Fazoli’s Freedom Fest
The “Moonlight Stage” is an open-air stage on one end of downtown Morehead, Kentucky in the newly formed Downtown Morehead Entertainment District. Saturday, July 3,2021 saw music return to the Moonlight Stage for the first time in two years: “Fazoli’s Freedom Fest.” The main stage for Fazoli’s Freedom Fest, the Moonlight Stage, hosted performances by Elijah Miller and the Goodfellas, Shelby Lore, and Short & Company. Two other locations in town, within the newly launched Downtown Morehead Entertainment District, also featured multiple musicians performing in celebration of the Fourth of July holiday.
Elijah Miller and the Goodfellas opened the afternoon’s music. Billing themselves as a jazz, fusion, funk, blues and soul band, these young men make a huge statement that the future of roots music is alive and well in their hands. Front man Elijah Miller is the elder member of the band at the ripe old age of twenty. The Goodfellas performed a set of mostly blues standards with a couple of originals thrown in the mix. Opening the show with Tower of Power’s “Soul Vaccination” they set a high bar for the rest of the evening. This was the second time I have seen these guys onstage, and they continue to impress me, playing well beyond their years. In addition to Elijah Miller (guitar and vocals), the Goodfellas are: Christian Mullins (bass), Trent Litteral (saxophone), and Aaron Stephens (drums).
Some highlights of their set in addition to the opening number were Aaron Stephens channeling his inner Levon Helm and taking over lead vocals on “Them Changes” (Thundercat) and “Downhearted” (B.B. King) where they were joined onstage by Trevor St. John and Kolby Swinney of headliner Short & Company. One of the best young guitarists I have seen in a long time, Miller is an excellent front man as well, working the crowd like someone with decades of experience. I am a huge fan of the saxophone (and other horns) in blues and rock, and Trent Litteral’s playing was on point the entire set.
The Shelby Lore Band, comprised of Shelby Lore (guitar and vocals), Tyler Kiser (bass), and Luke Estep (drums) took the stage next, opening their set with “Bad Way Again,” the lead track on their forthcoming album, Great Unknown. Playing tracks off Great Unknown, their first album No Name Town and mixing in some eclectic covers, Shelby Lore took the crowd on a genre hopping set, based in the blues with steps into country and rock. Highlights of Shelby’s set included the opening “Bad Way Again” segueing into “Voodoo Child” (Jimi Hendrix), “Other Side” (Great Unknown), “Carter City” and their latest single “What I Almost Said” (Great Unknown). Mixed in with the originals were a few more noteworthy covers: “Landslide” (Stevie Nicks), “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” (Waylon Jennings) and “Folsom Prison Blues” (Johnny Cash).
Event sponsor Tony Pence (Downtown Morehead, Inc) joined Shelby Lore onstage and took lead vocals for “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.” Their “Folsom Prison Blues” cover is one of my favorites, as they take into a true blues song instead of trying to be Johnny Cash.
With the bar set high by The Goodfellas and Shelby Lore, headliner Short & Company then took the stage and demolished the bar. Comprised of Jeremy Short (guitar and vocals), Trevor St. John (guitar and vocals), Tristan Frazier (drums and vocals), Kolby Swinney (keyboard, guitar, and vocals), and Samuel May (bass and vocals), Short & Company closed out the event leading into fireworks.
While the organized fireworks followed the music, Short & Company had their own fireworks onstage. The ‘& Company’ of Short & Company has been filled by several different musicians over the years, but in 2020, Jeremy Short brought on the guys from Bedford (Trevor, Kolby, Sam, and Tristan) on as the “& Company.” This combination is absolute magic on stage. Highlights of Short & Company’s set included: “Fast Eddie,” “Hard Headed Woman,” “Don’t Lie to Me” ( Trevor St John on vocals, an original inspired by Albert King’s song with the same title), and “Rolling on Through” ( Featuring Kolby Swinney on guitar and vocals and Jeremy Short on keyboard). Notable covers included “For What It’s Worth” (Buffalo Springfield) and Jeremy Short performing a guitar solo of “Star Spangled Banner” as a prelude to the fireworks.
Music’s return to the Moonlight Stage was an epic four-and-a-half-hour jaunt, that could have sold out for fifty or sixty bucks a ticket to see this lineup share a stage. With the creation of the Downtown Morehead Entertainment District, what has traditionally been one show a year (July 4th) will hopefully lead to more shows throughout the year on the Moonlight Stage. Check out Fazoli’s Freedom Fest here: https://www.facebook.com/moreheadfreedomfest/