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Third Annual Bourbon & Beyond Rocks the KY Expo Center

When you think of the ideal “good time” what comes to mind? One might describe it as a relaxing time by a crackling fire, reading a book and sipping on your favorite wine. However, that is not ours! We like curling up to a good band with a wide selection of bourbons on two massive stages deep in the core of Louisville Kentucky. That’s just what we did at this year's Bourbon And Beyond! The fantastic people at Danny Wimmer Presents put together an all-star lineup and one I will never forget! It was a hot one in Louisville this year, but we didn’t let that stop us from seeing all there was to see. From the speakeasy’s to the endless food possibilities, all the way to the countless performances that this year's festival provided for its fans. We are going to take you on a ride from the festival experience itself such as; book signings, dancing, drinks, interviews, just about anything you thought you knew about a festival, then we’re going to take you deeper so you can remember and hopefully be inspired to join us next year!

Day One:

Right out of the gate we were met at the entrance with smiles and laughter as fans poured into the grounds at the KY Expo Center in Beautiful Louisville Kentucky! It wasn’t long before everyone made their way to grab a spirit, find their favorite artists merch, even some fried chicken and head over to the Oak Stage to be greeted by the first artist of the day Pearl! To my knowledge, there aren’t many people who can say they have such a huge musical family as does Pearl, with her father being the infamously amazing Meat Loaf and we can’t even begin to explain how historic he is. Pearl Aday is also married to guitarist and legend Scott Ian of the band Anthrax. Being the first artist to step on the stage can be a daunting task unless your name is Pearl, in which case this wasn’t an issue for the amazing singer and songwriter. She showed us all what it meant to perform for a sell out type crowd. Opening her set with such powerful tenacity, it’s no wonder she was asked to play this year’s festival! We were fortunate to sit down with Pearl Aday after her set to catch up and get to know the powerhouse behind the music.

Interview: Pearl Aday

Circling back to earlier when I said “curling up to some nice bourbon or whiskey” let’s just discuss something for a second. Metallica has their own whiskey. Close your eyes and keep repeating that over and over in your head. “Metallica has their own whiskey”. Open your eyes and picture what that looks like and then go find the actual whiskey and rock out to the worlds new favorite Blackened. I was fortunate enough to sit down with the new Master Distiller of Blackened, Rob Dietrich, to find out what is makes their whiskey special and stand out from the rest.

Interview: Blackened Master Distiller Rob Dietrich

Walking around the massive festival grounds your senses will be heightened by the smells of gourmet food and the fresh pour of your favorite spirits. Everywhere you walk you were met with smiling faces and storied stages that were beckoning you to come up and watch the show. Even if you’d never heard of whoever was performing at the time, it didn’t matter because every single artist was tearing it up! As the day progressed a living legend took to the Oak Stage. Joan Jett and The Blackhearts! Joan Jett has more than made her rounds on the festival circuit as of late, moreover she has made her rounds in and out of the hearts of millions of music fans since the 70’s with her first band the infamous Runaways. Ever evolving her art and legacy Jett was ready to show Louisville kick ass time, opening her show with Victim Of “Circumstance”. Fans cried and cheered alongside of a record crowd on day one. However Joan Jett was just the tip of a very large iceberg. Nobody gave a damn about a bad reputation, and this wasn’t going to stop us all yet. There were more times to come.

How do you follow Joan Jett? How can you step up the game? You have +Live+ play the stage right beside her and right after her! That’s right, it was time for Ed Kowalczyk and one of the most prolific bands of the 90’s and 2000’s to introduce themselves as lighting did indeed crash on the Barrel Stage. +Live+ opened their eclectic set with their hit “All Over You”. Fans cheering and singing along to all the amazing songs and that only this band could deliver. It was a wonderful time for those that were there to see this iconic band play for a massive Louisville audience! +Live+ would go on to play one of their biggest sets of the year as they are currently on tour with Bush and typically share set times with their fellow tour mates. Kowczyk and company would close their flawless set with their mega hit “Lightning Crashes”.

Walking around you could hear the buzz around all of events happening in between the amazing music. There were speakeasy after speakeasy and even a dance hall for those that wanted to cut loose and shake their asses to some music! But it wasn’t the end of the music, it was just the beginning as thousands of fans squeezed in tight for another legend in the music industry, Mr. John Fogerty. Just in case you live under a rock, Fogerty was the lead singer in a band called Creedence Clearwater Revival. Although they were active for about 5 years, their legacy carries on well past 1972! Fogerty has since went on to pilot a very successful solo career over a span of 50 years. We have many things to thank John Fogerty for, including a very selfless time serving our United States military in the Army Reserves at the very peak of the Vietnam War. One would say Fogerty might be the most decorative performer at this years Bourbon And Beyond for many reasons. Opening his massive show with ”Born On A Bayou”. This was one performance the multitude of fans would never forget!

