The Sophomore edition of the Railbird Festival erupts with phenomenal performances by the Dave Matthews Band, Khruangbin, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Band of Horses, the Revivalists, and many others.
After a hugely successful debut, The Railbird Festival, situated on the rolling hills of the historic Keeneland Racecourse launched its sophomore festival with high expectations and featured an unparallel lineup. Billed as a celebration of music, bourbon, and equine experiences the Railbird festival offered a little something for everyone. A diverse, yet stellar musical lineup featuring the Dave Mathews Band, My Morning Jacket, Billy Strings, Jason Isbell, and the 400 Unit plus so much more along with Bourbon, bourbon, and more bourbon by some of the most respected distilleries in the world including Four Roses, Blanton’s, Buffalo Trace, Old Forester, Pinhook, and Weller. With the festival being on the grounds of the historic Keeneland Racecourse, the heart of the Bluegrass state equine experiences in the morning and live wagering on racetracks from across the country in the afternoon were afforded as well as ample and unique food selections were available for all festival-goers. It’s worth noting that the issues the festival had on Saturday were more than rectified on Sunday and the day seemed to run very smoothly.
On what seemed like a slightly cooler summer day on the Commonwealth, the highly anticipated second day of the festival kicked off under picturesque blue Kentucky skies. While the buzz starting the day was still around the incredible sets by My Morning Jacket, Billy Strings, Leon Bridges, and the Black Pumas all eyes were pointed to the main stage performances of The Dave Mathews Band, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and Khruangbin occurring later in the day.
Here were a few of the standouts of the closing day of the festival
Dave Matthews Band ended the weekend with an incredible set that matched everything their fans have come to expect. Between all the hits that everyone knows and loves, like “So Much To Say,” “Dancing Nancies,” and “Don’t Drink the Water,” the band also played covers of Prince’s “Sexy MF” and The Rolling Stones’ “Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” In between all of that, the individual musicianship of each member of the band was given a chance to shine through. Rashawn Ross on the trumpet and Jeff Coffin on saxophone were standouts, with their solo moments being just obscene displays of talent and musicianship. A two-hour set with Dave Matthews Band was the cherry on top of a very good weekend of live music, and a great cap to Railbird’s second event with hopefully many more to come.
The Revivalists took to the Limestone stage in the late afternoon on Sunday with the express intention of converting anyone who wasn’t already a fan. The large, 7-piece band jams extremely hard and the atmosphere they created was intoxicating. Everyone in front of the stage was dancing along, and everyone in the beer and food lines surrounding the stage was making sure to soak up as much of the music and atmosphere they could. The Revivalists started as a small trio of guys who got together to jam and make some music and within weeks they were performing together. That chemistry is apparent and enthralling, and the kind of thing you could watch forever.
Khruangbin, a funk trio with worldly influences and an experimental approach, changed the speed a bit as they laid down thick bass grooves with psychedelic guitar riffing and steady break-beat drums. Mark Speer on guitar and Laura Leezy on bass have a chemistry that is impressive and fun to watch, and the way they cover so many musical styles and mix influences from all over the world into a sound that is distinctly theirs is astounding. The hour that Khruangbin played on the Elkhorn stage as the sun began to set on the day, the weekend, and the festival was extremely peaceful. As I looked around, I saw tons of smiles and a huge crowd of people just enjoying the experience, and that was when I realized that I’d had a smile on my face for the last hour.
Over on the Burl Stage singer-songwriter, Zach Bryan blazed through a dynamite set in front of a spacious and appreciative crowd that was one of the day’s best, and Band of Horses on the Elkhorn Stage was another of the day’s top performances with a raucous set.
Other performances throughout the day belonged to Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Robert Earl Keen, Katie Pruit, The War and Treaty, Cha Wa, Pinegrove, Liz Cooper, Cedric Burnside, S.G Goodman, Southern Avenue, and Grayson Jenkins.
All in all, The 2021 Railbird Festival was a success! What was estimated at around 25,000 festival-goers took advantage of all that is Kentucky with perfect summer weather, plentiful Bourbon, Equine Experiences, and of course world-class music featuring 32 bands across 3 stages over the two-day festival. Ok Railbird Festival, how will you top 2021?