Paul Thorn Band
7:30 p.m. May 4 at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort. $40-$65. 502-352-7469. Bluestraveler.com.
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As Derby doings commence in Louisville, check out a pair of recommended performances taking place between there and here — namely, Frankfort, and the final two 2016-17 season concerts at the always-exquisite Grand Theatre.
Friday night brings the return of the Paul Thorn Band, a regional Americana-and-more favorite for two decades. June will mark the 20th anniversary of “Hammer and Nail,” the debut album of the Wisconsin-born, Mississippi-reared songwriter. Elements of blues-imbued country are among the ingredients of Thorn’s songs, but so is an ample level of humor. The latter heavily fuels his most recent recording, “Too Blessed to Be Stressed,” released in 2014. Check out the tunes “I Backslide on Friday,” “Get You a Healin’” and the churchy, funk-fortified title tune for proof.
Speaking of anniversaries, the Grand will help celebrate another Thursday. The occasion is a performance of jam-band mainstay Blues Traveler, which turns 30 this year. The 1994 radio hit “Runaround” might be what many people associate with the groove-happy ensemble, but Blues Traveler has never been rooted in the past. Instead of celebrating its 30th anniversary with a retrospective album, the band is preparing to cut a collection of all-new songs this spring and summer for its 13th studio album, its first since the 2015 all-star collaboration outing, “Blow Up the Moon.”
As of this writing, both shows were nearing sell-out status. If you don’t have tickets, definitely call the Grand’s box office before making the journey to Frankfort.
Opening: Frederick the Younger. 8 p.m. May 3 at Waterfront Park, 401 River Road, Louisville. kdf.org.
How’s this for a one-two punch at the Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville? After the Great Steamboat Race on Wednesday pits the Belle of Cincinnati (last year’s victor) against the Belle of Louisville, Waterfront Park will come alive with an almost-free concert by Drive-By Truckers and Frederick the Younger.
We say almost free because admission will require a Pegasus pin, which is available for $6 at scores of Louisville businesses and $7 at the gate. The Pin will get you admission to numerous other Derby Festival events.
The Truckers have been concert favorites of Louisville and Lexington audiences for years, but there is perhaps no better time to catch them in performance then right now. The band is touring behind its fearsome 2016 album, “American Band,” which is truly a record of the times. They’re staunchly Southern in terms of inspiration and heritage, but the Truckers have never pandered to the ideals of “Southern rock.” The social, political and personal stance is wildly progressive and, at times, suitably dangerous within the songs of the Truckers’ two guitarist/vocalists, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley.
During a headlining set at last year’s Moontower Music Festival, the band ran through some of the more contentious rockers from “American Band” (which at the time was several weeks away from release), including Cooley’s militia men-turned-border guards saga “Ramon Casiano.” But it also revitalized a roster of works from the back catalog, as in the Clash-like revision of Hood’s 2008 confessional, “The Righteous Path.”
Louisville’s own Frederick the Younger will open. There are cruise packages for those who would like board either of the Belles during the Steamboat Race, but they are most decidedly not free. For information on them or any of the other festival events, go to KDF.org.
We will offer a roundup of Derby Week performances, several of which aren’t directly associated with the festival, in Sunday’s Living section.