen are originally from Eastern Kentucky, as I am. Vocalist Maggie Noelle is from a small area in Virginia, very near where my wife grew up. I have a kinship with these folks. They’re truly my people.
Their music is some of the best around and I was incredibly proud of their performance. I told Maggie jokingly that I didn’t know if her boots made her feel beautiful, but she had a confidence about her that day that I haven’t witnessed before. Being the voice of Magnolia Boulevard, her confidence is the key to this band getting to the next level. The band is ready and their abilities will take them as far as Maggie’s charm and vocals will see fit.
Gregg Erwin’s soul speaks through his fingers and his playing is otherworldly at times. He absolutely mesmerized those gathered at the forest stage and when you couple that with the confidence that Maggie brought, you have the recipe for a band that truly belongs on a national stage.
Songs like “Jezebel”, “Sister”, “Ride”, “Strong Willed Women” and a brand new cover of the Led Zeppelin classic, “Trampled Under Foot” delighted those gathered and I left to go to the main stage with a full heart and a headful of dreams of where Magnolia Boulevard will be in a year. See these folks now, while you can still catch them intimate venues. They’ll outgrow them soon. I can feel it in my gut. So don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I made my way back to the main stage to catch the pride of my adopted hometown of Paris and Bourbon County. The Wooks took the stage just one day after releasing their absolutely beautiful second record, ‘Glory Bound’. The first part of their set was littered with classics that we all know and love. Tracks like Robert Earl Keen’s “The Road Goes On Forever” which is often used to close their, “Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and their version of the Bruce Springsteen classic “Atlantic City” held folks attention, but for me, it was all about seeing some of the new songs from ‘Glory Bound’ and let me just say that they did not disappoint.
I realize that may have been the first time some folks have seen The Wooks, but I would’ve been perfectly fine if the entire setlist was the band playing ‘Glory Bound’ from beginning to end.
The first new song they played has been a staple in their set for a bit, but “Little Sandy Queen” was flat-out amazing. It is my personal favorite from the album. They followed that up with the title track, “Glory Bound” and they put the trifecta cherry on the top with “Let It Ride”. They followed those with “Out Of Mine” before returning to another new track called, “Helechewa”.
These fellas are some of the best musicians around, but they’re also some the best people around too. They’re also heavily involved with the charity, Can’d Aid Foundation. Good folks, making good music and doing good things. What’s not to love?!
One thing before I move on, if you’re at The Moonshiner’s Ball and you’re handed a Mason jar, just take a swig. It’s rude if you don’t and that’s all I’ll say about that. Oh and uhhhh…make sure you don’t drink a big swig if have an empty stomach. Just sayin!!
And with that, my apologies to “Los Colognes”, I was passed a jar. LMAO When in Rome, right?! My stomach decided it was time for chow. So I somewhat walked straight over to the food court and placed an order at the “Rolling Pizza Truck”, which I ate at last years Moonshiner’s. I decided to wait in my vehicle, which was just around the corner and finally, by the time my order was ready, the world had stopped spinning enough to enjoy my food. Lol The pizza was quite tasty and was more than enough food for the $11 asking price.
Next up was the Texas legend, “James McMurtry. I chose to be in the dark about James. I knew a few of his songs, but I came into his set with an open mind and loving heart, expecting greatness. Because that’s what Travis and the Moonshiner’s always deliver.
McMurtry brought with him a set full of thought-provoking, foot-stomping literal takes on life in songs that few can ever even dream of writing. He made several jokes about being older and several songs that were meant to be “radio hits”, but radio be damned, James McMurtry deserves your attention. He’s a legendary songwriter from Texas and he just kicked my ass. For that, I couldn’t be happier.
James McMurtry will be back in the area on November 7th as he plays the 20th Century Theater in Cincinnati. You can pick up your tickets here.
I began making my way to see the Solid Rock’it Boosters, but as it often happens at these festivals, I was stopped by some folks that wanted to discuss the work that we do here. I was in listening distance, but our conversations ate up the time, so I do apologize to the band, but folks wanted to discuss our community. So I decided to give them the time they deserved and I’m glad I did. They provided me with some amazing feedback and input. What I could hear, the Solid Rock’it Boosters were bringing a rockabilly vibe with some damn good dance vibes. Hopefully I can catch them at a future date.
Back on the main stage, the men and women of the hour were up next. Travis Young and his band of all-stars, the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers, truly brought the party. With a mix of covers and originals, including several from their latest release, ‘The Sentence’. They’re bluegrass. They’re country. They’re rock ‘n’ roll. They’re a little bit gospel and a helluva lot of fun!
The last band of the day for me, was Johnny Conqueroo. These young men aren’t even of legal age to drink yet, but if you see them perform, you’d swear that I was lying. The abilities of these young men will take them wherever they want to go. They play well beyond their years and while their music is rooted in the blues, especially from a storytelling aspect, you’ll be hard pressed to find the proper label for them. So I just settled on badass. Works for me!
Their youthful energy and seemingly old souls create a vibe that you have likely ever experienced. Songs like “Brick”, “Rhododendrons”, “Lashed Out”, “Why”, “Washed Up” and “Dancin’ With You” were nearly perfect, but I always love it when them ole blues spirits jump out of Grant’s amp. Check out the video below and I think you’ll understand why!
The new location for the Moonshiner’s Ball is the perfect venue. I do worry about the October dates, as the weather in Kentucky can make a complete 180 at the drop of a hat, but as far as the Festival itself, it seems to be growing nicely and that’s fantastic news for all of us in the Kentucky community.
If I could change one thing, it would a simple change. With some moisture in the area, the pathway over to the Forest Stage was kinda treacherous at times. I imagine the bridge was placed where it was so the crowd feeds in from the back. So moving the bridge probably isn’t the best option, but maybe making the path a bit more of a gradual incline would work wonders.
So there ya have it. Another wonderful Kentucky Music Festival right in our backyards. Between Master Musicians Festival in Somerset, Pete Fest near Louisville, Kickin’ It On The Creek and The Moonshiner’s Ball, you have many, many wonderful opportunities to come and see what all the fuss is about. So make your plans now. Start saving those pennies and we’ll see ya on the Festival trail next year!