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Forecastle-07-17-2015-Sam-Smith-S-1

Photo by Willie MacLean

Once upon a time, in July of 2002, a grassroots-organized neighborhood gathering of music, art and activism took place in a quaint little patch of grass in the Fredrick Olmsted-designed Tyler Park. Located in the heart of the Highlands neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky, the first Forecastle was comprised primarily of local artists and musicians who all performed for free.  Drawing a few hundred people nonetheless, festival founder JK McKnight made it all work on a budget of less than $500.

Fast forward to today, and this little grassroots festival has steadily evolved itself into a corporate-controlled, behemoth midwest tourist attraction, drawing thousands and thousands of festival-goers from 49 states and 12 countries. Now fully orchestrated by Knoxville’s AC Entertainment (producer of Bonnaroo & Sloss Music Festival), Forecastle Festival will once again take place on Louisville’s Waterfront Park this weekend, from July 15-17th.

The Dwindling Local Element

As an advocate for all things Kentucky, this writer would be remiss to note how our largest home state music festival seems to play host to fewer and fewer “Kentucky” musicians and artists, as each year passes. Sad, but true. In 2015 there were five artists, including My Morning Jacket, who hailed from the Bluegrass State, but this year it’s been reduced to only three, which is another aspect of the festival’s inevitable evolving trend. On the this year’s official lineup of musical artists with Kentucky roots we’ve got 1200, Joan Shelley and Louisville Orchestra Director, Teddy Abrams & Friends, who will likely feature a variety of other Kentucky musicians during his set.

Nonetheless, there’s still plenty to revel about and be excited for as Forecastle Festival maintains its status as Kentucky’s largest annual gathering of music and art. According to official ticket sales to date, this year’s festival is expected to surpass their all-time ticket sales record set last year, with over 65,000 tickets sold. 

Here are some of my personal highly-anticipated on and offstage attractions that I will choose to jabber about, in no specific order. You can even download a FREE set of tunes from a handful of Forecastle 2016 artists.

Ryan Adams

The last time I saw Mister Ryan Adams was in 2007 at Louisville’s Brown Theatre. This was when he had the audacity to only deliver a 20 minute acoustic set, sitting in a dimly-lit half circle with his band the entire time. After about three songs, plus a cover of Alice in Chains’ “Down in a Hole,” he stepped to the mic and uttered the words “Thank you, goodnight,” and then proceeded to walk offstage. Everyone in attendance was infuriated.

Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams

Regardless of that incident, this dude is one hell of a songwriter and live performer, with a 20+ year catalog of songs to draw from. I just happened to catch him on one of those shitty nights where ole’ Ryan just wasn’t feeling it. Chances are I won’t be the only person present at Forecastle this year who last saw him at the aforementioned flub show. That’s why I will confidently predict that his upcoming set at Forecastle will be an enthralling live demonstration of his musical prowess in one of his rare festival appearances. So, how about a total rock-out with your cock-out set there, Mister Adams? Some of us have been waiting a long time for it…

The Arcs

The last time a Dan Auerbach-fronted rock-n-roll machine graced a stage at Forecastle was in 2013, when the Black Keys gave a rock-n-roll sermon for over 2 hours to a rambunctious, yet appreciate drunken mass of fans. I was happily part of that mess.

The Arcs - Photo by Richard Swift

The Arcs – Photo by Richard Swift

Auerbach returns to the Forecastle stage with his newest rendition of psychedelia/garage rock while keeping intact his trademark vocals and reverb-drenched guitars. Also a vital part of the band is bassist Nick Movshon, whose better known for his extensive work with the late, great British soul queen, Amy Winehouse.

Keep an ear out for “Put a Flower in Your Pocket” if you’re a Keys fan. It should be just as a trippy performance as the song’s video. Hopefully. Catch them early on Saturday at 5:15 on the Mast Stage.

Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr with his signature Epiphone Casino

Gary Clark Jr with his signature Epiphone Casino

Making his 2nd Forecastle appearance in only 3 years is Austin-based Gary Clark Jr., one the next soon-to-be greatest Blues rockers of our generation. He’s a festival staple across the country and his experience with the Forecastle crowd will lead to another guitar and vocal-fueled battleground experience for his audience.

