Cropped Out, an underground music festival in Louisville, Kentucky, lined up a blockbuster band for the top of its lineup this summer: The Fall. I was already eager to attend Cropped Out again after having a fun time there last year, and this sealed the deal. Alas, The Fall later announced it was canceling this show along with a few others, due to frontman Mark E. Smith’s health. As a replacement, Cropped Out added a new headliner, and it was not a surprising one: Louisville’s own Bonnie “Prince” Billy, who also played at this rather DIY festival last year.
And so, on Saturday, Sept. 24, when Will Oldham (aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy) stepped up to the microphone, he told the crowd: “Hello, class. Sorry, Mr. Smith is sick, but I’m the sub.” And then Oldham and his band, the Bonafide United Musicians, proceeded to play a set consisting entirely of songs from his most recent album, Best Troubadour, a tribute to the late country music icon Merle Haggard. This was a cool treat for me — it’s an outstanding record that has deepened my appreciation for Haggard’s artistry as well as Oldham’s, and it was great to hear these cover versions in their full live glory.
That was the high point of Cropped Out for me, but it was an interesting couple of days overall — including noisy punk and garage bands. I was especially impressed with the tuneful songs of Athens, Georgia, band Deep State. The Australian punk band feedtime, originally formed in the late 1970s, raged along with the younger groups, and Connecticut’s Magik Markers closed out the weekend with a powerful set.
There was also some jazz, most notably a strenuous, intense solo performance by Peter Brötzmann on the deck next to the Ohio River, Cropped Out’s most delightful stage. And on the quieter end of the spectrum, a lovely acoustic set by The Other Years, a Louisville duo. Other favorite moments for me include Omaha singer-guitarist David Nance’s set, and the hilariously rambling stoner monologues that Frank Hurricane told to introduce his songs. And speaking of funny, Cropped Out included comedy by Neil Hamburger and Chicago-based Sarah Squirm. Two very different comics, and yet in similar ways, they pushed boundaries beyond joke-telling into psychology and performance art.
75 Dollar Bill
The Other Years
Le fruit vert
Tara Jane O’Neill
(with Catherine Irwin and Thalia Zedek)
Tyler Damon/Tashi Dorji
Shit & Shine
Bonnie “Prince” Billy
& the Bonafide United Musicians