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Bulls, Bands & Barrels Invade The Kentucky Horse Park With An Amazing Soundtrack

Here in Kentucky, horses are royalty. Which is why the Kentucky Horse Park even exists in the first place. A few years ago, the Alltech Arena was built at the Horse Park when Lexington was chosen to host the World Equestrian Games. Since then, in my humble opinion, it’s the least utilized venue in our area and that’s truly a shame. So when I read about the premise behind Bulls, Bands and Barrels, I knew that this event was the PERFECT event to utilize this world-class facility.

The idea behind Bulls, Bands and Barrels is pretty self-explanatory, but for reference, the event has competitions for bull riding, barrel racing with horse and rider and well…bands. There were two acts playing after the rodeo portion of the event, Muscadine Bloodline and Kentucky’s own, Tyler Childers.

As a photographer, I’ve always wanted the opportunity to photograph a rodeo, so this event was truly the perfect fit for what I am trying to do here at Capture Kentucky. I can showcase a truly unique event that focuses on our great Commonwealth, as well as some of the talent that calls Kentucky home. Win, meet win.

Now this article is my recap of the event as a whole, I am in no way claiming to be a professional writer of or an expert of the rodeo. For full results of the competition, I strongly suggest visiting the official Bulls, Bands and Barrels page here.

This was my first rodeo. Bear with me here, my mind just remembered a Vern Gosdin song, “This Ain’t My First Rodeo“. Well Vern, this is mine, so you and everyone reading this, follow me on my journey as I try to capture the essence and excitement of what this event was all about.

*Sad sidenote, I looked up Vern Gosdin to find that he passed away in 2009. He was one of my favorite voices.

The first thing that I want to speak about is the activities that were held before the rodeo even started. Much like Nascar, Bulls, Bands and Barrels had a patriotic ceremony that included a lovely young lady galloping around the arena carrying an American flag. Followed shortly by the playing of the National Anthem. The other thing that this event shared with Nascar, was the opening prayer. Both sports are very dangerous and for me, I was grateful to see the event hold a prayer. Especially one that encompassed not only the participants, but the animals and the patrons as well. As crazy as the world we live in is becoming, it was a breath of fresh air for me and seemingly for most everyone else. Kudos for practicing our freedoms.

The rodeo portion of the evening was also very family friendly. Not only were we treated to the awesome power of the bulls, but we were given the chance to see some very skilled horses and riders barrel race. All that was capped off by an entertainer, I won’t call him a rodeo clown because he did much more, Brinson James kept the crowd engaged and energetic.

As a photographer, I’ll say that getting great shots at a rodeo is NOT an easy job, at least it wasn’t from a distance. The speed of the violent energy the animals are releasing makes it difficult to snag focus, but it makes it difficult to stop the action. Twisting and turning, jumping, bucking with the riders arms and legs flailing is an awesome sight, but it sure isn’t easy to capture. Having said that, I hope you enjoy what I was able to capture.

The ladies took the arena over between the bull riding competitions. These cowgirls and their trusty steeds were very skilled and once you see some of the photographs, you’ll see just how fast they were moving. While the power of the bulls was impressive, the speed and the skills of the barrel racers was my favorite part of the rodeo. Both events are also very short in time, with most bull rides ending before the required eight seconds of competition and most barrel races lasting only 15-18 seconds. They’re both quick, aggressive and beautiful in their own rights. As I walked around the venue, it was awesome to see so many children and young adults up cheering and sharing the moment with those around them. This was good clean fun for everyone and then, the music took center stage.

After the dust settled, (I’ve always wanted to type that in an article #ImaDork) the stage was set for the music to begin. I mean that both literally and figuratively. The command center for the announcers, as well as sound and lighting engineers was quickly converted over to a roughly eight foot high stage, fully equiped with tons of lights and two killer artists!

First up was Muscadine Bloodline, but before that I want to add an interesting subplot, if you will. This event was first sold as a dirt floor general admission ticket and also as a seated ticket. Due to the meteoric rise of Kentucky’s Tyler Childers, ticket demand was through the roof, so a couple days ahead of the show, Bulls, Bands and Barrels added general admisson concert entry only tickets, which didn’t allow entry into the venue until 9pm. Let me just say that I could not have been more happy for the event organizers, but especially for Mr. Childers. He is an incredible talent, a true Kentucky treasure that deserves as big of a stage as we can provide, but more on him in a bit. Let’s not forget about the fellas in Muscadine Bloodline.

Muscadine Bloodline are a country duo from Mobile, Alabama. They’re currently based in Nashville, TN. Their sound is more of the modern country variety with fantastic harmonies and tasty guitar licks to compliment what they have dubbed, “Music that is unapologetically Alabama.” I can appreciate homestate pride, shoot my homestate is in the title of my website, so I was eager to hear these fellas bring their sound to the Bluegrass.

Muscadine Bloodline performed a high-energy set of about 45 minutes or so. There were a lot of Tyler Childers fans in attendance who lean more towards a traditional sound, so it took a few songs for their more radio polished songs to win over many in attendance. That is not a knock on Muscadine Bloodline by any means, it’s just the reality of the crowd in attendance.

