Okay, be honest, Pikeville Kentucky is not the first place that comes to mind when thinking about New Years Eve festivities. That thought belongs to a city square in a metropolis up north that has a population larger than the entire state of Kentucky. A party made famous by Dick Clark and carried on today by Ryan Seacrest and a host of other celebrities, but today on New Years Eve 2019 THE party is in Pikeville Kentucky! Because this New Years Eve here in Pikeville, Tyler Childers has gathered family and friends for the third and final sold-out party at the Appalachian Wireless Arena. He had fellow Kentuckian Darrell Scott start the party then Todd Snider and his band kept it going.
Darrell Scott may not be a household name to the casual music fan but I don’t think this Pikeville crowd were casual music fans! As he walked center stage to the mic the Pikeville crowd started cheering and didn’t stop until he finished his last song. Darrell is a singer/songwriter from London, Kentucky and like I said the casual fan may not recognize his name but you will know some of the songs he has written. Like his second song tonight “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” that has been recorded by several artist including Brad Paisley and Patty Loveless and used several times during the run of the TV series “Justified”. Or maybe “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” recorded by Travis Tritt. That’s just naming a couple, the list of artist that have recorded his songs is long and impressive! Tonight, however, was about Mr. Scott, his guitar and a New Years Eve audience that was eating up everything he gave them!
Todd Snider and his band took their turn at this extremely enthusiastic Kentucky crowd, it is New Years Eve after all. Todd gave the crowd his blend of country, Americana and folk and it was just what the doctor ordered! Songs like “The Ghost of Johnny Cash”, “Is This Thing Working?” and “Play a Train Song” fit right in with what Darrell Scott had done before and what Tyler was going to give the crowd in a few minutes. Todd’s bio says he’s from Portland, Oregon but he sings and plays like he’s from a holler down the road (which is a GOOD thing)! He and his band were the perfect choice for tonight’s show.
Tonight (as most reading this will know) was the third of three SOLD-OUT shows for Tyler at the Appalachian Wireless Arena. Each of those nights had 6000 plus in attendance, it seems like just yesterday I was photographing him at the Appalshop Theater in Whitesburg (not far from Pikeville, a 180 seat room that had 200 plus in it) things sure have changed in a short couple years! The energy in this building is like nothing I’ve ever been a part of, the first two nights were incredible but tonight is on a different level. Tonight’s energy is much like the energy in the small venue from a couple years ago magnified by thousands! I’ve heard some say they miss the intimacy of the smaller venues but if you were lucky enough to be at one, two or all three of these shows, you saw that Tyler Childers was able to make a show with six thousand people feel just as intimate as one with 150. It was amazing to behold!
Tyler and the boys started this incredible night off with “Take My Hounds to Heaven”, then the title track of his #1 album “Country Squire” after that this huge crowd became the biggest choir eastern Kentucky (maybe even the entire state of Kentucky) has ever heard! I still get chills just thinking about it, it was truly a magical experience. As a concert photographer and writer, you can imagine that I cover a lot of shows of different genres and you’d be right, let me tell you I have never been to a show that every single song is sung along with the performer like a Tyler Childers show. That very thing was one of the reasons (that and I am fan as well) I wanted to cover these shows, I wanted to hear six thousand voices sing those songs. You guys did not disappoint!
Next up was “Bus Route” followed by “Creeker” and “Gemini”. I could list each and every song of the 24 song setlist but I won’t. Each and every song was more impressive than the one before it. So I’ll skip past “Whitehouse Road”, “All Your’n”, “Feathered Indians” and “Deadman’s Curve” and many between them to get to just before midnight. Tyler started the countdown and as the clock struck midnight six confetti cannons (four near the stage and two near the soundboard) shot blue and white confetti everywhere! Yes blue and white, we are in Kentucky after all. Tyler’s wife Senora May joined him on stage for a new years kiss, the band hugged, toasted and high-fived straight into a new year! You can see most of this on YouTube, many video’s posted. After most of the confetti settled they tore into “Trudy” (Charlie Daniels cover) before finishing the night with just Tyler and a guitar for “Lady May”, “Follow You to Virgie” and “Keep Your Nose on the Grindstone”.
With that, the night of exceptional music came to an end, actually, a trio of nights came to an end. The three concerts broke an attendance record for the Appalachian Wireless Arena and brought thousands of people into Pikeville and the surrounding areas.
Tyler’s night wasn’t over. You may have seen the now-viral post made by AWA’s assistant General Manager Larry Miller of a ball cap-wearing Tyler assisting the arena cleanup crew, helping to sweep up some of the confetti that was everywhere in the arena. That is the kind of person Tyler Childers is! 2020 has big things in store for him!