It all began with a chicken-or-the-egg scenario.
In the case of the long-running Lexington bluegrass, jam and groove band known as Blind Corn Liquor Pickers, it centered on a project that would define the band's music and the community of fans and fellow artists who have helped it thrive. Of course, there was also the matter of financing.
So which came first? Actually, the financing did.
The Liquor Pickers went with the popular online crowd-funding platform Kickstarter. With a means of getting the project off the ground, what would the project actually be? A new album? A regional tour?
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No, what Liquor Pickers banjoist Travis Young envisioned was the band's own festival. Thus, The Moonshiner's Ball was born. The event has its inaugural run this weekend at Homegrown Hideaways in Berea.
"We had the idea collectively as a band of running a Kickstarter, but we couldn't agree on what we wanted it to be," Young said. "It's nice to ask everyone to help you make a CD. There's value in that. But I just felt a festival was a win-win for everyone. So we ran the Kickstarter for the event and went about 150 percent on it. The target was $5,000. We ended up getting over $8,000. We were well on our way at that point.
"We've been playing music in this area for probably 12 years now as Blind Corn Liquor Pickers. We've toured a fair amount and have gotten to know a lot of musicians across the state and across the region. So in many ways this was the perfect format for being able to bring together this community that has formed around our music — be it the people who have come out to our shows or other musicians we have played with and collaborated with."
There is plenty of kinship in that community, too. The Liquor Pickers' original frontman, Todd Anderson, went on to form the Paducah band Solid Rock'it Boosters, which will perform at the Ball. Anderson also served in the rural roots-savvy Legendary Shack Shakers, whose founder, J.D. Wilkes, will be on hand this weekend with his current swamp rock troupe, the Dirt Daubers.
Closer to home comes former Lexingtonian Mark Heidinger, better known nationally as folk stylist Vandaveer. His connection with Young is as personal as it is musical.
"Vandaveer is an interesting pick because Mark is an old college buddy of mine. We both went to Transy. I played basketball with Mark in the backyard when he was still in high school."
But Young, who serves as producer for The Moonshiner's Ball, said the scope of the festival goes beyond a roster of like-minded artists and friends. He hopes it can grow into an event where local, national and regional acts can be presented, and appreciated, equally.
"When we play a show at Al's Bar, which is pretty much our home base, we can look out from the stage and recognize all these faces," he said. "These are people we know primarily through the band. They're family to us. So the idea of taking the community and expanding it is very appealing.
"But the big-picture goal is to spotlight Kentucky bands. That wouldn't be exclusive. I would love to have great national touring acts play the festival someday. But I would still like to put them side by side with Kentucky artists. There is talent here that equals anything anywhere, so let's showcase it."