A fan enjoying the bourbon experience at 2019's Bourbon and Beyond Festival

As the day became night and more and more fans poured into the KY Expo Center, the stage was set for the main event. Next at the Barrel Stage was The Foo Fighters! You heard that right, Dave Grohl and his band ran on to the stage with grit and excitement. “Alright Louisville!” Exclaimed Grohl! The Foo Fighters we’re here and nothing outside of the festival grounds seemed to matter at all. We were taken to another planet with this one as The Foo Fighters reeled us in with their smash hit “The Pretender”. Pat Smear had a smile from ear to ear as he kept his composure playing along-side his band mates to the max capacity crowd on a muggy night. There wasn’t a fan not singing along, smiling, clapping or toasting to the sky with a rock fist or glass of bourbon, as we all became one family for the next two hours. The Foo Fighters played a monstrous set including many surprises such as “Learn To Fly”, “The Sky Is A Neighborhood“, and “Times Like These”. Drummer Taylor Hawkins also had his moment in the moonlit light, performing a powerhouse drum solo that lasted well over 7 minutes. Even doing their classic rendition of Queen ballad “Under Pressure”, which has now become a permanent fixture in the Foo’s exciting setlist over the years. Many fans were talking to each other claiming how they’ve never seen anything quite like this performance by the Foo Fighters, some had seen them over 20 times and claimed this was their best show yet. What a time to be a music fan! The guys closed their hellacious set with the help of a young “fan” who just so happened to be the son of artists Pearl and Scott Ian. The young lad came out dressed just like a rock star with guitar in hand, queuing the Foo Fighters for the final song “Everlong”. This was quite the experience as I personally had never seen anything like it, nor had over half the fans in attendance. The Foo Fighters shined brighter than anything we had ever seen before, knowing that this was the last performance of the day for day one. It’s times like these you learn to live again!

Day Two:

After an intense first day at this years Bourbon And Beyond, our sights were set on the future for what was in store with the events that would soon unfold on this day! We had to grab some pulled pork and a cold water before heading back to the main stage area to get us full physically, so that soon after the performances would keep us full spiritually! We decided to check in with a very amazing artist Samantha Fish, who was just about to begin her set. Opening her first show in Louisville with the song “Wild Heart”, Samantha and her amazing band stepped right up in front of the massive crowd with soaring vocals and and soulful power, she lifted the fans spirits (literally there drink in hand) to the sky as she belted her lyrics. Samantha Fish didn’t stop there, she kept the crowd dancing, while melting their faces at the same time. Ending her amazing set with the song, Bulletproof, Fish would leave a giant footprint on the Bourbon And Beyond Barrel Stage. We were grateful to have sat down with Samantha shortly after her set and get to know the artist behind that powerhouse voice and soulful guitar playing!

Interview: Samantha Fish

After an amazing time sitting down with Samantha Fish, we ventured over to the Better In The Bluegrass Stage to check out Tiffany Thiessen. Some of you may know her as Kelly Kapowski from Saved By The Bell, or Valerie Malone from Beverly Hills 90210, however she is now also an author of her own cook book called “Pull Up A Chair”. Tiffany kept all her fans fed with warm smiles and that nostalgic smile that we all know and love by signing her book that fans could buy there at the festival! This was a real delight as not many festivals can say they had tv royalty do a book signing with such grace.

After snapping myself out of the childhood nostalgia thanks to Tiffany Thiessen, we sat down with Beth Burrows, she is the brand ambassador for Jim Beam, and we discussed what it’s like to work for a company with such a rich and storied history!

Interview: Jim Beam Brand Ambassador Beth Burrows

It was a beautiful day in downtown Louisville, the events were just unfolding as we scoured the grounds for the next thing to get into. From the left to the right, front-ways and back-ways there were fans by the thousands walking around and enjoying all that this festival could offer, from the Knob Creek speakeasy, to the Jack Daniels Sports Bar to check some scores of games and talk to the staff about their experiences and was elated to find out how much fun they were having serving drinks and mixing cocktails for their amazing patrons. There wasn’t a thirsty or hungry fan in sight! I headed over to the Tiki Barrel Bar to get a nice refreshing beverage myself before making my way back to The Barrel Stage, where Squeeze was about to perform!

