Music News & Reviews

Moonshiners Ball remakes itself in a new home at a new time. Will the rain follow?

The 2017 Moonshiner’s Ball was at Jenkins Farm in Irvine. The 2018 edition will be at Rockcastle Riverside in Livingston, Sept. 12 to 14.
The 2017 Moonshiner’s Ball was at Jenkins Farm in Irvine. The 2018 edition will be at Rockcastle Riverside in Livingston, Sept. 12 to 14.

In explaining the prospective demographics for the 2018 Moonshiners Ball — in particular, the number of returnee patrons that took in the Central Kentucky music festival over its four previous years versus the anticipated turnout of newcomers this weekend — Travis Young makes a comparison that might be more appropriate than he realizes.

“Right now, about half of the people coming to us are stalwarts who come out every year while half of them are new to the Moonshiners Ball. It’s interesting because we are asking people, to some degree, to come out and trust how we present the music that we’ve curated. We don’t have a Bourbon & Beyond-like budget where we can bring in acts everybody knows. Our formula is always the same. We put on a music program full of artists that are just as great as any artist out there on the circuit. They just may not have the name power yet.”

Granted, the very homey make-up of the Moonshiners Ball might seem a direct opposite of the high profile, high dollar, Louisville-based Bourbon & Beyond. But in the eyes of Mother Nature, they are equals. The entire second day of last month’s Bourbon & Beyond had to be scrapped at the last minute due to the unrelenting rains that hit during its opening day. That’s something Young can relate to.

Night time music at the 2016 Moonshiner’s Ball. Peter McDermott

Each of the Moonshiners Ball’s four previous years has had to contend with some level of rainy intrusion. It hasn’t been so intense or lasting as to cancel any portion of the event, as was the case with Bourbon & Beyond, but it became enough of an annoyance for the Moonshiners Ball to transform from a late spring festival to an early autumn summit.

“The weather really had everything to do with it,” said Young, the principal producer and organizer of the Moonshiners Ball, as well as a longstanding member of its host band, the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers.

“For the first four years, we were rained on every year, and it got progressively worse. We felt we had to move off of those dates to where, we hope, the weather will be kinder. So we decided to move to the fall.”

The time shift from mid-May time to October also came in conjunction with a physical move. This year’s Moonshiners Ball will play out at Rockcastle Riverside, an aptly named and newly constructed venue set up along the Rockcastle River in Livingston. It will be the third home for the Moonshiners Ball. It was staged at HomeGrown HideAways in Berea for three years before moving in 2017 to Red Lick Valley in Estill County.

The newly built Rockcastle Riverside will be the venue for the 2018 Moonshiner’s Ball. Photo provided

“When we heard about Rockcastle Riverside, it was still very much a work in progress,” Young said. “It was underway, but the stage wasn’t even built. The land was purchased, the concept was there, but that was about it at the time. When we talked to the owners about the possibility of having the Moonshiners Ball there, they were open to it and excited about it, but they knew they couldn’t pull the venue together until late August. So we decided we would push everything back and go from being the first festival of the season to the last festival of the season.”

Musically, the make-up of Moonshiners may be the most consistent aspect of the festival. Its performance roster remains a mixture of national touring acts (including this year’s headliner, veteran Texas songsmith James McMurtry) and homegrown favorites (The Wooks, Restless Leg String Band). For a full schedule, go to .

The Wooks’ rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” brought the Moonshiner’s Ball crowd to the stage in 2017 at Jenkins Farm in Irvine, Kentucky. Rich Copley

But what of Mother Nature? Does relocating to autumn mean the Moonshiners Ball will actually enjoy a dry year?

“I just take it for granted that we’re going to get rained on some,” Young said. “And that’s fine. We have a really hearty fanbase that has been through it all and doesn’t seem to be too intimidated by the weather.”

Read Next

Read Next

Read Next


Moonshiners Ball

Performing: James McMurtry, Turkuaz, Moon Hooch, The Wooks, Freekbass and others

When: Oct. 11-14

Where: Rockcastle Riverside, 4211 Lower River Road, Livingston

Tickets: $80-$120