Just wait till he plays “The Healing” at some point during the set. Who doesn’t need some healing from living in today’s world? Catch him on Sunday at 5:00 on the Mast Stage.

[Read our March 2016 review of Gary Clark Jr. by our own Miss Autumn en Austin]

1200

1200

1200

Also known as Jecorey Arthur, he is a music teacher for a local school by day, and up-and-coming hip-hop artist by night. There’s not much more of a positive role model coming from his west end Louisville roots. But this boy will ignite your senses with his genuine delivery of real-life inspired songs, and heartfelt authenticity. He’s a “real” musician whose capable of reshaping the overall perception of his style within the uninformed popular thought, so make sure you give him a listen on Friday at 3:00 on the Ocean Stage.

The GONZO Bar

You know, not because I’m freaking biased towards Hunter S. Thompson and virtually anything GONZO, but this will be one of the coolest damn spots to get a bourbon or other GONZO libation of choice. Thompson, a Louisville native, and creator of GONZO Journalism, was also a rabid bourbon connoisseur, amongst quite a few other mind-altering substances of choice.

Gonzo Bar Forecastle Festival

Gonzo Bar Forecastle Festival

Celebrate the GONZO spirit while you enjoy a new feature to this year’s bar – a Grant Goodwine curated “traveling madhouse” of inspired art by Thompson and his longtime British illustrator, Ralph Steadman. Great DAZE!!

Anderson East

Rhythm and blues and soul rockers with dashes of country are definitely crowd-pleasers at Forecastle. This year’s festival will feature one of that genre-orgy’s up-and-coming rising giants, with Michael Cameron Anderson, professionally recognized as Anderson East. 

Anderson East

Anderson East

Yep, this little young Alabama lad can sure as hell man a mic and rock a stage with more heartfelt intent than some of the seasoned veterans around him. And when he’s done doing all that, he parks his boots under Country Music Queen, Miss Miranda Lambert’s bed. How about that?

You’ll have to shake off that Saturday night hangover kind of quickly as he opens the Mast Stage on Sunday at 1:45. Oh yeah, make sure you wish him a happy birthday if you’re in attendance because he’ll be celebrating his 28th.

The Bourbon Lodge

The Bourbon Lodge

The Bourbon Lodge

A celebration of Kentucky’s most famous export, other than horses and world-renowned musicians: bourbon, curated by The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a non-profit organization that promotes and publicizes all the major bourbon distillers throughout the state. You’ll learn about the history and cultivation of bourbon directly from the distilleries who’ve made it a world class export. And of course, be aware this is usually the only non-VIP air-conditioned oasis within festival grounds. So why not give all those sun and heat-relief seekers first class access to Kentucky’s brown hell water? Good call.

Kentucky Landing

Kentucky Landing

Kentucky Landing

This is the corridor where most of the incoming art will be found, along with mixed in festival retailers, many from Kentucky. It’s definitely the calmest and quietest section of the festival ground, and is great place to people watch. Grab a bite to eat. Or drink a craft brew. Or catch a nap. Whatever floats your boat.

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GFLou2016
GonzoFest Louisville
, Louisville’s annual celebration of its most famous 
literary son, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, returns to Waterfront Park’s Big Four Lawn to celebrate the life, work and legacy of Louisville’s own Hunter S. Thompson on Saturday, April 16, 2016.

GonzoFest Louisville, now in its sixth year, has stacked this year’s lineup with national and local acts. Nashville rockers with Kentucky roots, Fly Golden Eagle and rock & roll trio Natural Child, who are also from Nashville, will headline GonzoFest Louisville 2016. Old-school hip-hop artists Dr. Dundiff with Touch AC and Smoke Shop Kids, along with garage punk band Chrome Pony, and indie rock band Quiet Hollers are set to perform on the main stage.

Also on the bill is Frederick The Younger, a slinky vintage pop band from Louisville, local rockers Your News Vehicles, and acid country rock band The Bottom Sop. Along with Frogg Corpse & Mr. Stranger Present The End of The World on the Gonzo Today Stage.

