Photography by Ismael Quintanilla III Courtesy of Railbird Festival

The Biggest Takeaways from Railbird Festival 2024 Day 1

June 2, 2024 2:38 pm GMT

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While the first day of Railbird Festival 2024 may have been battered and beaten by wind and rain throughout, nothing was going to stop such a majestic day of music from taking place.

While both crowds and artists alike battled with the climate, they danced, cheered and celebrated in unison as festival season truly kicked off with a joyous bang.

Whether it was Kaitlin Butts firing shots, Flatland Cavalry bringing everyone to tears or Noah cementing himself as potentially the biggest artist of the year, there was so much to enjoy across the Saturday of the Lexington, KY event.

Taking it all in from the dirt racetrack ground, the Holler team have rounded up the biggest takeaways and best moments from day one of the Kentucky festival.

<p>Kaitlin Butts performing at Railbird 2024</p>

Photo by Taylor Regulski, Courtesy of Railbird Festival

Kaitlin Butts Kicks Ass and Takes Names

Kaitlin Butts is an absolute force live. Alongside her red-bedecked band, she tore and rabbled through a vociferous set, one packed full of cheeky winks and pistol-firing takedowns. "I've got a lot of anger in me, I don't know if you can tell", Butts jokes after a particular modern Western murder ballad for the masses.

There's a real spit and sawdust realness to Butts' performance on Day 1, proving she's always prepared to kick ass, take names and have a hell of a lot of fun while doing it. 'You Ain't Gotta Die (To Be Dead to Me)' and 'Hunt You Down' showing just how much fun you can have writing about a piece-of-shit guy.

It's not all jokes, mind. There's heartbreaking and empowering candidness in the realisation of 'Blood' and 'Things Won't Always Be This Way' that's tough to shake, particularly as Kaitlin delves forthrightly into the story behind the songs and the heaviness and subsequent power that bore them.

"I'm Kaitlin Butts from Tulsa, Oklahoma, this is a song I wrote sat on my ass with shit else to do" she quips with dead seriousness. It's safe to say Butts isn't going to be doing much sitting around anytime soon.

Best Song: 'You Ain't Gotta Die (To Be Dead To Me)'

~ Ross Jones

<p>Flatland Cavalry performing at Railbird 2024</p>

Photo by Ismael Quintanilla III, Courtesy of Railbird Festival

Flatland Cavalry Are The Band You Need To Break Through The Clouds

As the rain began to spit across the Red Mile racetrack, Flatland Cavalry took to the stage with the full intention of breaking right through it.

With their gorgeously tender and wholesome songwriting, there's not many better we can think of giving such a task. Dressed in all black and a red bandana, Cleto Cordero clamoured to the crowd from the off, conducting them as they sang along to opener 'Oughta See You (The Way I Do)'.

The Beatles-esque 'Let It Roll' is a slinking and playful jam, the band showing the eccentric side of their creativity while ensuring they express their soul, essentially shrugging off the bad and letting the good times roll.

If the crowd weren't already swooning during the beautiful rendition of Fleetwood Mac's 'Landslide', it's safe to say they fell head over heels when Kaitlin Butts took to the stage for the pair's beloved duet, 'A Life Where We Work Out'.

Flatland just have this way of capturing fleeting moments of joy and warmth in a grey world. They help you realise that whatever you're going through, it's going to be ok.

Best Song: 'A Life Where We Work Out' (With Kaitlin Butts)

~ Ross Jones

<p>Josiah and the Bonnevilles performing at Railbird 2024</p>

Photo Courtesy of Railbird Festival

Josiah and the Bonnevilles Emerges as the Railbird New Find of the Weekend

Railbird Festival has always been renowned for cultivating a melting pot of genres and stylistic influences, with punters able to enjoy Wynonna reeling off some classic country hits on the Elkhorn Stage, before wandering across to the Limestone Stage to witness Counting Crows delivering some irresistible folk-rock anthems.

