By Matt Wickstrom
Article originally appeared in the Kentucky Kernel.
Headed into it’s fourth year, the 2017 Moonshiner’s Ball looks to be the festival’s biggest and most ambitious production yet, with Con Brio, Lydia Loveless and The Marcus King Band serving as headlining musical acts for Kentucky’s emerging underground music festival.
Con Brio is a band out of San Francisco led by Ziek McCarter on vocals, who has drawn comparisons to Michael Jackson and James Brown in the past for his soothing voice, masterful dance moves and contagious stage presence. McCarter is backed by a full band that matches his energy with a commanding funk and soul flare.
Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Lydia Loveless too comes equipped with a boisterous stage persona along with a rockabilly sound and down to earth songs about life’s troubles, removing a mask that people tuned in to her music hadn’t seen before. Her latest record, 2016’s ‘Real’, has drawn widespread acclaim, including from The Rolling Stone, who listed ‘Real’ in their 40 best country albums of the year.
Greenville, South Carolina’s The Marcus King Band is led by 20-year-old guitar prodigy Marcus King, who’s backed by a full band that takes after southern rock icons Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes with his raspy voice and fingers of fire picking the guitar. King and company released their second full-length, self-titled record in 2016 to rave reviews, much like Loveless. The record was produced by Haynes and features an appearance from legendary icon Derek Trucks.
Rounding out the out-of-state artists for the 2017 Moonshiner’s Ball are Margaret Glaspy, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Blackfoot Gypsies, Dawg Yawp, Golden Dawn Arkestra, Jon Stickley Trio, Lil’ Smokies and That 1 Guy.
A strong cast of Kentucky musicians will put their stamp on the festival as well, led by Vandaveer, an indie rock outfit based in Louisville and the brainchild of Mark Charles Heidinger. Fresh off bringing home first place in the iconic Rockygrass Bluegrass Festival band competition in Colorado over the summer, The Wooks will bring their fierce picking and progressive bluegrass to the Moonshiner’s Ball along with country artist and Paintsville native Tyler Childers. Rounding out Kentucky-bred talent at the festival will be Louisville’s Nellie Pearl and Lexington’s Johnny Conqueroo.
Through his countless time spent scouring Spotify and attending shows to scout bands non-stop, Travis Young, festival organizer and banjo player for the hosts of the Ball, the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers, expressed concern in stirring up excitement for the festival, but insisted that while the artists on board may not be household names yet, he feels confident that “people who attend the Ball walk away with a new favorite band or two.”
“Part of the energy that a band creates is what the audience gives them back in return,” said Young. “When you have that going between both sides it creates for some incredible moments.”
Year four will also see the Moonshiner’s Ball move from its home at Homegrown Hideaways to The Jenkin’s Family Farm in Red Lick Valley in Irvine. The new site is only a 15-minute drive from the old festival location, but features a flatter and more open landscape for the organizers working behind the scenes to let their creativity flow.
Much like August’s Moontower Music Festival, the Moonshiner’s Ball will feature two main stages alternating with constant music. According to Young, one of the stages will be engulfed in a giant tent while the other will be out under the blue sky and bright stars.
The Moonshiner’s Ball is May 19-21. Full weekend passes are currently at their tier one price of $100, including fees. Once tickets sell out at that price point they will move to tier two at $110 per ticket and so on. Remaining artists added to the lineup, along with children’s activities and VIP ticketing info will be announced at a further date. For more information, visit themoonshinersball.com.
- Con Brio (San Francisco, CA)
- Lydia Loveless (Columbus, OH)
- The Marcus King Band (Greenville, SC)
- Margaret Glaspy (Red Bluff, CA)
- Vandaveer (Louisville, KY)
- Aaron Lee Tasjan (Nashville, TN)
- Blackfoot Gypsies (Nashville, TN)
- Dawg Yawp (Cincinnati, OH)
- Golden Dawn Arkestra (Austin, TX)
- Johnny Conqueroo (Lexington, KY)
- Jon Stickley Trio (Asheville, NC)
- The Lil’ Smokies (Missoula, MT)
- Nellie Pearl (Louisville, KY)
- That 1 Guy (Las Vegas, NV)
- Tyler Childers (Paintsville, KY)
- The Wooks (Lexington, KY)