What if I told you that a young man by the name of Tyler Childers played to about thirty people at the Moonshiners Ball, just 2-1/2 years ago? Would you believe me? Well, ya should, because I was there.
That show was my first time seeing Tyler perform. He was all by himself, kicked back, sitting in a chair, singing away at a, if I remember correctly, 2pm set. He had on torn-up jeans, muddy boots and was wearing a “Hawaiian Shirt.”
I thought to myself, “Does this fella deserve the hype that my friends have heaped upon him?” Now I had listened to his first album, as well as a few soundboard recordings from live shows, but I was internally skeptical. All that skepticism was flushed away though as soon as the man opened his mouth.
Since then, Tyler has grown so quickly, that his new album, Country Squire, debuted at the number spot on the Billboard charts and earned him a spot on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Having said that, we’re awfully proud of Kentucky’s Tyler Childers around here. He has done things his way and has followed a similar path that his mentor and fellow Kentuckian, Sturgill Simpson, followed. With Tyler, he is now paving the way for many of his talented Kentucky friends to grow as artists. We too owe Tyler and his team a debt of gratitude, as many of our readers found us through our work with Tyler.
Only Tyler’s love for his Lady May runs deeper than his love for all things Kentucky and that’s what makes this article so important.
I’ve written more words about Tyler Childers than likely any artist in the last eight years or so. That’s no happy accident. Tyler and his camp see that what we do here is about lifting others up, which is precisely his plan whenever or wherever he can. A rising tide lifts all ships, kinda thing.
I will say, that watching history unfold is one thing, but being able to document history, is a whole new ballgame. That’s a responsibility that I recently realized and I do not take that responsibility lightly.
Now we don’t get to this point, without Tyler Childers surviving the long grind of writing and recording songs. Singing in every bar that would have him, playing empty rooms, sacrificing prosperity and often times getting screwed over by the shady folks that lurk around music. Tyler’s sacrifices are what make this trip to Red Rocks special for us all.
Red Rocks is one of, if not the most iconic venue in the world. It’s long been a bucket list venue for me as a photographer and would definitely be a wonderful article to add to our ‘On The Road’ series. So getting to cover a fellow Kentuckian fulfilling his dreams is the absolute cherry on top of it all.
Tyler and the Foodstamps weren’t alone though. They brought their ole fishing buddies in Town Mountain, and Mr. Robert Earl Keen was direct support on Monday. There was also another artist that played the Red Rocks stage, but more on that later.
First up was Town Mountain. This was my third experience seeing those fellas live and I gotta say, between Town Mountain, The Wooks, and Billy Strings, you’re good to go on a multi-hour rabbit hole journey to discovering that all those folks are some of the best musicians in the business. Town Mountain were making their Red Rocks debut, and that made the night that much more special. Red Rocks is one of those special places where fans want to see their favorite artists and it’s also a venue that every band or artist dreams of playing. It is a pretty magical place, to say the least.
Town Mountain seemed to be soaking in the love, taking it all in and smiling every step of the way. Vocalist/guitarist Robert Greer made several appearances throughout the night, usually with his cell phone in hand, documenting a moment that until this night was out of reach. It was one of my favorite moments from the whole night and it was beautiful to see an artist realize just how special the moment really was.
I had a feeling, after seeing Tyler perform “Down Low” with Town Mountain at Kickin’ It On Creek in 2018, that we may just get Tyler out there earlier than expected. That feeling was quickly validated. Once Town Mountain finished their wonderful rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s classic “I’m On Fire”, they welcomed Tyler to the stage.
Tyler told a story about how this song made it onto Town Mountain’s album. He said that Jesse Langlais called him up and said, “Remember that song we wrote together a couple of years ago? Would you mind if we put that song on our next record?” Tyler quipped, “I don’t remember us writing a song together.” Lots of folks in Denver clearly related to that story.
There were many Kentuckians in attendance and it seemed as most had seen the aforementioned 2018 KIOTC performance, so there was a healthy sing-a-long throughout the sold-out crowd.
Robert Earl Keen needs no introduction. He is a living legend and has crafted some of the best songs the world has ever been privileged to enjoy. With a band that is meticulous and as smooth as Mr. Keen’s band, you’re pretty much guaranteed to witness an amazing show.
Mr. Keen is 63 years old and has that wonderful full head of white hair, but his voice is still as smooth as Maker’s Mark and his ability to captivate an audience with his storytelling is as strong as it’s ever been. I certainly had no qualms about his set, although there was one huge omission from his setlist, but more on that in a bit.
The time had come for Tyler Childers to take the stage of a venue that solidifies an artist. If you sell-out Red Rocks as an artist, you usually revisit every year. Some artists like String Cheese Incident and My Morning Jacket will play two or three nights at Red Rocks. Since Monday night checked off all the boxes, my money is on a Tyler Childers Red Rocks show that happens for many years to come.
