Music News & Reviews

Moonshiner’s Ball delivers Kentucky cocktail of music, from bluegrass to rock

The Moonshiner’s Ball music festival will return to Rockcastle Riverside this weekend, with a diverse lineup of music.
The Moonshiner’s Ball music festival will return to Rockcastle Riverside this weekend, with a diverse lineup of music.

Moonshiner’s Ball

10 a.m. Oct. 11, 9 a.m. Oct. 12 and 11 a.m. Oct 13 at Rockcastle Riverside, 4211 Lower River Rd. in Livingston. 859-321-0903. $25-$140.

As the gates prepare to open for the sixth Moonshiner’s Ball, something has finally taken root – a home.

Shifts in location and calendar timing meant a recalculation of logistics for the Central Kentucky music festival. For Travis Young, the event’s chief organizer and a veteran member of its host band, the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers, 2019 marks one of the few times the festival hasn’t had to start from scratch.

“The last few years we moved, so we’ve been trying to crack the logistical code at every venue. Two years ago, we moved into a place in Irvine that hadn’t hosted a festival in some years. Then last year, we moved into a brand new venue (Rockcastle Riverside in Rockcastle County) that never had a festival before. So for us, it was a matter of trying to figure out how to make it all work and have the festival be what we wanted it to be.

“But this year, it was easier. All of that hard work had been done already. So instead of spending all our time trying to figure something out, we have time to make something more profound and add to something to the experience.”

With a roster in place heavy on local and regional acts (The Wooks, Senora May, Magnolia Boulevard) topped by a few notable national headliners (Tauk, Rayland Baxter, Lillie Mae), Young feels comfortable enough to not only call Rockcastle County home for the Moonshiner’s Ball but to view the gathering as standing tall amid an influx of newer festivals that have been launched in Kentucky this year.

“It’s a really challenging landscape right now. There have been a number of new festivals coming into Kentucky. At the top end, we’ve seen Railbird. Louisville has also added a full slate of giant corporate festivals. So you have those on top and all these local festivals with mostly Kentucky bands at the other end. We’re sort of in the middle. Our lineups have always highlighted Kentucky bands, and not just Kentucky bands from where the festival is. They may be from Lexington or Louisville or Western Kentucky featuring multiple genres.

“We’re not a festival that’s chock full of huge headlining names that everybody knows, though. We’re asking people to come out and trust that we’ll bring music we think they will love.”


11:30 p.m. Oct 12 at Moonshiners Ball (Main Stage) at Rockcastle Riverside, 4211 Lower River Rd. in Livingston. 859-321-0903. $45 (Saturday only), $140 (weekend pass).

As the New York quartet Tauk closes out the Main Stage music on Saturday for the Moonshiners Ball, a lot of different musical concepts will converge.

On one end is technology, via a bright, keyboard/guitar-rich ensemble sound that brings out the prog elements of the band’s all-instrumental music. At the other is groove, a percussive element underscoring jazz, hip-hop and jamming influences. Just don’t talk Tauk up as a conventional jam band.

“I tell people we’re an instrumental rock fusion band and beyond, a cross between The Roots and Pink Floyd,” said drummer Isaac Teel. “So there are a lot of nice hip-hop melodies going on there, but also rock and jazz fusion. There soul, there’s progressive rock. It’s the best marriage of instrumental rock.”

So where did Tauk’s musical matrix come from? For Teel, it all started in church.

“I grew up playing gospel music with my family. My family is very music oriented. My mom actually taught me how to play drums. My dad sings, my sister sings, I sing. My mom is an organist. We were the praise and worship team for my church for years, and I mean years. By the time I was 15, I had been playing music professionally for 10 years. I heard all the different kinds of music. There was a lot of soul, blues, R&B and hip hop. All those genres were there, ready be used in gospel music.”

This fall, Tauk continues to tour behind it’s 2018 studio album “Shapeshifter II: Outbreak,” a recording that furthers the technological slant of the band’s prog-inspired profile but with an approach often organic in execution. A comparison when listening to tunes like “Recreational Outrage” is the late ‘70s/early ‘80s music of the electronic band Tangerine Dream cut before its compositions became saturated in computerized sequencing and beats.

“I think that creative process has let us put forth something we can be proud of,” Teel said. “We’re not afraid to get to the point where we want to do something new with our music and be inspired by all the things that come out of that. We’re always open-minded. We’re always hungry. We’re trying to push the envelope as much as possible.”