For those who may not know, Glenn Tilbrook and his band have been making music since late 70’s, as a matter of fact Squeeze was part of the second wave of the next British Invasion that flooded the American airwaves with sensational songs like “Tempted”, “Hourglass”, “Labelled With Love” and “Black Coffee In Bed”. This was the first time that the enigmatic band had been in the bluegrass stage in some time, and it would end up being one to remember for the next decade! Opening their huge set with one of their mega hits “Hourglass” fans were transported back to the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s with the pop rock sounds of classic styling of Tilbrook and his wonderful band. The guys rounded out their set with my personal favorite Squeeze song, “Black Coffee In Bed”. Except something was very different. As drummer Simon Hanson got settled in behind the kit, he was almost immediately interrupted by a long haired guy in shades, who just so happened to be none other than Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters! That’s right, Dave Grohl would make his way back to the festival after having a day off after a rousing set of his own the night before! No one could believe their eyes, but yes, that’s Dave Grohl playing drums on his day off for the band Squeeze! Cultivating the perfect way to round out a set. This wouldn’t be the last Grohl sighting of the day either, more on that later.

How could something like Grohl playing drums for the amazing Squeeze get any better? Two words, “Hall And Oates”. That’s right legends in their own rite, Darryl Hall and John Oates were up next to take us further down the road of hit making machine madness, the bourbon provided the fuel and it was long after that they took to the Oak Stage! Fans of all ages were singing along to every song, tapping their feet and bouncing up and down for what was sure to be another memorable show from the icons Hall & Oates. Looking around there wasn’t a fan not smiling from ear to ear, including this one fan who looked a lot like Dave Grohl, wait a minute! That is Dave Grohl! That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Dave wanted to be with the fans as he too is a Hall & Oates fan, sporting a Hall & Oates tee. The guys didn’t miss a beat as they opened their set with “Maneater”, the classic song that sparked their careers into flaming success. For someone who had never seen them before I can tell you this, there aren’t many bands that can still get a crowd moving and singing along after being in the game like Darryl Hall and John Oates.

Closing out day two here at Bourbon And Beyond was the man himself. Mr. Robert Plant and his Sensational Space Shifters. This one right here was enough to keep the cold chill fluctuating throughout your entire body for another two hours. Robert Plant former lead singer of one of the biggest bands on the planet Led Zeppelin! The mood shifted to almost a cool chill vibe instantaneously once the music hit, transforming the overall experience and pulse of the day from good to unforgettable. Robert Plant took us to a higher plain of consciousness with his music by opening up this other-worldly show with the song “What Is And What Should Never Be”. Curating and cultivating many aspects of the music industry, Plant addressed the crowd multiple times to introduce his band, The Sensational Space Shifters and leading us by the hand back in time to revisit the songs we all know and love, even ones we might not know as well from his solo works. One thing can be sure, we were all in a fit of musical ecstasy thanks to one, Robert Plant. The multitudes of fans rejoiced and carried on with each song. We were treated to a very emotional rendition of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You”, as fans and myself fought back the tears of joy and some of emotional turmoil that the song represents. The beautiful thing about music is how it can mean something completely different from person to person. Music has a power in it, and it was on full display on this night. Robert Plant player on into the night and ended this legendary show with the always fun “Ramble On”.

Day Three:

The final day had crept up on us, no one wanted it to end, but all good things..arriving back at the KY Expo Center for the last day of the 2019 Bourbon and Beyond Festival was here and instead of being sad, we realized that we still had over 12 hours of music and festivities to take in. It wasn’t over, it was still thriving, still alive. The pulse of this festival will be one that’s remembered for years and years to come. Approaching the Barrel Stage, it was time for Southern Avenue to get ready to blast us back into our lawn chairs and hammocks. This funky soul band from Memphis TN are on the rise to a very large platform that is just the beginning for them. They would open their set with “Whiskey Love”. This psychedelic five-piece band will be remembered for ages for this performance of soulful blues riffs and drowning out the worlds negative vibes with their positive and uplifting beats. Southern Avenue is a band to watch!

We made our way back into the festival nexus to grab a cold beverage and begin prepping for our next Interview with Wall Street Journal-Best Selling Author, Fred Minnick. Minnick has released seven books on his love affair with bourbon. We sat down with Fred Minnick to discuss his life, his love of bourbon and what all it takes to be a good judge of bourbon.

