The Incomparable Culture of Waterfront Wednesday

IMG_8499It’s not in every city where you can pack a blanket and some snacks, head down to the local waterfront, set up camp and hear some international acts perform live music. That really sounds like an opportunity only available in more cosmopolitan cities like San Francisco or Chicago. But thanks to 91.9 WFPK and the Waterfront Development Corporation, Louisvillians have that very opportunity here with the monthly Waterfront Wednesday.

The event is usually held the last Wednesday of the month April through September on the Big Four Lawn right next to the Big Four Bridge in Louisville. Waterfront Wednesday regularly features three acts at 6, 7:30 and 9 p.m. and is not only family-friendly but completely free. WFPK’s steadfast commitment to the event and its meticulous programming has helped shape Louisville’s nationally recognized music scene and has, on a greater scale, been integral in bolstering the city as a premier destination for live music. Such artists who have played Waterfront Wednesday include The Avett Brothers, My Morning Jacket, They Might Be Giants, Old Crow Medicine Show, Dawes and more.

The lawn opens for spectators at 5 p.m. at each event, and there’s plenty to do until the music starts. There are different information booths where you can learn more about the fine folks who support Waterfront Wednesday and keep it free, a variety of fair-food options, the merch stand and, of course, the drinks, including the beer of sponsor Goose Island Beer Company.

And then there’s the music. Something extra cool about Waterfront Wednesday is that it can be whatever you want it to be. If one of the artists is an all-time favorite of yours, you can stand shoulder to shoulder with other fans right in front and enjoy it as you would a traditional general admission show. Or if you’re just there to take in the experience, you can set up your lawn chair and blanket a little farther back where it’s a bit more spacious. Thanks to the prime location, there’s no dearth of space, and you can tailor your time on the river to be just what you’re looking for.

The most recent Waterfront Wednesday, which was one of the series’ more popular, featured Kaleo, Lucius and Brett Dennen. I showed up for the middle act Lucius, but, being a big fan, I got there pretty early to get a spot near the front. Consequently, I was there for all of Kaleo’s set, a band with whom I was totally unfamiliar. I’d never heard anything from them, but it was such a joy to discover new music that I don’t know I ever would have heard otherwise.

Then, of course, getting to see one of my favorite bands was such an amazing experience. With their sounds reverberating all the way to Jeffersonville and the lights of the Big Four Bridge in the background, I was absolutely awe-struck by how fortunate Louisville is to have Waterfront Wednesday. A gathering of all sorts of individuals together to appreciate live music in one of our city’s most beautiful spaces is truly a sight to behold and one I think only further speaks to Louisville’s commitment to cultivating its cultural fabric.

Sure, you can get live music in maybe a similar venue for maybe no admission charge in other cities, but why would you want anything but Louisville, where the quality of music is matched only by the friendly, festive and congenial community? VT

There are two more Waterfront Wednesdays left this year. The next will take place on August 31 and then again on September 28. For more information, visit waterfrontwednesdays.wfpk.org.