Thankfully though, after a few original songs and cover tunes, the music, or maybe it was the beers, most folks opened up their minds and Muscadine Bloodline had the Alltech Arena rocking. I personally enjoyed their set from beginning to end. Granted I found the band online months ago, so I had a familiarity with their music, but I thought they were fantastic in every way. I would love to have them back in Lexington. Perhaps at Austin City or Manchester Music Hall, maybe even as a participant in our recently announced Capture Kentucky Music Showcase Series. That would be awesome!

Favorites on the night included their new single, “Movin’ On”, “Depending On The Night”, “CB Radio”, “Porch Swing Angel”, and my personal favorite song by them, “WD-40”. A few covers brought them cheers as well. “Fishing In The Dark” originally by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, “Meet In The Middle” by Diamond Rio that morphed into Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy”, and the Travis Tritt version of Kentuckian Darrel Scott’s, “Great Day To Be Alive”.

If you’re a reader of this site, Tyler Childers needs no introduction. If you’re new to the site, welcome. We’re a friendly lot who loves Kentucky and lives to shine a positive light on her and her people. Be sure and check out our review of Tyler’s latest release ‘Purgatory’ here. Also for a much more detailed review of a concert, feel free to check out my review and photos of Tyler’s sold-out performance at the MAC Center in Prestonsburg last Fall, here.

Tyler Childers is a young man from Lawrence County, near the small town of Paintsville. (That community has my thoughts and prayers after hearing of the four murders there yesterday.) He is one of many country artists that grew up along US Highway 23, which has been dubbed the “Country Music Highway”. Tyler joins the rank of artists like Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Dwight Yoakam, Patty Loveless, Billy Ray Cyrus, Chris Stapleton, Sundy Best, Tom T. Hall and The Judds to have risen from the fabled highway.

Tyler’s sound is his own. It’s steeped in traditional country with a heavy lean towards bluegrass that features amazing storytelling. I’ve been on record as calling him a less nasally Appalachian version of Bob Dylan. Which is a complete and total compliment to his unique songwriting abilities. When another Kentuckian, Sturgill Simpson, lent his talent and name to Tyler’s latest release, we all knew he was about to explode in popularity, but nothing prepared us for this show. Why do I say that? Because this was the biggest stage to date in his home state and let me just say, this was Tyler’s crowd.

The love, admiration and sheer joy the crowd exuded by most was almost overwhelming at times. Not for Tyler or his band, but for me. As silly as that may seem, I’m proud of Tyler. I don’t know him personally, but a lot of my friends do and many have shared what a wonderful person he is. I’ve met him and he has always been genuinely humble and nice, but he’s an Eastern Kentuckian, I expect that. That’s how we’re raised.

I’m proud that Tyler has created and crafted his own sound and even more proud that people have accepted such a unique artist. This was a Tyler Childers concert that happened to host a rodeo. I say that with zero disrespect to the event or Muscadine Bloodline, but it’s true and that makes me proud.

As usual, Tyler put on his show. By that I mean, he did it his way and it doesn’t matter if you want something else. You’re still going to enjoy it. Let me explain. Tyler delivers a very intense show. It’s not high-energy, clap your hands, lots of gimmicky tricks. It’s a man delivering a flawless vocal and telling a well-crafted story, backed by some great musicians. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. For the casual fan, you my think it’s slow moving, but if you get his music, it’s perfection. Every. Single. Time.

I have also mentioned on here that the addition of Jesse Wells to the band has created an entirely new dynamic for Tyler and the band. His skills on the fiddle, electric guitar and overall knowledge of all things with strings, Jesse has taken the live show to an entire new level and I hope everyone realizes just how special this lineup is right now. They’re on fire and are performing at an extremely high level right now.

Many favorites were played in his set, but in true Tyler form, most were not included on his latest release. Guess what, not one complaint. From my perspective, the crowd was most energetic for “Born Again”, “Universal Sound”, “I Swear To God” and of course the lead single, “Whitehouse Road”. My favorite moment was the trifecta of songs that I love the most, “House On Fire”, “Peace Of Mind”, and seemingly everyone’s favorite, “Feathered Indians”. I can’t leave out the Charlie Daniels cover of “Trudy” though. In my eyes, that’s no longer a Charlie Daniels song, because Tyler OWNS it.

The only complaint you’ll get from me about the evening was the sound. That is totally expected in a venue not designed for music. If you were off to the side or in the back of the arena, you could hear a weird echo bouncing off all the metal walls and ceiling, but if you were on the floor enjoying yourself like you should’ve been, you were fine!

This was a beautifully ran, unique event that I really hope continues as an annual event at the Horse Park. From the sheer power of the bulls, to the precision of the barrel racers, to the harmonies of Muscadine Bloodline, to the intensity of Tyler Childers, to the love from the patrons, it was an unforgettable night. If you missed it, you should really be angry at yourself.