By Matt Wickstrom
LEXINGTON, Ky. — It’s safe to say that there’s not many weaknesses in the musical lineup of the inaugural Railbird Festival, set to commence Aug. 10-11 on the grounds of Keeneland. Boasting a roster running deep with five Grammy winners — Jack White of The Raconteurs, Brandi Carlile, Old Crow Medicine Show, Mavis Staples and Lucinda Williams — performing alongside young startups firmly on their way to star-studded futures such as Tyler Childers, Billy Strings, Yola and Jade Bird there’s a bit of something for every type of music fan to get down to, and even more to discover.
Take a look below at BBT’s top 10 acts to keep an eye on at Railbird and start prepping your festival itinerary before the weekend hits. FESTIVAAAAAAAAAAAL!!!
One of the first (musical) horses out of the gate on the first day of Railbird will be Seattle-based ensemble The Dip. Combining old school R&B with 60’s soul, modern pop and vintage swing-like harmonies, the troupe casts a wide net, luring listeners in with a highly infectious and danceable groove. The group has been touring all year in support of their new album The Dip Delivers, and deliver they did, with an action-packed sophomore effort to follow 2015’s self-titled compilation.
The Dip will perform at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10 on the Elkhorn Stage at Railbird Festival.
Low Cut Connie
Adding a haymaker punch of intense, piano-driven rock ‘n roll to Saturday of Railbird will be Philadelphia-based outfit Low Cut Connie. Led by front man Adam Weiner, the band has been widely regarded as one of the top live acts on today’s music circuit, with the band’s shows full of piano leaps, crowd surfs and other unexpected twists and turns. Low Cut Connie even has the approval of President Barack Obama, who included “Boozophilia” from the band’s 2012 album Call Me Sylvia on his summer 2015 playlist.
Low Cut Connie will perform at 3:15 p.m. on Aug. 10 on the Elkhorn Stage at Railbird Festival.
The fiery picking and signature howl of Michigander Billy Strings are sure to bring the Railbird crowd to a fever pitch when he takes the stage. The young, up-and-coming guitar fiend has cut his teeth quite a bit in Kentucky already, becoming a regular performer in the last handful of years at ROMP Fest in Owensboro in addition to selling out shows at The Burl in Lexington and performing at Terrapin Hill in Harrodsburg in 2017. Known for his easy going yet energized persona, Strings — born William Apostol — mashes together rock and punk influences with old-time bluegrass and tripped-out jamgrass for sound that pulls from many different musical boxes without fitting squarely into a single one itself. Following his 2017 full-length debut Turmoil & Tinfoil Strings and company have lived on the road, building up a rowdy and devout fan base that’s already foaming at the mouth for the artist’s next new batch of tunes Home, due out Sept. 27 on Rounder Records.
Billy Strings will take to The Burl stage at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 10 at Railbird Festival.
Back from a 10-year hiatus with their new, chart-topping album Help Us Stranger are The Raconteurs, set to headline and close out Saturday at Railbird with a bang. Led by musical wizard Jack White (The White Stripes), the band’s latest effort marks a return to the darker and heavier rock origins from 2006’s Broken Boy Soldiers, bursting at the seams with old school blues rock and Zeppelin-esque influences. Joining White in the modern day rock supergroup are Brendan Benson, Cincinnati’s Patrick Keeler (The Greenhornes, The Afghan Whigs) and Covington, Ky., native Jack Lawrence.
The Raconteurs will perform on the Limestone Stage at 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 10 at Railbird Festival.
Bringing Railbird to church early Sunday afternoon will be the powerful soul-soaked country sounds of Yola. The English born artist has been on a tear in 2019, releasing her debut album Walk Through Fire on Dan Auerbach’s (The Black Keys) Easy Eye Sound label in addition to earning nominations for Emerging Artist of the Year and Album of the Year at the upcoming Americana Music Awards in Nashville on Sept. 11. Even more recently, the artist shared the stage last month at Newport Folk Festival with fellow Railbird performers Brandi Carlile and Jade Bird along with a handful of other badass women led by Dolly Parton.
Yola will perform on the Limestone Stage at 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 11 at Railbird Festival.
