Music News & Reviews

Derby’s ridiculously diverse prelude, from retro rap to metal mariachi

Rapper Kurtis Blow performed at the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation's concert in New York in 2014. Blow will be performing with Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Dee as part of the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Fest-a-Ville.
Rapper Kurtis Blow performed at the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation's concert in New York in 2014. Blow will be performing with Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Dee as part of the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Fest-a-Ville. Scott Roth/Invision/AP

Just how far ranging should the music inhabiting Louisville venues be in the days before the Kentucky Derby? Well, get your scorecards. We’re going to run it all down.

There will be vintage hip hop, a rootsy pop reinvention, a new generational Southern voice for rock ‘n’ roll, country, bluegrass and indie rock. Shoot, there will even be metal-savvy mariachi music. And here you thought the Derby was only about a two-minute horse race.

Here’s a look at 10 ridiculously diverse concerts designed to ignite Derby Week.

May 2: Sugarhill Gang/Grandmaster Dee/Kurtis Blow. Waterfront Park. Part of Kentucky Derby Festival’s Fest-a-Ville (8 p.m., Free with $6 Pegasus Pin). 1-800-928-3378. kdf.org. It’s remarkable to think the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” the first hip hop single to break Billboard magazine’s Top 100 chart, is now 38 years old. The trio’s current tour sports two original members, Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright and Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien. The other founder, Henry “Hen Dogg” Williams, died in 2014.

May 2: Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox. Mercury Ballroom, 611 S. 4th St. (8 p.m., $35). 502-583-4555. mercuryballroom.com. Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” done as a torchy blues reflection? Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” recast as a ‘50s-style rock ‘n’ roll romp? Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” as a brassy soul confessional? That’s the unique but quite serious mission of this immensely entertaining New York troupe, which records with a rotating cast of vocalists.

May 3: Drive-By Truckers/Frederick the Younger, Waterfront Park. Part of Kentucky Derby Festival’s Fest-a-Ville (8 p.m., Free with $6 Pegasus Pin). 1-800-928-3378. kdf.org. For more than two decades, the Athens, Ga.-bred Truckers have been reinventing the notion of Southern rock. Instead of flag-waving, rebel-rousing jingoism, guitarist/songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley question their culture while embracing it. As a live act, though, the Truckers rock with earnest, unsentimental might.

May 4: Jimmy Eat World/Colony House, Waterfront Park. Part of Kentucky Derby Festival’s Fest-a-Ville (8 p.m., Free with $6 Pegasus Pin). 1-800-928-3378. kdf.org. Hailing from Mesa, Ariz., Jimmy Eat World hit it big with the release of 2001’s “Bleed American” album and the four Top 20 singles that came from it. With a lineup intact since 1995, the band is currently touring behind its 2016 album “Integrity Blues.”

May 4: Lee Brice. Fourth Street Live, 400 S. 4th St. (8 p.m., $5, $10), 502-584-7170. 4thstlive.com. Country star Brice is no stranger to the region, having played with Luke Bryan at Rupp Arena and several featured sets at Red, White & Boom. The South Carolina-born singer’s hits include “I Drive Your Truck” and “Drinking Class.” Another single, “Boy” will likely get added to that list upon its release in May. The song previews a forthcoming new album, Brice’s first since 2014’s “I Don’t Dance.”

May 4: Town Mountain. Zanzabar, 2100 S. Preston. (9 p.m. $12, $15). 502-635-9227. zanzabarlouisville.ticketfly.com. We’re not sure how Town Mountain fares in Louisville, but Lexington crowds have watched the North Carolina bluegrass troupe grow over the past six years from a near unknown to a headlining act at major outdoor events like the Festival of the Bluegrass and the Breeders’ Cup Festival. Louisville snagged the band for a Thursday gig, but the Mountain moves back to Lexington for a Derby Eve date at Cosmic Charlie’s.

May 5: Dashboard Confessional. Fourth Street Live, 400 S. 4th St. (7 p.m., $10), 502-584-7170. 4thstlive.com. A retiree haven like Boca Raton might not seem like a rock Metropolis, but it served as a meeting ground for the members of Dashboard Confessional. Oddly enough, the quartet — still fronted by vocalist/songsmith Chris Carrabba — essentially went into retirement in 2011. Carrabba and bassist Scott Schoenbeck brought on two new members when Dashboard Confessional reformed in 2015.

May 5: Wax Fang/Brenda and Billy Nelson. Headliners Music Hall, 1386 Lexington Rd. (8:30 p.m., $12, $15). 502-584-8088. headlinerslouisville.com. This Derby Eve outing honors one of Louisville’s own. The pop experimentalist troupe Wax Fang started out in 2005 and slowly gained national attention (along with a steady stream of Lexington dates). For this outing, mainstay members Scott Carney and Jacon Heustis will be celebrating the release of Wax Fang’s new “Victory Laps” album.

May 5: Derby Eve Jam featuring Gryffin, Waterfront Park. Part of Kentucky Derby Festival’s Fest-a-Ville (9 p.m., Free with $6 Pegasus Pin). 1-800-928-3378. kdf.org. The annual Derby Eve Jam will be overseen by noted New York DJ, multi-instrumentalist producer and house music stylist Dan Griffith, known professionally as Gryffin. Having remixed singles for numerous artists, most notably Maroon 5’s “Animals,” Gryffin has also charted several tunes of his own, including “Whole Heart” and “Feel Good.”

May 5: Metalachi. Zanzabar, 2100 S. Preston. (9 p.m. $10). 502-635-9227. http://zanzabarlouisville.ticketfly.com. What happens when the running of the Kentucky Oaks coincides with Cinco de Mayo? You have Cinco de MayOaks, the name of the celebration that marks the return of Metalachi, the band born, according to its bio, “in a Super Ocho motor lodge in Veracruz.” Seriously, though, these guys specialize in mariachi versions of songs by Metallica, Van Halen, Guns ‘N Roses and more.

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