Festival Review – The Best Moments of Bourbon & Beyond

Bourbon & Beyond returned to Louisville, Kentucky September 22-24 for its third year. Due to the festival grounds flooding last year and canceling the last day, Bourbon & Beyond had to find a new home. Luckily, the Kentucky Expo Center hosted the three-day music and food festival which provided enough space for fans to sit and enjoy the music and also wander around. If you weren’t busy enjoying music on one of the two main stages or the bluegrass stage, you might have found yourself playing cornhole or giant beer pong. Maybe you wandered over to learn a bit about the bourbon you were drinking at the Kentucky Gold stage or wanted to get some cooking tips from culinary masters like Jose Salazar. No matter how you spent your days at Bourbon and Beyond, we can assume it was time well spent.

Photo by John Ferreira

The Best Music Moments:

Bourbon & Beyond had an absolutely remarkable lineup, with incredible performances from everyone, including John Fogerty, The Foo Fighters, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, White Reaper, Trey Anastasio Band, Leon Bridges, ZZ Top, and many more.

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters headlined Saturday night, and many, including myself, secretly hoped to hear some Led Zeppelin songs. To my surprise and that of the crowd, Robert Plant immediately opened with “What is and What Should Never be” from the Led Zeppelin II album released back in 1969. To end their set on an unforgettable note, they finished with “Ramble On,” and the crowd went absolutely crazy. As a young fan who never had the chance to see Led Zeppelin, I felt quite satisfied and can now die truly fulfilled.

Sunday was filled with amazing back-to-back performances, but one of the biggest highlights of the day was when Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros took the stage to steal hearts and captivate souls. Alex Ebert, the lead singer, engaged with the crowd by passing his microphone to audience members, giving them a chance to sing parts of their song “I Don’t Wanna Pray.” Halfway through the set, he then jumped off the stage and into the crowd to dance around and allow audience members to tell stories of heartbreak while the band played, all while holding onto his cigarette. The band has been on a hiatus for a bit but have recently started playing a few shows here and there to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their debut album Up From Below.

Alex Ebert of ESMZ Dances with a Fan – Photo by John Ferreira

The Flaming Lips

This band has never put on a less than stellar live show. From the moment the confetti overtook the skies during the first song, every member of the crowd was absolutely captivated. From magical rainbow unicorns to laser hands, the Lips know how to put on a show. I do wish that they played at night or at least during sunset, but this band is just too amazing to not mention.

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips Backstage – Photo by John Ferreira

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

My final musical highlight was during the last headliner of the festival, Zac Brown Band. To my surprise, Zac Brown Band sprinkled in some serious rock jams, including “Whipping Post” by The Allman Brothers Band, which was absolutely sensational. I like to believe that the deceased members of The Allman Brother Band were proudly looking down at their perfectly rehearsed tribute.

The Best Food & Drink Moments

Being called Bourbon and Beyond, the bourbon was definitely the star of the show when it came to drinks. Festival-goers had a wide range of bourbon drink options, anywhere from bourbon cocktails to bourbon slushies. For bourbon and non-bourbon drinkers, this festival offered unique ways to experience all the possibilities of bourbon. There was nostalgic deliciousness like the root beer floats made with whiskey cream by Boone County Distilling CompanyLooking to cool off in the hot summer sun? Then snag a pineapple juice and ginger ale mixer from the Larceny tent. As the sun set, and the weather cooled down, there was no better way to enjoy the music than casually sipping a neat glass of Campfire Whiskey by High West. There was absolutely no shortage of amazing beverages to be had at Bourbon and Beyond.

Photo by Maria Cardillo

Bourbon & Beyond also provided more than just your average food vendor experience; they also offered live cooking demonstrations all weekend long, inviting some musicians and bands on stage to help assist. One of those bands was White Reaperwho played early Sunday afternoon. After meeting with White Reaper, I offered them a hot sauce made with actual white reaper peppers, which was given to me by a friendly camp neighbor. The band members were certainly hesitant but tried the hot sauce and decided to take it onto their cooking segment. Shout out to White Reaper for being such good sports!

White Reaper eats White Reaper Pepper Sauce – Photo by John Ferreira
Photo by John Ferreira

Bourbon and Beyond –  More Than Music and Booze

If you wanted more to do than sit and listen to music, there were plenty of fun activities to discover. Throughout the grounds there were a number of games you could play while sipping on your bourbon, including old-school arcade games, corn hole, Connect Four and more! One of the most unusual and interactive activities was located in the “Big Bourbon Bar” tent, where you could jump in and dance with professional swing dancers.

There were some awesome art installations for all of your Instagram needs, ranging from fun structures to snap a fun pic in front of to pillars featuring unique Kentucky-inspired artwork. Much of the art that was on display on the pillars was available to purchase inside the Art Tent, which allowed local artists to show off their talent.

It’s not often that I attend a music festival where there is a clear benefit for buying a VIP ticket. Bourbon & Beyond absolutely exceeded what a typical festival offers to those who upgrade to VIP. Exclusive viewing areas for the main stages allowed fans to get insanely close to the artists. There was a $170 price difference between GA and VIP,  but think of how much a front-row seat to a Foo Fighters show would be. They also had some serious couches, lounge chairs, swings, and a huge tent packed with fans to relax in.

There were over 90,000 fans who attended this three-day festival. The people who attended were as good as they come, minus one guy who tried to explain to me why all races were going extinct due to solar rays and that in a few years we would all just be “very tan.” Beyond that one dude, you all were beautiful, amazing people who ooze love and good vibes. There was no shortage of families with young kids, people in their late 60s reliving their glory days, and teenagers making the best of their youth. The crowd at Bourbon & Beyond is what music festival fans want to see at a city festival.

Produced by megastar festival producer Danny Wimmer Presents, the festival offered countless memorable moments that should hold me over until next year. Special thanks to the local and national bourbon distillers, and celebrity chefs that came together and celebrated the spirit of Louisville in such a special way.

Photo by Maria Cardillo

Bourbon & Beyond Music Festival

Check Out Our Full Photo Recap of Bourbon & Beyond Below!


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