The second edition of the Louisville Music Awards happened a couple weeks ago, and like the first time around, I was asked to host. It’s insane being in front of a room packed with that much talent. I still remember being the kid who would make a pilgrimage from Mt. Washington to the Highlands every chance I got just to see people who were part of the “scene” and wonder what it would be like to be part of it, so I don’t take it lightly. Louisville is a special place, and there’s always plenty to celebrate.
For instance, our festival season rivals that of any major city. Boomtown Ball got us started just north of town, with Houndmouth curating the inaugural gathering. Forecastle had its most successful year, with thousands on thousands hitting the Great Lawn. And folks weren’t just packing in to see the headliners. One of the most talked-about performances came from local hip-hop artist Jalin Roze, who more than proved his power.
Then add Cropped Out, NULU Fest, Seven Senses and (maybe my new favorite) The Louisville Outskirts Festival — all of which brought their own unique flavor, giving us a reason to look forward to the end of summer.
WFPK’s Waterfront Wednesday boasted record crowds of up to 20,000 attendees per show, with Louisville artists on almost every single one. In fact, the biggest crowd of the season came to see The Deloreans and Ben Sollee. Well done, y’all.
This was the year of The 23 String Band. Starbilly and Broken Spurs got back together. White Reaper got signed to Polyvinyl Records, eventually walking away with Song of the Year with their super-catchy “Cool.” Wax Fang finally released “The Astronaut” (though we’re not sure if they’re still a band). My Morning Jacket didn’t have anything new, but Patrick Hallahan (owner of the second-best smile in town) was still out there representing Spanish Gold.
I mean, we live in a town so awesome that even Chris Martin uncoupled Gwyneth Paltrow just to be with our own Jennifer Lawrence.
And the venues! Zanzabar, New Vintage and Headliners, plus the newest in the crowd, Haymarket Whiskey Bar, all give you a reason to see live music every night. We’ve got Karate Body and SonaBLAST! putting out amazing records. Doppelganger Media and Crash Avenue make sure people hear them.
And the lovefest continues well beyond all of that. I love that Howl Dawdy exists. I love that Sean Bailey exists, and thank God we have him in our city and not some lame-o place like Indianapolis. I love the look in someone’s eye when you say, “Yeah, My Morning Jacket AND Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.” I love that Slint played at Nelligan Hall with the whole deal blasting over ARTxFM. I still miss ear X-tacy, but I love the monstrous passion that has replaced it from folks like Astro Black, Please & Thank You, Matt Anthony’s Record Shop, Guestroom Records and Modern Cult Records. I love Kevin Ratterman and Neil DeGraide. I love that Jonathan Glen Wood has a project in every single genre, and they’re all really damn great. I love that shows sell out now. There use to be a time when promoters were afraid to book here because it was known as a walk-up town. Now it’s a place where we laugh at people online begging for tickets because they waited too long.
Most of all, I love that no matter how much music I listen to from around the world, it’s songs from our very own artists that give me the biggest highs and the greatest chills. I love that I get to be a part of a scene that I stood in awe of in the mid-’90s when I arrived: setting up camp nightly at Twice Told Coffee House to take in every single note that was played in that tiny back room; reading the reviews in LEO and wondering who these people were and wondering how I could meet them; holding the names of Elliott and 100 Acre Wood as high as any out-of-town national band. And now, I’m a lucky man to be surrounded by all of this artistry.
The year 2014 was amazing, and you know we’re in for an even bigger 2015. Grab a friend and go see a show. Make the trek to Frankfort Avenue and buy the new Joan Shelley album. Then, let’s all celebrate with two of our best exports, a bourbon and a high five.
Kyle Meredith is the music director of WFPK and host of the nationally syndicated “The Weekly Feed.” Hunting bears was never his strong point.