In addition to music and spoken word performances, Tinderbox Circus Sideshow, the self-proclaimed “most mind-blowingly devilish backwoods troupe from the ground up”.will be performing at the Gonzo Today Tent Stage throughout the day.

Craft vendors, food, liquor, beer, will be available at the festival as well. GonzoFest Louisville 2016 will also feature a non-fiction literary contest and a satirical political portrait art contest. Submit literary entries to gonzoliterarycontest@gmail.com. Art entries must be sent to 4016 Summer Place New Albany, IN 47150. Literary and art entries must be submitted by March 15, 2016.

The official GonzoFest Louisville after-party at The New Vintage begins at 11:00 p.m.; featuring The Sundresses, Discount Guns, plus a very special jam session with festival musicians. Present your GonzoFest Louisville 2016 ticket stub for free entry to the after-party ($10 at the door otherwise).

Proceeds from GonzoFest Louisville 2016 will support the creation of a life-size bronze statue of Hunter S. Thompson. Sculptor, Matthew Weir will be present during the festival. GonzoFest Louisville is sponsored by Falls City Brewing and Four Roses Bourbon. Gates open at 1:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at Eventbrite. Additional information, including details about the 2016 literary contest, vendor applications, sponsorship and volunteer opportunities can be found by visiting www.GonzoFestLou.com.

For the latest news about this year’s festival fans can visit GonzoFest Louisville on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About GonzoFest Louisville
GonzoFest Louisville is a literary and music festival honoring Hunter S. Thompson, as well as the lasting mark he has made on literature, art and music. Through poetry, spoken word, art and live music and more, GonzoFest Louisville celebrates the life and times of Hunter S. Thompson in his hometown. 2016 will mark the sixth year of the festival.

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ky bscBlack Stone Cherry
Kentucky
Barrick Studios: Edmonton, KY
Mascot Label Group
Available: April 1, 2016
BlackStoneCherry.com

“So turn the radio up when your heart breaks down.”

Rock n’ roll. Southern. Hard. Dirty. Grungy. But, sometimes soft. Ballad-esque. That’s who they are. And they’re perfectly comfortable with that. Opting not to experiment that much with their solidified iconic sound, Black Stone Cherry continues to pledge allegiance to their musical roots by returning to the very studio where they first recorded Rock-n-Roll Tape, their first EP in 2003, recorded at Barrick Studios in Glasgow, Kentucky. The same studio they would eventually record their first self-titled major release via Roadrunner Records, now 10 years ago. It’s fair to refer to this album as a “roots” endeavor, right?

Most of the album is a metaphorical product of its time, both for the band personally, and our generation as a whole. They waste no time showing that sentiment on the opener, with “The Way of the Future.” Filing some well-timed complaints about greasy politicians, BSC wales of the semi-dystopian state of our current reality with heavy washed-out guitar riffs and bone-crunching percussion that emulates the frustration we all feel.

A cover of Edwin Starr’s 60’s classic “War” is a doggone epic rendition of the original, and represents the Doo Wop and Soul influence that was bestowed onto the band by way of drummer John Fred Young’s musical familial heritage, father and uncle of grammy award winning Kentucky Headhunters. Nonetheless, the song’s appearance on the album feels like another well-timed political statement they’re making overall. I’m pretty sure I’m hitting the nail on the head with this assertion.

Ok, I gotta wrap this shit up. I’m rambling, but speaking of which, “The Rambler” is probably the most heartfelt and tear-jerking song these boys have ever written, “Cheaper To Drink Alone” is not only true, but a damn good rock-junkie song to drink to, and “Soul Machine” is another guitar-solo-fueled example of their soul influence.

Theoretically, every album released by Black Stone Cherry could’ve been called “Kentucky.”
Why?
Dumb question.
Because that’s what these boys are – in and out, thru and thru. 
Ken-FUCKIN-tucky.
OK?
Just like the crazy BASTARD who scribbled this review.