While numerous artists on the 2024 Railbird bill blur the lines between genres, few do so as adeptly and satisfyingly as Josiah and the Bonnevilles. During Josiah’s packed-out late afternoon set at the Burl, the Tennessee singer-songwriter delivered a stirring performance that felt grounded in folk, yet drew from contemporary country and pop melodies while occasionally straying into alt-rock territory.

Few other artists can perform the sparse, yearning ‘I Am Appalachia’ or the atmospheric, Lord Huron-esque ‘Blood Moon’, and then cover Justin Bieber’s ‘Ghost’ and Taylor Swift’s ‘Anti-Hero’ while still making it all feel 100% natural and authentic. Josiah incorporates threads from a plethora of cloths, masterfully weaving it all into a rich, vibrant tapestry that still feels wholly, unwaveringly true to himself. At Railbird 2024, Josiah significantly expanded his beloved fanbase - the Bonnevilles - with the up-and-comer further consolidating his one-to-watch status.

Best Song: ‘Blood Moon’

~ Maxim Mower

<p>Turnpike Troubadours performing at Railbird 2024</p>

Photo by Nathan Zucker, Courtesy of Railbird Festival

Turnpike Troubadours' Greatest Hits Set is Up There With The Best

"This is like the good ol' days; but it's so much better than it has been before" Evan Felker affirms with the crowd shortly into Turnpike Troubadours' set, as the thousands in attendance holler with appreciation for a group who's legacy is further cemented with performances like this.

We're only half way through the year and this is set is going to be hard to top - an enrapturing revival that showed not only how beloved this cult band are, but just why they are showered with such appreciation.

The crowd aren't only hanging on, but are bellowing every syllable that Felker pronounces. The mere action of him picking up his harmonica cues high pitched screams and shouts of "god damn" from those in attendance, behaving like they're attending a sports game as much as a performance from their favourite band.

The group reciprocate in turn, delivering a barn dance, honky tonk stomp and country therapy in equal measure. It makes for a simply joyous energy. Felker is positively beaming too - laughing and grinning as he sings and jostles with the group. You can't help but smile along, heartened seeing how far him and the band have come these past five years.

Best Song: 'Good Lord Lorie' (With a Choir of Thousands)

~ Ross Jones

<p>Noah Kahan performing at Railbird 2024</p>

Photo by Charles Reagen, Courtesy of Railbird Festival

Noah Kahan is the Biggest Artist of 2024

When considering which country or folk artists have enjoyed the most meteoric rises in recent years, Lainey Wilson and Jelly Roll seem to be the names on everyone's lips.

However, when standing in a 40,000-strong crowd all belting out the lyrics to each song from an artist few of us had even heard of this time last year, it's hard to look past Noah as the break-out star of 2024. The Vermont artist brought out Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz to sing ‘Long December’ and - to a rapturous response - his good friend Hozier to deliver their much-loved duet, ‘Northern Attitude’.

But even when Duritz and Hozier took the stage, the spotlight remained firmly on Noah, with the infectious ‘She Calls Me Back’, the haunting ‘Orange Juice’ and the monster hit ‘Stick Season’ all drawing fervent reactions from the rain-soaked audience.

What was most noticeable is how seamlessly Noah Kahan can flit between deeply resonant profundity, as he nimbly navigates themes of mental health, sobriety and heartbreak, and laugh-out-loud levity and humour, with Noah showcasing his warm, playful personality in-between tracks - such as when he demanded the crowd put their hands up, before shouting, “Now give me all your money!”

At various points during his performances, Noah Kahan takes on the status of a modern-day idol, with legions of fans coming to pay homage to a man that offers solace and healing through his music, and at other moments, Noah seems like a friend you'd want to share a beer with, who just happens to write music in his spare time.

Whether you see him as an uber-relatable everyman or a poetic genius, one thing's for sure - his Railbird set served as a reminder that, in 2024, it doesn't get any bigger than Noah Kahan.

Best Song: ‘Orange Juice’

~ Maxim Mower

For more on Railbird Festival 2024, see below:

Photography courtesy of Railbird Festival

Written by Ross Jones
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