Live Review: Ben Sollee @ The Moonshiner’s Ball, Berea KY (5/15)

2015-05-15 22.32.24The Moonshiner’s Ball is a Berea music festival in progress for its second year. It’s a homey, but sizable, Kentucky farm festival that felt comforting and big enough simultaneously. Details flourished at the event, from the Kentucky food trucks to the southern charm, and I’m not sure there could have been a better Friday headliner for this event than Ben Sollee.

Coming into the show, I was only vaguely familiar with Sollee. I knew that he was a Kentucky native and did some really interesting things with a cello. And if you didn’t know, now you do.

Not being familiar with individual Sollee songs is no problem in concert. His songs inspire so much movement and energy that it is all about enjoying the sound, not hitting the right notes singing along. Sollee’s playing along with Jordon Ellis’ handheld drum slapping was as compelling visually as it was sonically, showing just how much music two people alone can make.

Later I did check the name of one song, because it was a true highlight. “Electrified” started out as a fun swaying number, but as Sollee requested at the beginning, it became a full on dance party by the end. If you don’t believe me, it’s clearly evidenced in the video below.

The crowd was so welcoming to the Kentucky performer, and especially supportive when he brought his young son out to sing with him. At first the boy was timid, as anyone would expect, but later he grew so comfortable he was singing even without the support of the instruments. The crowd welcomed the boy so much that he went from frightened to ecstatic to sing for the hundreds dancing under the West Sixth stage lights.

Not far from home, Sollee also naturally saw some friends in attendance. Once one caught Sollee’s eye, he gave them the responsibility of starting the conga line. And everyone followed suit just like that.

That’s the kind of night it was. Extremely fun, extremely loose. No one could have done it better than Sollee because he is a big name without any big ego. Coming from Kentucky himself, he connected with the audience and they were happy to return the favor with great energy throughout the night.

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