Like a fine bourbon, venerable stars highlight Louisville fest’s lineup

Via Lexington Herald Leader

Photo by Jody Rogac

By Walter Tunis

Bourbon and Beyond

11 a.m. Sept. 22, 23 at Champions Park, 2050 River Rd. in Louisville. $90-$500. bourbonandbeyond.com

There is a certain irony in the fact that one of the summer’s last large-scale music festivals takes place this year on the first calendar day of autumn. Then again, calling Bourbon and Beyond a music festival in the first place is somewhat misleading. After all, look what the event’s title promotes ahead of everything else. Even the advertising slogan tells you what to expect and in what order of priority: “A perfect blend of bourbon, food and music.”

For our purposes, we will politely refer you to the event’s website, bourbonandbeyond.com, to fill you in on the bourbon distillers and food vendors that will be out in force for Bourbon and Beyond’s sophomore outing this weekend. What we will focus on here is the Beyond: specifically, the live music.

John Mayer and Sting will headline extensive Saturday and Sunday rosters, respectively, that will play out on three different stages.

That’s all well and fine, but it’s the supporting sounds that distinguish this year’s Bourbon and Beyond. In fact, each night sports an honored rock elder performing just before the headliner. Both artists will be making their first Louisville appearance since 2013.

Saturday’s bill features David Byrne, who last appeared in a collaborative setting with St. Vincent at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. Byrne is still touring like mad with his 11 member, unanchored, barefooted and gray suited band along with a setlist that blends tunes from his recent “American Utopia” album, lesser known solo career songs and a wide array of Talking Heads hits and obscurities. At Cincinnati’s PNC Pavilion last month, the 66-year-old Byrne displayed tireless vocal and physical vigor. This is the single-most-essential set to catch all weekend.

Similarly, Sunday brings Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters back to Louisville. Having performed with the band in its formative stages at the 2013 Forecastle festival, Plant has since released two sublime records — 2014’s “Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar” and 2017’s “Carry Fire.” Both cater to the quieter but still potent extremes of a now-70-year-old voice that, decades earlier, fronted the dynasty band Led Zeppelin. Newer Plant music, though, dips, into more discreetly intense shades of folk, psychedelia and, yes, rock ‘n’ roll.

Want more? How about Lenny Kravitz, Sheryl Crow, Brian Setzer, Keb’ Mo’ and JJ Grey and Mofro on Saturday with Counting Crows, Gov’t Mule, The Del McCoury Band, The Magpie Salute and Kentucky’s own Ben Sollee on Sunday. Check the festival website for the full day-long performance schedules.

While Bourbon and Beyond limits itself to a two night run at Champions Park, the festival weekend actually kicks off on Friday night (Sept. 21) with a tie-in concert at Louisville’s Iroquois Amphitheater by St. Paul and the Broken Bones, the Alabama rock and soul army that never seems to be too far from Kentucky when a festival is brewing. (8 p.m., $15-$40). For tickets, go to iroquoisamphitheater.com .

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