West Virginia based alt-folk collective Ona will bring the shimmering sounds of their new, highly touted album Full Moon, Heavy Light to Sunday afternoon of Railbird. The project, released on Tyler Childers’ Hickman Holler Records, is a tripped-out endeavor of easygoing rock ripe with spaced out jams, cascading guitars and hook-filled melodies lined with a subtle southern twang making for the perfect summer soundtrack. The album was produced by Drew Vandenburg, who’s previous work includes Stella Donnelly, Drive By Truckers, Of Montreal, Deerhunter and fellow Railbird artist Futurebirds.
Ona will perform at 12:45 p.m. on Aug. 11 at Railbird Festival on The Burl Stage.
Kelsey Waldon, a Western Kentucky native and the first artist to sign to John Prine’s Oh Boy Records in 15 years, will bring her sincere honky tonk tales of struggle and triumph to day two of Railbird. The artist recently announced the impending Oct. 4 release of her first album in three years and Oh Boy debut White Noise/White Lines, at the same time revealing the project’s first single “Anyhow,” a story of feeling lost in your life journey but continuing to push forward despite your doubts until you find what you’ve been longing or striving for. The song is in reference to Waldon’s own musical pursuits, which saw her juggling school and a full-time job while playing gigs before catching her big break.
Waldon will take to The Burl Stage at 2 p.m. on Aug. 11 at Railbird Festival.
Bringing a deceptive jolt to the steamy mid-day hours of Railbird’s second day will be the Northumberland, England, born and London-raised Jade Bird. Fronting a warm and charming demeanor that can quickly be channeled into a screeching fury, Bird has quickly illustrated her powerful and raw talent following the release of her debut, self-titled album in April. One of BBT’s biggest surprises from an action-packed weekend on the mountains at FloydFest, Jade Bird is sure to bring some of that same mountaintop magic to Keeneland this weekend.
Jade Bird will bring her siren songs to the Elkhorn Stage at Railbird Festival at 2:45 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 11.
Helping to push Railbird Festival around the corner and down the final stretch on Sunday will be Fruit Bats, a Chicago-based group responsible for being one of the pioneers of the early 2000’s folk rock movement. The project is the brainchild Eric D. Johnson, featuring a shifting lineup around the artist’s warm and melodic storytelling similar to that of Hiss Golden Messenger. The group is coming off the release of their newest album Gold Past Life, their first on Merge Records, which sees the continuation of Johnson’s introspective and poetic songwriting coupled with infectious grooves akin to Dr. Dog.
Fruits Bats will perform on the Burl Stage at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 11 at Railbird Festival.
Sending Sunday into a frenzy at Railbird will be local hero turned international star Tyler Childers. Railbird will be the next step in what’s been a dream-like last two years for the Lawrence County born songsmith with the release of two groundbreaking and charting albums in 2017’s Purgatory and the newly minted Country Squire along with countless sold out shows performed around the country (and world) with more to come that include appearances at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, the Grand Ole Opry and most recently Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The show will bring the action packed last two years for Childers full circle as he performs to a crowd filled with many of his earliest fans, those who can recall seeing him at local dives and holes in the wall around Central and Eastern Kentucky before he got his break, realizing then the talent in front of them before it morphed into a movement that has shaken the foundation of modern country music and put all eyes (and ears) on the sweet sounds emanating from the hollers of Eastern Kentucky.
The circumstances surrounding Childers’ return to Lexington are eerily similar to that leading into his 2017 performance at Moontower Music Festival, which marked the artist’s first Kentucky show since returning from his first nationwide tour in support of his (then) new album Purgatory. Childers closed out that show with a rousing rendition of “White House Road,” in which he finished the song with the altered lines “It’s a damn good feeling to be back home.” After the Aug. 2 release of his new album Country Squire along with recent appearances at FloydFest and Aug. 6 on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon it’s safe to say Childers, and his fans, will be happier than ever to have him back in Kentucky come Sunday evening.
Childers will perform on Railbird’s Limestone Stage at 7:45 p.m. on Aug. 11.
For more info visit RailbirdFest.com.
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