Interview: Fred Minnick

Keeping the good times rolling, it was time for Kurt Vile and the Violators to hit the Oak Stage. Kurt Vile is an electric performer and he didn’t disappoint as he and the Violators lit the stage up with song after song. Opening with “Loading Zones”, Vile dazzled thousands upon thousands of loyal Violators with his woozy and sensational guitar playing and moody vocals. This was one I for one was glad to catch!

After a rousing performance by Kurt Vile, it was time to shift our attention over once again to the Barrel Stage where Margo Price was ready to perform. Price, a major hit on the festival circuit as of late has had fans buzzing. Price had a large turnout for her set as the Barrel VIP area had already all but packed out for this artist. One by one her band took to the stage, followed by the beautifully talented Margo Price. She greeted the multitude of fans with a smile and began her set with grace and sang as if she never knew the phrase “off key”. Price was very much on her A-Game. Opening her show with the song “Going To The Country”. Margo and her band gracefully took over at the midday point of our final day here at Bourbon And Beyond and gave it everything she had. Keep your eyes on this amazing talent, we’re sure she will return to the Bourbon And Beyond grounds very soon.

The day was slowly slipping away, but in the case of Bourbon And Beyond, that wasn’t such a bad thing as it just meant that we were getting closer to the next artist. Fans began to shift sides of the VIP area to make preparations for the next set of artists. However the next one we would catch would be none other than Leon Bridges. This is a guy I have personally been waiting a good while to see for myself. Let me tell you, he didn’t disappoint in the least bit! Bridges has made his rounds for the last couple of years by making appearances on SNL and even having the honor of playing a show for a sitting president! Selling over 500,000 records and receiving two Grammy nods,and then winning his first Grammy just this year for “Best Traditional R & B Performance” for his work on “Bet Ain’t Worth The Hand”. Leon Bridges is a hot one to watch. The music stopped playing between artists and the lights went up as his band walked on stage to take their positions and await for the man of the hour, Leon Bridges. Opening a large set with his song “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)”, Bridges brought the funk, style and all the soul the festival could handle, cutting a move left and right, he was embodying the soul and spirit of the likes of James Brown and Sam Cooke, Bridges is the genuine embodiment of what a pop-soul-r&b artists should be. There is nothing stopping Bridges now. Groovy song after groovy song, Leon and his band won over the fans and kept winning them over with each movement or lyric he produced. Electrifying the entire KY Expo Center, Bridges closed out his set with a smash hit called “River”. We hope to see Leon back next year!

With the souls of our feet burning high as the music that kept the embers glowing, the time had come for yet another legendary performance in the form of actual Rock and Roll royalty. ZZ Top! Some would say they have paved the way for bands, they would be correct. Fostering the genre for artists such as John Mayer, Rob Thomas, and Brandon Flowers, and those are just a few of today’s artists who credit ZZ Top for their influences. Never had I experienced anything like the 5 minute build up to a set before like this one. Absolute pioneers in the music industry and they were live in Five! The air grew thin, lights went black, stage music stopped and fans screamed! Here they come..Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, ZZ Top! Opening their monstrous 50th Anniversary Show with “Got Me Under Pressure”, the Texas trio got things heated up right off the bat. Fans screamed every lyric back at the trio, giving back as much energy as was given to them. We were even graced with “the walk up” as the infamous duo strutted from the back to the front in tandem, electrifying the thousands in attendance on this Sunday night. A delightful encore was delivered just when fans thought it was over. Treating us all to smash hits “La Grange” and “Tush”. What a phenomenal thing to witness, greatness bottled up in a 50 plus year span of eclectic music that’s shaped generations of artists and fans alike.

This years Bourbon And Beyond was a spectacle, a visual and visceral sight to behold tonally and spiritually. There was never a dull moment, from all the gourmet foods, spirits, speakeasy's, book signings, sports bars, merch booths, hands on musical experiences all the way to the performances on the two main stages Barrel and Oak. The fine folks at DWP have truly outdone themselves in every way imaginable. There was even a medical tent set up for all types of situations stemming from a scrape to dehydration. Everyone involved with this year’s Bourbon and Beyond was more than equipped to handle anything if it arose to handling all the media requests and guest relations. Our hats are off to you all. Last but not least to the fans, thank you for showing up and showing out! If it wasn’t for fans, there would be no music. If there was no music, life would have less of a purpose. If you’ve never been to a festival before and are wondering what it’s like, you didn’t read this review. Read it again, don’t look for the meaty parts, everything at this festival had its purpose and it was served well. We look forward to next years Bourbon And Beyond and what surprises await us next season!

Festival Experience Photos:

Live Performance Photos:

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