Moontower 2016 to launch Lexington talent toward stardom

By Matt Wickstrom

This article was originally published in the Kentucky Kernel.

Lexington’s music aficionados will reach for the moon, but come away grasping for stars at the upcoming Moontower Music Festival, a one day music celebration featuring the best in local, regional, and national acts on Saturday, Aug. 27 at Masterson Station Park.

The festival, now in its third year, is led by headliners Manchester Orchestra, Drive-By Truckers, and Trombone Shorty, while also shining a spotlight on a few of Lexington’s premiere musical outfits.

 Two of Moontower’s three local acts, Small Batch and the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers, transcend traditional genre barriers, opting to lurk in the stratosphere encompassing folk, bluegrass, and old-time music.

Both groups feature a wealth of experience performing in Lexington’s thriving music scene.

The Blind Corn Liquor Picker’s Joel Serdenis and Jory Bowling currently perform in Trucker Hat Coalition, and Small Batch’s Warren Byrom and Scott Wilmoth perform with The Swells and Byrom’s solo act with backing band Fabled Canelands.

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Warren Byrom performing with his band The Fabled Canelands on May 21, 2016, at The Moonshiner’s Ball in Berea. Byrom will be performing with Small Batch at Moontower 2016. Left to right: J. Tom Hnatow, Robbie Cosenza, Warren Byrom. Photo by Matt Wickstrom / Big Blue Tunes.

Johnny Conqueroo, the final of the festival’s three hometown acts may be the most jaw-dropping of the bunch.

Front man Grant Curless is a prodigy on the guitar, laying down mind-bending, Blues-infused riffs with a commanding energy that takes over the room. Wils Quinn and Shawn Reynolds complete the trio on drums and bass respectively.

Adding to the phenomenon of Johnny Conqueroo’s success is the fact that the group’s three musical cogs are all still in high school, perhaps the only obstacle keeping the young rockers and their budding talent in Lexington.

Other festival performers include Judah & The Lion, JR JR, The Floozies, The Weeks, Mandolin Orange, Aubrie Sellers, BASSH, Chrome Pony, and DJ Tank, who will perform between acts.

More on Moontower: 2016 festival lineup announcement

Sellers is the daughter of country music superstar Lee Ann Womack, and accomplished songwriter and musician Jason Sellers, who performed alongside Kentuckian Ricky Skaggs for a time.

According to Kaelyn Query, founder and president of event management company LexEffect, the lineup for Moontower is largely influenced and curated by the fans.

Soon after the first two iterations of Moontower, LexEffect sent out surveys asking attendees what they enjoyed about the festival and who they’d like to see perform in the future.

Query and her team then begin to whittle down the list of potential acts based on their budget and each band’s tour plans around the time of Moontower, with a final lineup solidified by the following March.

 “We try to give the fans what they want within reason,” said Query. “Obviously we can’t bring back Michael Jackson to perform.”

While the main focus of Moontower is the music, the festival also serves up some of the best in local food vendors from throughout the bluegrass including Red State BBQ, Crank & Boom ice cream, Rolling Oven pizza, and The Gastro Gnomes.

Tickets for Moontower Music Festival are normally $49, but you can currently save $20 on online ticket purchases by entering the code “moontower20” at checkout over at moontowermusicfestival.com.

On-site parking at the festival is an additional $3, with downtown shuttle passes available for $5. The event is rain or shine and dog friendly, with all proceeds benefitting Lexington’s Central Music Academy.

Gates open for Moontower 2016 at 11 a.m. on August 27 at Masterson Station Park, with Richmond band No Fences, the winners of 100.1 FM WKQQ’s Decent Exposure band competition, kicking off an action packed day of music at 11:30 a.m.

Young guns Johnny Conqueroo will follow at noon, just as the sun reaches its zenith, culminating with the moon lighting up the night sky during the evening’s closing performance by Manchester Orchestra.

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Moontower Music Festival’s 2016 lineup.
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