*Reviewed under extreme duress of Vanilla Stoli and Diet Coke by Jason Ashcraft

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Blackstar_album_coverAlbum Review: Blackstar by David Bowie
Produced by: David Bowie and Tony Visconti
Released: January 8, 2016
Label: ISO Records (Columbia/RCA)

His final composure.
His last recorded album.
His magic show is over, folks.
He knew it.
His band knew it.
His family knew it.
We now all know it.

From the opening note on the title track the vibe is immediately established this album is a mixture of David Bowie’s death opus, and his celebratory last lap in the studio. The final recording from over five decades worth of work. Both his fans and the musically-inspired will celebrate his catalog for many more decades to come.

Bowie’s now among the stars on his own space oddity, except he’s the Blackstar out there, NOT the white star, as he candidly points out midway through the title track. And, yes, the stars will forever now look different today because of it…

Lazarus was the last video he made a song into, recorded only days before he came to pass, and it shows. It’s one artfully spooky song that is just mind-boggling when you realize the song’s message. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s first impression till they’ve heard it, so that’s all I’m gonna say about it for now…

Girl Loves Me, with its layers of funky synth beats leaves you contemplating who cheena is, and where the Fuck did Monday go? Questions unanswered is a typical Bowie song trait, we must remember. 

The entire album is essentially beautifully arranged recorded cries of despair masked equally in joy and sorrow mixed amongst doses of artsy, jazzy, avant-garde synth rock, and beats and melodies that tease all your human emotions. He is one of music’s TRUEST musical composures of our generation by every measurable quality. He was a perfect combination of both God-given and self-developed natural talent any real artist could hope to have within them.

And we now find ourselves, holding in our hands, or programmed into our iTunes/mp3 player, what may be the greatest thing the man ever composed for us.

Thank you, David Bowie, for the weirdness.



**This review also published at GonzoToday.com

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MERRY (whatever) you MAY or MAY NOT be celebrating at the current time.

Just dug up an interview with another KENTUCKY boy I did back in 2012 in the Seelbach Bar. Sorry about the volume. I do this shit for FREE sometimes…

Oh and one of his videos also, which by the way, is F’ing AWESOME…

Tonight’s post was inspired by OLE SMOKEY moonshine…

G’night folks…

OK…

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Louder Than Life Festival crowd at East Stage - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Louder Than Life Festival crowd at East Stage – Photo by Jason Ashcraft

The second year of the Louder Than Life festival is now officially in the books and I am officially done with this music scene until, perhaps, next year. The gargantuan-sized metal and rock n’ roll music and gourmet man-food extravaganza still has my fucking ears ringing, my clothes still half covered in mud, and that post-concert hangover feeling that I’ve not had since my 20’s. I don’t know if I am wishing that maybe I had indulged just a little more or a little less, at this point. I can’t decide.

Over 50,000 people in two short days flocked to the festival, like droves of wild animals trying to cram their way onto Noah’s arc. According to festival organizers, over 70% of these metalhead and rock n’ roll bastards came from outside Louisville’s city limits. “Bastards” being a word I totally threw in there myself, not the festival. For clarification. And we all experienced the gamut of what Louisville weather can dish out in 48 hour period. Cold, cloudy and rainy one day, and sunny and hot the next. Welcome to the Ohio Valley, folks.

Saturday, 3 October: Muddy Metal Mayhem

So, like I said, tens of thousands of these metalhead bastards spent most of the day stomping around in the mud, the mosh pits, with booze in-hand, avoiding roving packs of security and police, and generally just humping and living the typical American metalhead dream. Whiskey-bent. Hellbound. Making beasts of themselves for a few short hours. Some screaming obscenities at random passer-byers and some at the bands. Some so self-absorbed into the music that nothing else around them really existed. Everyone seemingly losing their minds to the overly-decibeled carnage of America’s most notorious metal and hard rock acts that FM radio stations, MTV and other mainstream media outlets have spent decades force-feeding their fans with.

Sevendust, one of the lesser-overplayed, and more talented acts on the docket, turned in a short, yet tight set, that included an old-school cut “Denial,” and also the newly released “Not Today” off their latest album Kill The Flaw. Just one question, though, guys: that new album title isn’t a subliminal reference to what you intend to do to a certain newly-reunited metal band from Louisville, is it? Probably not, but had to make a joke out of that. Moving on…

The biggest treat of the day came with Chevelle – who mesmerized with musical precision like only a brother-band could do – and went deep into their catalogue with cuts like “Forfeit” and “The Red.” Of course Chevelle probably couldn’t get off stage without playing “Send The Pain Below,” and so they did. Perfectly so.

