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Bourbon & Beyond: Year 1

Fall is officially upon us, even though we didn’t feel like it this weekend with 90 degree weather, cloudless skies, and a brand new music festival in town. It seemed like everyone was talking about Bourbon & Beyond, the sister fest to next weekend’s Louder Than Life. Generally I’ve been hearing positive reviews from people who attended (and, DUDES: a lot of people attended.) It brought a significant group of out-of-town folks to Louisville, with the draw of an impressive lineup, top-notch culinary experiences, and (of course) bourbon. I think many would chalk it up to a success – we’ve heard varying numbers of how many attendees, but trust us, there were a lot. We of course have our own thoughts on the inaugural Bourbon & Beyond Festival.

Here are some things we liked:

  • A copious amount of shade is nice.ย Since it was so hot, the variety of shade options was nice, especially compared to the shadeless wasteland that Forecastle occupies down on the waterfront.
  • Grass is way more comfortable than concrete.ย In a similar comparison to the waterfront and Forecastle, there was a whole lot more grass which made for comfortable sitting and standing.
  • The space feels out of the city.ย Even though we were still within walking or biking distance of downtown, it felt like an entirely different place far out from the city. Maybe this is because I don’t spend much time out on River Road past the Big Four Bridge, but it was kind of nice. Combine that with the camping element, and this was a different experience.
  • Gary Clark Jr is a legend already.ย I know a lot of people who came Sunday just for GCJ, and I support this decision. A co-worker’s young sons were so into his set that they wandered up to the front of the stage and joined the grown ups in marveling at his fingers going to work.
  • Connected main stages are easy.ย I didn’t get nearly as many steps (thanks Fitbit!) as I do at other festivals simply because of the alternating schedule between the connected stages. Without competing stages, it meant most people were crowded around these two spaces, but in terms of ease, this made for a decision-free, casual day. Was this intentional with the makeup of crowd that was in attendance? Likely.
  • Eddie Vedder got drunk.ย LOL so apparently Ed can’t hold his bourbon. Some people trashed him for his set, but I thought it was personal and evocative.
  • Diversity on stage.ย Though the goal was definitely to have some traditional rock bands take the stage, we did get to hear a lot of variety in that genre as well the type of folks that took the stage. With ranging ages and races, the younger crowd like myself was likely pretty please.
  • Operation Buried Bourbon apparently worked. I had a colleague tell me about his friend who buried their booze inside the grounds before set up started happening. Word is, they were able to recover said bourbon successfully. HELLZYEA.

Here are some things we think could be better:

  • Too many people, not enough space.ย We were jammed packed into Champions Park. It was dense. We had to go on a few walks around the perimeter of the grounds just to regain composure.
  • The lack of diversity…um, meh, old white people.ย So pretty much everyone was the same age, same race, wore the same clothes, probably had the same socioeconomic status…kinda dull. It led to some deeply philosophical conversations between Britt and I late night over a quesadilla as to some of the issues we have with music festival culture in general. That’s a story for another time, though.
  • Chairs are annoying and people need to follow the rules.ย For the folks who chose to drag a bag chair with them, it was great to sit and chill all day. HOWEVER PEOPLE, THERE WERE DESIGNATED AREAS TO SET YOUR CHAIR UP. DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE DAMN STAGE WAS NOT ONE OF THOSE AREAS. It was so awkward trying to weave toward the stage through chairs and blankets and then standing there with your butt in their faces.
  • It was hot AF, and there was only one GA water station.ย Although the screens pumped the message of HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE, the only way you could quickly and easily get that H2O was by purchasing $3 bottles! The single water station was way out of the way and honestly took us a minute to find. If you didn’t know about it, you’d think the only option is beer. Not the kind of hydration you always need.
  • Bag rules are stupid and so extra.ย Like really, they were so extra. Why can’t you bring a fanny pack? Why do my bags need to be clear plastic? Security checked them just as thoroughly as when I have a bigger and/or non-see-through bag.
  • Why are there no local artists? Not even on The Bluegrass Situation stage? It makes me said there was no local band included on this event. The bourbon aspect is obviously closely tied to the city and the state, however, it didn’t feel very Louisville-centric.
  • “Noodling” a lil too much? Our friend described excessive guitar solos as “noodling” and there was plenty of that throughout the weekend. Maybe a tad bit too much. If that’s your thing, then you had a ball.
  • Where are the bike racks? With the weather being so nice, and the predicted disastrous parking/Lyft situation leaving the fest, we chose to bike down. We weren’t the only ones who went with this mode of transportation, BUT, there was no specified place to lock up our bikes. They ended up on some barricades in front of the entrance, but easily could have been hit or messed with. Something to think about, folks.
  • Why can’t I take photos from the crowd as media? This is such a first world media problem, but considering the spacing of the crowds, we definitely could have gotten some great performance shots from the audience.. but that was apparently not allowedย โ˜น.

If you haven’t read about our friend Michael Powell’s adventure down River Road attending both the festivals (Bourbon & Beyond + Cropped Out) that happened last weekend, we suggest you do that, too. Check it out in the LEO.

We’d say there is a very high probability this event will return for a second go-around next year, considering how successful this initial fest was. See ya in September, B&B.

-Aubrey

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