Kentucky Derby 140: Musical run-up to the race features a field worth noting

Contributing Music WriterApril 26, 2014 

Where but in Louisville can you preface an event as mammoth as the Kentucky Derby with two country stars and a Zombie?

Then again, in the week leading up to Saturday's 140th running of the Derby, Louisville hosts all kinds of musical extremes, from retro funk to acoustic metal to intimate Americana and more. It all peaks with a full Derby Eve dance card that features a free outdoor concert with American Idol-bred country celeb Scotty McCreery, a pricey indoor party with Kentucky-born country vet Wynonna Judd and a sold-out amphitheater outing with the usually Halloween-themed Rob Zombie.

Here is what you can expect from all of the far-reaching sounds hitting Louisville during Derby Week.

We Came as Romans, Ari, Sounds Like a Lawsuit. The week begins and ends on a high volume note. The metal-esque sextet We Came as Romans is a Troy, Mich., band with a double guitarist/double vocalist lineup. The best band name of the bill, though, goes to opening act Sounds Like a Lawsuit. (7:30 p.m. April 28. The Vernon Club, 1575 Story Ave. $18. (502) 584-8460.

The Ohio Players, Lakeside. It's hard to say who leads the '70s funk/soul troupe Ohio Players (of Fire and Love Rollercoaster fame) these days, as many of its founding members are dead. But nearly everyone in the pop/R&B ensemble Lakeside (Fantastic Voyage) sports tenures of 35 to 45 years. Both bands were formed in the Dayton, Ohio, area. (8 p.m. April 29. Waterfront Park, 129 E. River Rd. Free with $5 Pegasus pin. (502) 574-3768.

Jay Farrar with Gary Hunt, Peter Bruntnell. With Americana fave Son Volt on hiatus, founder/chieftain Jay Farrar is hitting the road for a series of duo dates with band co-guitarist Gary Hunt. That means a repertoire that could stretch back to Farrar's Uncle Tupelo days and forward to previews of new works. British songsmith Peter Bruntnell opens. (7:30 p.m. April 30. Clifton Center, 2117 Payne St. $23. (502) 896-8480.

Sevendust. In honor of its 20th anniversary, the Atlanta metal-and-more band is going to internalize its intensity. Its concert at the new Mercury Ballroom is part of an all-acoustic tour designed to promote Time Travelers and Bonfires, an album that mixes unplugged takes on early material with six new songs. (8:30 p.m. April 30. Mercury Ballroom, 611 S. Fourth St. $25. Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or

Sam Roberts Band, Leagues. Quebec guitarist/songsmith Roberts and his band have been top-selling sensations in Canada for more than a decade. Now the new album Lo-Fantasy is extending the band's popularity beyond those borders. Leagues, a new trio featuring the fine Nashville songsmith Thad Cockrell, will complete the bill. (7 p.m. April 30. Waterfront Park. Free with $5 Pegasus pin. (502) 574-3768.

The Fray, The Mowglis. The Denver-based Fray took the rock out of the Rockies to win an international following with pop-driven singles like Over My Head (Cable Car) and the chart-toping How to Save a Life. The quartet is touring behind its fourth album, Helios. Also on the bill is the West Coast alt-pop troupe The Mowglis. (8 p.m. May 1. Waterfront Park. Free with $5 Pegasus pin. (502) 574-3768.

Waterfront Jam featuring Scotty McCreery, Cassadee Pope, Steve Holy. Two of these three country-pop artists have TV to thank for their careers. McCreery, 20, won the 10th season of American Idol; Pope, 24, took top honors at the end of the third season on The Voice. At 42, Holy is the elder of the bill but is perhaps the least established of the three. (6:30 p.m. May 2. Waterfront Park. Free with $5 Pegasus pin. (502) 574-3768.

Fillies & Lillies Party featuring Wynonna Judd. Get out your wallets, mates. Getting to see Kentucky native Wynonna is going to cost you. The mortgage payment-size ticket price includes amenities such as an open bar and a bourbon lounge. But the appeal understandably centers on having the Ashland-born singer back for a Derby Eve gala. (7:30 p.m. May 2. Kentucky Derby Museum, 704 Central Ave. $599. 1-888-596-6277.

Rob Zombie, Disco Death Rock. Now this is what you call a Derby Party: an evening with pop-metal entrepreneur Zombie. This is no Walking Dead parade, mind you. A Zombie concert approximates what Alice Cooper did in the '70s. It discovers a balance between serious guitar rock immediacy and a performance stance that is essentially vaudeville, only bloodier. (8 p.m. May 2. Iroquois Amphitheater, 1080 Amphitheater Rd. Sold out. (502) 368-5865.

Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at

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