Music News & Reviews

Derby Week music in Louisville

At 71, George Clinton is going strong. He is to perform with Parliament-Funkadelic, known widely as P-Funk, on Tuesday at Waterfront Park.
At 71, George Clinton is going strong. He is to perform with Parliament-Funkadelic, known widely as P-Funk, on Tuesday at Waterfront Park.

The math never really adds up at Kentucky Derby time.

One event — one massive event, mind you — that lasts about two minutes versus weeks of promotion and pandemonium, the final four days of which are devoted to one of the most concentrated and diverse runs of concerts Louisville presents all year. No, none of it adds up in any conventional sense. But since when has there been anything conventional about Derbytime?

Starting Tuesday, Louisville rolls out the live music in a big way with free shows (well, almost free), club shows and outdoor shows spotlighting funk, rock, pop, cowpunk-bred Americana and more.

Here, then, here are the sounds that will keep Louisville rocking during the week until post time rolls around on Derby Day.The "free" performances at Water front Park are presentations of the Kentucky Derby Festival and require a 2012 Pegasus pin ($5) for admission. Also, the usual outdoor concert rules apply here: no coolers, bottles, cans or pets. For more info, go to

The ticketed shows come with a bonus: a roof over your head. Given that Derby Week seldom slips by without a downpour at some point, a little shelter might prove to be a plus.

All shows are in Louisville.


George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. Still one of the most revered figures in funk music, Clinton, 71, remains the pilot of the Parliament-Funkadelic mothership. Combining the sci-fi soul-pop hits of Parliament (Flashlight) with the more psychedelic inclined jams of Funkadelic (Maggot Brain), Clinton's funk caravan is guaranteed to get Derby Week up on the good foot. (9 p.m. Waterfront Park, 129 E. River Rd. Free with Pegasus pin.)

Buckcherry, Red Light King. After a pair of recent Rupp Arena concerts, first as a headliner, then as a show opener for Nickelback, Buckcherry takes to the more intimate confines of Phoenix Hill. With a pair of co- founding members still in charge (singer Josh Todd and guitarist Keith Nelson), Buckcherry will showcase Wherever I Go, a new tune from the soundtrack to The Avengers. (8 p.m. Phoenix Hill Tavern, 644 Baxter Ave. $40. (502) 636-0405.


Walk the Moon, Ha Ha Tonka. Indie rock moves to center stage Wednesday with a free double bill by Cincinnati popsters Walk the Moon, which scored regional airplay for the song Anna Sun, and the rootsier, Missouri-bred Ha Ha Tonka. The latter's rustic Americana sound might well steal the show. (7 p.m. Waterfront Park. Free with Pegasus pin.)

Blackberry Smoke. Fresh from an opening set at Eric Church's concert last weekend at Rupp Arena come the Atlanta rockers of Blackberry Smoke. Bridging the gap between Zac Brown Band-style electric country and vintage Molly Hatchett-inspired Southern rock, Blackberry Smoke is touring behind a new concert DVD, Live at the Georgia Theatre. (8 p.m. Jim Porter's, 2345 Lexington Rd. $15. (502) 452-9531.


Awolnation. This Aaron Bruno-led Los Angeles ensemble has a preference for pop that shifts from indie ingenuity to retro-savvy lyricism. The band's Styx-flavored song Sail has earned the most media attention, although Awolnation's songs have been featured on TV episodes of The Good Wife, Sons of Anarchy and House. (9 p.m. Waterfront Park. Free with Pegasus pin.)

Foxy Shazam. Cincinnati strikes again. Our neighbor to the north is responsible for this glammed-up rock brigade. With abundant shades of Freddie Mercury in the singing of Eric Sean Nally and a performance flamboyance that recalls the height of 1970s glitter rock, Foxy Shazam's songs, including Wanna-Be Angel, suggest a party that the Queen City would be proud to send into the world. (8 p.m. Phoenix Hill Tavern. $15.)


Derby Eve Jam: The Charlie Daniels Band, The Hilltoppers. As one of the last original Southern rock pioneers, fiddler/guitarist/ vocalist Daniels, 75, has played Louisville venues for more than 35 years. He hasn't scored a major radio hit in some time, but Daniels' 70s-era singles (The Devil Went Down to Georgia, The South's Gonna Do It Again, in particular) remain the generational link between vintage Southern rock and modern country. (8 p.m. Waterfront Park. Free with Pegasus pin.)

Lit. Headlining Phoenix Hill's annual "Mother of All Derby Eve Concerts" is the California band Lit. It hit big in 1999 with the platinum-selling album A Place in the Sun and the radio hit My Own Worst Enemy. Emblematic of West Coast rock that surfaced in the wake of grunge, Lit continues the charge in 2012 with its first album in eight years, The View From the Bottom. (7 p.m. Phoenix Hill Tavern. $20.)

Old 97s, Sam Roberts Band, The County Line. This might just turn out to be Derby week's true not-to-miss show. Ever since they showed up in Lexington as unknowns during the mid-'90s at the defunct Lynagh's Music Club, Old 97s have balanced cowpunk spunk and power-pop charm. The band's recent albums for the New West label, including 2011's fine The Grand Theatre: Volume Two, shows that Rhett Miller and company still have the rock and pop smarts to jump-start Derby Eve. (9 p.m. Headliners Music Hall, 1386 Lexington Rd. $15 advance, $18 day of show. (502) 584-8088.