The band took the stage, there was a palpable electricity in the air and 9500 fans were greeted by….The Laid Back Country Picker!! Much like the Ryman show, Tyler wanted Laid Back to take stage before he did, simply out of the love and respect he has for the LBCP. Just another gesture that shows the integrity of Tyler Childers.
Denver didn’t know what hit ’em as The Foodstamps kicked off the show with Laid Back Country Picker’s “Party Line.” Cool as a cucumber, Laid Back gave some good Country music and he treated everybody right as he snagged up his telephone and spread his gospel. So much class, but still able to kick some as…pirations off his bucket list.
Once “Party Line” got em all worked up, Laid Back met Tyler behind the drum kit for a well-deserved embrace.
Tyler stepped up, acknowledged the crowd then tore through “Whitehouse Road”, “Dead Man’s Curve”, “Tattoos” and quite possibly the best version of “Shake The Frost” yet. Such an amazing song.
One really cool moment was the seamless, slick transition from “Born Again” into the Kenny Rogers classic, “Tulsa Turnaround.” Without missing a beat, the band was ready to let loose and Tyler was crystal clear for one of the more spirited performances on the night.
We were then treated to four songs from Tyler’s newest release, ‘Country Squire.’ After the title track, Tyler and the Foodstamps dropped “Bus Route” on ’em. It was at this time that I noticed the large EBT symbols being projected onto each of the two red rocks. Eatin’ Big Time, indeed!
One of my personal favorites and definitely my favorite track from ‘Country Squire’ is “Creeker.” There’s just something about that song, that story, his delivery…it’s all just perfect.
Recently Tyler and The Foodstamps have introduced an extended jam session before settling in to play “House Fire.” It’s essentially a long instrumental of “House Fire” that allows each band member to shine. I love that so much, jam sessions are incredibly underrated, at least in my opinion.
One track I didn’t expect to hear was “Take My Hounds To Heaven.” That’s a particular favorite of my son and I. My son was not able to make it this year, but I sure sang it loudly in his honor!
The current single, “All Your’n,” was definitely a crowd favorite as seemingly all 9500 in attendance were on their feet and singing along, but you may be surprised to know that “All Your’n” wasn’t the loudest sing-a-long of the night, but I’ll touch more on that in a bit.
The set rolled through a lot of ‘Purgatory’ as we saw “I Swear To God”, “Honky Tonk Flame”, and Universal Sound. Before closing the main show with a spirited version of the Charlie Daniels classic in “Trudy.” Tyler always delivers such a fantastic performance on that song!
We had just finished the appetizer and main course, so Tyler took to the stage alone to deliver what may have been the strongest, nearly perfect set of acoustic songs I’ve seen him deliver.
The crowd was seemingly in awe as Tyler tore into “Nose On The Grindstone.” Most folks were standing silent and in awe. Finally the crowd hit the reset button and were singing Tyler’s lyrics back to him.
With Tyler’s Lady May in attendance, he began the opening chords to “Lady May” and as people recognized what was happening, they collectively loat their minds akd it was…..AMAZING! I know that Lady May surely enjoyed this one from the side of the stage. Such a beautiful moment.
Tyler ended his four song mini acoustic set with “Follow You To Virgie,” and “Feathered Indians.” Now I mentioned earlier that “All Your’n” wasn’t the loudest sing-a-long of the night. I’m betting you guessed “Feathered Indians.” You’d be close, surprisingly wrong. That honor belonged to “Follow You To Virgie.” Was it because of the huge Kentucky presence? Maybe, either way it was very interesting to see and hear. I know I certainly enjoyed it!!
Never mind the video quality, I snagged this one to show you how beautiful it was when nearly 10,000 people became backing vocalists.
To end the night, Tyler welcomed the band back to the stage, but they weren’t alone. See, you may remember that I said Mr. Robert Earl Keen’s setlist had one glaring omission. Mr. Keen emerged from the side of the stage. He joined Tyler and the Food Stamps, as well as Robert Greer from Town Mountain, to perform one epic version of Keen’s most popular songs in “The Road Goes On Forever.” I can’t begin to explain how awesome this performance was, so click play and enjoy…a few thousand times.
I hate the terms “storybook ending”, but I damn sure can’t think of a better description.
Party Line – With Laid Back Country Picker
Dead Man’s Curve
Born Again into
Take My Hounds To Heaven
I Swear To God
Honky Tonk Flame
Nose On The Grindstone
Follow You To Virgie
The Road Goes On Forever – With Robert Earl Keen and Robert Greer of Town Mountain