Then came veteran metal horror rocker Rob Zombie. With pictures of classic horror movie characters as his stage background along with shitty, negative, certain one-word terms I’m not going to report on, Zombie lambasted his fans with his iconic groove-metal style that only he can pull off the way he does it. Somewhat surprisingly, he opened with a romping and rousing take of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band” before blistering through his own set of 20+ year solo and White Zombie cuts. I’d also be remiss to mention that he totally killed it on his take of a James Brown classic, “Get Up (I Feel Like Being) a Sex Machine.”

Sunday, 4 October: More Sun, More Fun and Interviews!

The last thing I needed on Sunday afternoon to nurse a metal-induced, late Saturday night hangover was another several hour onslaught of cookie-monster singer’s bands. Sorry, but that’s what some unmentioned Saturday acts really sound like at times.

Nonetheless, day two brought better weather, sunny skies, warmer temperatures and a more classic rock n’ roll, and overall friendly vibe. The crowd, noticeably tamer, perhaps as hungover as I was, got a dose of rock n’ roll from the likes of ZZ Top (who I regrettably bailed on), Slash, Breaking Benjamin, Shinedown, Black Stone Cherry, Kentucky Headhunters, Collective Soul and Skid Row, amongst several others.

One metal band, in particular, hailing from Louisville, and who’s in the midst of launching a new comeback tour, FLAW, also performed on this day. On the wrong stage, though, if you ask me. They should’ve been next door on the much larger East stage, all things considered. Nonetheless, they delivered exactly what they’re longtime loyal fanbase still flocks to see them for: metal with catchy melodies.

I actually had the chance to catch up with FLAW after their set, and here is what they had to say about getting back together again and what the future holds:

And of course I also had to pay homage to another set of Kentucky music icons, the Kentucky Headhunters and Black Stone Cherry, who both hail from the hollers of Edmonton, Kentucky in Metcalfe County. Just a few hours south of Louisville. Before their sets I had the chance to sit down and interview Richard Young (Kentucky Headhunters) and John Fred Young (BSC), for a cool first time ever father-son interview between the two. Check out what I made them jabber about when asked what guitar they’d break vs. play, and who they hope becomes President:

Black Stone Cherry went on to amass a hometown crowd that better resembled what they typically play to in the UK and other European tour destinations. I mean, fucking Jimmy Page shows up regularly to their shows in the UK to hang out and watch them. This was the biggest crowd I’ve seen them play in their home state, and I‘ve seen them play countless times since 2002 when I first met them in the basement of the old Jillians on Lexington Avenue here in Louisville. Those guys were maybe 16 to 18 at the time, and being escorted by Richard Young who was their manager. Gee, how things have changed for them since those days.

Black Stone Cherry crowd at Louder Than Life festival 2015 - Photo by Jason Ashcraft

Black Stone Cherry crowd at Louder Than Life festival 2015 – Photo by Jason Ashcraft

I love to see Kentucky musicians and artists exporting their creations outside of the state. The Young family of musicians has always done a fine job of doing just that, by keeping both the national and international communities aware that it’s not just bourbon, horses and fast women that come from Kentucky! But kick-ass, boot-scootin, southern rock n’ roll music does, too!

So Let’s Wrap this Shit Up

LTL is one of those festivals that when you honestly proclaim, like I remember doing in the middle of a rum-fit to some dude: that you’re “one crazy bastard,” people will be like “that’s good to hear!” And they mean it. They’re not bullshitting you. That’s what it’s all about. Being crazy bastards listening to loud-ass, rage-a-holic metal and rock n’ roll music. Together. With fancy gourmet $8 hot dogs – or some other gourmet man-food items of choice in one hand – and some sort of whiskey or beer concoction in the other. Screaming at everything and everyone around you. Pretending that one day, maybe you’ll be on that stage.

