Louisville Gathers at the River for WFPK’s Waterfront Wednesdays

noncomMUSIC AlliancePerformance, Triple A

WFPK hosts free, live performances on the shores of the Ohio River.

Riverside views of the Louisville skyline and colorfully illuminated bridges accompany evening outdoor concert series Waterfront Wednesdays, organized and hosted by public radio station WFPK.

All-American music, presented by a multi-genre assortment of established and emerging artists, is the prime attraction. The series frequently averages 15,000 attendees of all ages.

Most of the Waterfront Wednesdays headliners are adult album alternative (Triple A) artists who are regularly broadcast by WFPK. Live performances by J. Roddy Walston, Parket Millsap, and Phourist and the Photons draw on an eclectic mix of homegrown music including indie rock, pop, alternative country, jazz, folk, and blues. Many of these musical strains were born and are nurtured in Louisville, Kentucky and the southern United States.

Waterfront Wednesdays are free and held on the Big Four Lawn, part of Louisville’s Waterfront Park next to the pedestrian-only Big Four Bridge that connects the city to Jeffersonville, Indiana.  The lawn chair and blanket-bearing attendees bring their own food or buy catered meals onsite. The concerts are kid-friendly, with a special activity area where they can play and explore.

The live performances are held rain or shine once a month, April through September, with concerts usually falling on the last Wednesday of the month.

“The number one comment from our listeners when making a financial contribution to the station is how much they enjoy Waterfront Wednesdays,” said WFPK program director Stacy Owen. “For some it’s their go-to social event through the spring and summer.”

And the best part, she adds, is that it introduces attendees to artists who become their favorites. That is a gratifying source of synergy between the concertgoers and the station that many of them actively support.

For Owen, nearly overshadowing her memories of capacity crowds and good reviews, are her stories of musicians she has booked breaking out to mass-market success. The Avett Brothers, for instance, a folk quartet that she first booked in 2007, returned to Louisville this year—selling out the Louisville Palace three nights running.

“Then there was this time singer-songwriter Robert Frances was so excited he jumped into the river after his set. ‘Yuck!’ I yelled. ‘Get him out of there before he catches something!’”

Waterfront Wednesdays are a shining example of public radio as a driving force for local music scenes by connecting musicians and their fans through live performances.