My friend Michelle and I won a trip to the Rock the Rackhouse concert August 12 in Kentucky. The trip was sponsored by Jim Beam and most tickets were won at bars across the country during Jim Beam promotions or from radio stations, but we won our tickets from the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band web site.
August 11 - 12 was a weekend we will never forget. The fun started before we even got to Kentucky! We left Minneapolis at 10:15 a.m. on Friday, August 11 and had a connecting flight to catch in St. Louis. Since we had an hour layover at the St. Louis airport, we thought we'd have a few cocktails at one of the airport bars. That's where we met Pat and Eric, bartenders from
O'Gara's Bar in St. Paul, MN. They had also won the trip (from the bar) and were headed to Kentucky with us! (As it turned out, we hung out with those two for much of the weekend). Before long, four more Rock the Rackhouse winners walked in : Hunter, Kelly, Ben and Dylan, who had all won their trips from a Denver radio station. Funny how we all gravitated to that bar...Just when we thought the arrival of Kentucky-bound winners had stopped, a Jim Beam rep from Denver (John) and his friend walked in. It didn't take him long to figure out where we were all going (he was going too), and the next round was on John!
After a short flight to St. Louis, we were greeted at the Louisville airport by a welcoming committee in green Jim Beam T-shirts. They were holding "Welcome Winners" signs and directed us to our shuttle buses. We were dropped off at the Hyatt in downtown Louisville and received meal vouchers, drink tickets, T-shirts, CDs and an itinerary. The Hyatt was seventeen floors of Jim Beam-ness! There were gigantic inflated plastic Jim Beam bottles hanging from the ceiling and Jim beam banners on the walls. There were people in Jim Beam T-shirts in every direction, and they were SO helpful and friendly!
We checked into our room on the 9th floor, unpacked, and headed down to the hotel ballroom for a Welcome Party. The room was filled with several hundred happy winners. The food and drinks disappeared quickly as we listened to a speaker from Jim Beam who explained the rules for the weekend, the presence of the video cameras, and generally just pumped us up.
Next we were off to Coyote's Bar, just a one-block walk from the Hyatt. The Chad Lamarsh band from Boston was flown in just for us! After watching the band for awhile and getting more T-shirts, we decided to head to another club. Being the blues fans that we are, we walked down to Stevie Ray's (little did we know that black 18-seater limo outside of Coyote's was at our disposal if we had wanted to use it)! At Stevie Ray's, we caught a set of Miranda Louise and her fine band and finally headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.
We slept too long to catch breakfast on Saturday, and in fact, we woke up just in time for lunch! After lunch and a little shopping at the Louisville Galleria, we grabbed our new friends Pat and Eric back at the hotel and we all walked down to the Ohio River for a little sightseeing. Before we knew it, it was time to get back to the hotel and board our bus for the concert. The half-hour bus ride took us from the city of Louisville into the rolling green hills (or "nobs") of Clermont, Kentucky, home to the Jim Beam Distillery. It was a breathtakingly beautiful area, with the rackhouses (the buildings where the oak barrels of bourbon age) dotting the countryside. We got a quick tour of the distillery and received a crash course on Bourbon Making 101 before we enjoyed a nice bar-b-que dinner in the shade. Before the show started, we had a chance to visit with Booker Noe on the porch of his ancestors' home. Booker is the grandson of James B. Beam and has been the Jim Beam Master Distiller Emeritus since 1960. Booker addressed the appreciative crowd at about 8:00 and then the show began!
Yo, Flaco! From Denver, winners of the Jim Beam "Best Unsigned Band" contest, played first. Their infectious, funky hip-hop rhythms made for a great start to the show. We bet they'll get signed now! G. Love & Special Sauce gave a delightfully loose, raw performance. It was obvious who their fans were down on stage left. Just as the sun went down, Tonic came out blazing and really cranked up the power level. Huge rotating Jim Beam and Rock the Rackhouse logos were projected onto the sides of some of the distillery buildings with ever-changing colored spotlights. Just before the KWS Band went on stage, we were whisked backstage to meet Kenny and his band: Noah, Keith and Sam. We were VIPs! (well, for a few minutes, anyway). The guys were all smiles and were kind enough to let us get a few photos with them. Then we hustled back to our spot on the grass for the final set of the night. The band SMOKED! "Blue on Black", "Last Goodbye", and Kenny's trademark final song. "Voodoo Chile" all received a great reaction. Before we knew it, it was midnight and time to get back on the buses. We didn't want to leave!
On Sunday morning some of us were lucky enough to run into a gal who was handing out KWS Band "Live On" CDs in the hotel. We had breakfast and began our journey back home.
I understand this was the first time Jim Beam has put on an event like this, and that they were a bit apprehensive about behavior, security needs, etc. From our vantage point, we saw no problems whatsoever. It seemed to go off without a hitch! I suspect the fine folks at Jim Beam will make this an annual event, but I know there will never be another year quite like the first one.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Ann Wickstrom, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.