I’m guessing that’s why they call this festival Louder Than Life. And hold it in good ole’ Louisville, Kentucky, where this kind of loud behavior will be happily tolerated, no matter what you set the decibel level to, in exchange for the extra tax dollar revenue it will generate.

Welcome to Louisville, Louder Than Life! I’m sure you’ll continue to fit right in.

Selah.

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

— Hunter S. Thompson

**These interviews and coverage  also published at GonzoToday.com

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louder-than-lifeHola, Amigo.

¿Cómo lo llevas?

No, I’m not gonna write my first GonzoToday.com preview of the 2015 Louder Than Life music festival in Spanish. A language that I don’t even know how to write or speak, aside from the little I’ve picked up from what Cheech & Chong, Cypress Hill and ordering Mexican food at El Nopal has taught me.

On top of that, I’m writing this in the midst of a blood moon lunar eclipse while drinking absurd amounts of rum and moonshine. Mercury is also retrograde. Perfect, right? And mercury shall stay retrograde all the way thru this weekend’s Louder Than Life Festival on October 3rd & 4th in Louisville, Kentucky. The mainstream rock n’ roll music, whiskey, and gourmet man-food weekend event drew tens of thousands in it’s 2014 debut.

Uncharted territory for me, considering the recent past. I’ve been on a bit of a mainstream rock and metal scene hiatus since the days of LRS Fest, which croaked around 10 years ago. 

But, I can’t wait to hopefully blend back into the mayhem of the mainstream rock scene once again. There is something about observing all these young and old whiskey-bent metalhead bastards that never gets old. Watching them bang their heads – both on and off stage – to rock and metal’s most shoved-down-your-throat-songs of decades past. Baby Boomers to Millennials shall be catered to equally.

Seriously folks, even if this isn’t your normal scene or musical forte’, I say go anyway. 99% of the lovely ladies and gentlemen that flock to these types of festivals are just as berserk to observe as the actual rock stars that are on the stage. No shit. The only difference between the two aforementioned groups is that one is on stage, and the other isn’t.

By all means, never reveal these known realities to the person standing next to you, or you’ll be essentially fucking yourself over on the overall entertainment factor the festival provides. Air guitars. Pantene Pro-V 80’s style hair. A few mullets here and there. Seas of black T-shirts. Tattoos. Piercings. Ripped jeans. And loud-ass-rock-music. Yep. You get the picture.

On the flip side, there are several not-so-shoved-down-your-throat native Kentucky artists that’s on the bill, too. I’m somewhat surprised to report that a few of em’ were crazy enough to accept an interview request from yours truly.

That’s right people, I’ll be sitting down to chat with the likes of country music icon Richard Young, guitarist of the Kentucky Headhunters, and his son, John Fred Young, drummer of Black Stone Cherry, for what’s sure to be an intriguing father-son interview.

I’ll also be sitting down with members of Louisville nu-metal prognosticators, FLAW, whose playing the festival for a second year in a row, and who is in the midst of relaunching themselves back into the musical forefront. Once upon a time back in the early 2000’s FLAW was a regular fixture for large metal festivals like OzzFest and Rock On The Range, amongst others.

Having recently spoken by phone to FLAW lead vocalist, Chris Volz, he was excited about not only about being invited back for a second year, but also about the band’s forthcoming revival and where it will take them, if anywhere.

Oh yeah, who the fuck else is playing the damn festival is probably what you’re wondering, right? Well, here is my totally unbiased, incomplete list of other performing artists: Rob Zombie, ZZ Top, what’s left of, and still called Lynyrd Skynyrd (*no disrespect*), Kentucky Headhunters, Black Stone Cherry, Chevelle, Breaking Benjamin, Skid Row, Collective Soul, Sevendust, Shinedown, Slash, and more and more and more…

Checkout the full lineup, along with your ticketing and camping options at: www.LouderThanLifeFestival.com

What else?

Oh yeah.

Written drunk.

Edited sober.

And this is totally fucking appropriate for my first GonzoToday.com published preview for a rock n’ roll whiskey festival. 

Agreed?

Selah.

** This preview also published at GonzoToday.com

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