Best Of The Fests: Railbird 2021

Well, I didn’t see any pretty horses in Kentucky this past weekend — not at Keeneland, the site of Railbird Festival, anyway. But I did see lots of live music in the brutal August heat + humidity, and I also saw plenty of the backs of other people when in comically/tragically long lines for sundry liquids. Flubbed planning and inadequate staffing are what dominated coverage of this second-time music festival, unfortunately, with attendees dubbing it #Failbird and demanding refunds. 😬

But I found the exchange of energy between bands and fans at Railbird was wholly positive, and I got all up in it in case you wouldn’t, couldn’t and/or are now super grateful you didn’t. Memorable musical moments included enthusiastic cover tunes — Margo Price and Jason Isbell both paid tribute to late drummer Charlie Watts with Rolling Stones songs in their sets, Joy Oladokun injected “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into her poignant original “I See America,” and Southern Avenue got “Rocksteady” on a sweaty Sunday — as well as super singalongs with Black Pumas, Pinegrove, Band of Horses and home state heroes My Morning Jacket. I missed some of the acts I’d hoped to see, like Nashville band The Brook & The Bluff and Texas soul man Leon Bridges. But my traipsing around did allow me to see a ton of great acts, including…


Joy Oladokun
Margo Price
Briston Maroney
Black Pumas
Billy Strings
My Morning Jacket


Southern Avenue
The War & Treaty
Cedric Burnside
Liz Cooper
Band of Horses
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
Dave Matthews Band

Snippets of my side-stage Railbird interviews with performers Joy Oladokun and Liz Cooper — both of whom were slated to play on a Nashville-heavy Thursday night Bonnaroo bill, before the festival was cancelled for weather damage to the grounds — will be shared on-air over “Best of the Fests Weekend,” September 4th-6th on 91.One. So will audio from a Zoom chat with Khruangbin‘s Laura and DJ, plus fan perspectives about a return to live music immersion.

Get your music fest pro tips, memories and “hoping to see” quips in via voice memo at!

Tick through my Railbird Fest 🐎 Instagram Stories highlights @celia_wnxp. For more, uh, professional photography, admire these shots by Relix photographer Wes Orshoski. Fingers crossed I can catch you down at Moon River Fest next weekend, or here in town at Americana Fest, since we won’t be able to meet up on the farm in Manchester after all.