By Matt Wickstrom
Music fans gathered at the newly located Willie’s Locally Known on Thursday night to say goodbye to March and hello to the band’s on the lineup for this year’s Moontower Music Festival being held August 27 at Masterson Station Park. Local acts Ben Lacy and Johnny Conqueroo entertained the crowd throughout the night.
The Moontower Music Festival is in its third year in 2016, and is put together by local event management company LexEffect. This year’s lineup includes several local acts including Lexington’s Johnny Conqueroo, Small Batch and Blind Corn Liquor Pickers and Louisville’s DJ Tank. Other acts on the bill for the one-day festival include Chrome Pony, BASSH, Aubrie Sellers, Mandolin Orange, Judah & the Lion, The Weeks, The Floozies, JR JR, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Drive-By Truckers and Manchester Orchestra.
Local radio personality Mike Graves, music director at WUKY and host of the “Rock & Roots” weekdays from 9am to 4pm MC’d the night’s action. During the lineup announcement, most applause went to local band and performers of the night Johnny Conqueroo. The trio of high school students are exploding with musical talent, and their addition to the Moontower lineup adds to their list of summer plans, which also include the Moonshiner’s Ball in Berea in May. The festival’s three headliners, Trombone Shorty, Drive-By Truckers and Manchester Orchestra also received outbursts of applause and excitement among those in attendance.
Before the lineup announcement, guitar virtuoso Ben Lacy took command of the stage, performing jarring instrumentals of classic rock hits with partner Alan McKenzie on drums. Lacy’s expertise on the guitar was evident with every pluck of the string, whether it be the most subtle of touches or an intense solo, and his shared chemistry with McKenzie was spot on. The two have become so versed in each other’s musical styles that a simple look back to the drum kit by Lacy was all the signal McKenzie needed to go ahead and make full use of his beefed up drum set.
The duo wowed the crowd with hits like ‘Long Train Running” from the Doobie Brothers; James Brown’s ‘Cold Sweat’ segueing into ‘Sex Machine’; ‘Cheap Sunglasses’ from ZZ Top; ‘Gimme Shelter’ by Rolling Stones and ‘Kashmir’ by Led Zeppelin before giving way to Johnny Conqueroo.
Comprised of Grant Curless on lead guitar, Wils Quinn on drums and Shawn Reynolds on guitar, Johnny Conqueroo may just appear to be a typical high school band on the surface, but these teenagers pack a punch like they’re a veteran touring rock band. Curless currently attends Lexington Montessori School, with Quinn and Reynolds attending STEAM Academy.
The trio has a persistent garage rock sound very reminiscent of the Black Keys early on in their careers, mixed in with sonic guitar riffs by Curless that liken to those of Jimi Hendrix. To boot, Curless’ raspy voice adds to the grungy musical mystique spewed out of their electrified sound-making machines, never more evident than during his gripping guitar solo and screeching vocals on the group’s original tune ‘World is Blind’.
When they aren’t hitting the books studying, the members of Johnny Conqueroo have been hard at work recording the follow up album to their self-titled EP released last spring. Expect more new material from the band throughout the summer as they continue to grow as a band and branch out musically. Tickets for Moontower festival can be purchased now for $49. The festival will run from 11am to 11pm on August 27. For more information, visit moontowermusicfestival.com.