Photography by Laura Ord
On Sunday night (June 6), Tyler Childers returned to his home state of Kentucky to headline the Sunday night of Railbird Festival 2023.
The influence Childers' music has had on his home state can't really be quantified, but was perhaps cemented by the city of Lexington announcing that they were officially naming June 4 as 'Tyler Childers Day' before his set.
Undoubtedly the most anticipated performance of a weekend full of highlights, Childers delivered a truly euphoric set that felt like a choir service; the hometown crowd his loyal parishioners who hung off every word he sang.
Opening with firm favourite 'Whitehouse Road', Childers gazed upon the crowd with unbreakable intensity, taking a comfortable yet commanding stance as if he was delivering a sermon of his own. Choosing to take this approach rather than play his guitar throughout the set really gives the feeling that Childers is running the show; as if he's presenting us a gift and welcoming us into his world.
Photography by Laura Ord
Childers has never been afraid of mixing up his sets with a range of deep cuts and rare gems. Wading through his hymn book of instant standards and reimagined covers - including his own take of Charley Crockett's 'Tom Turkey' - Childers found a delicate balance between his well-known singalongs and colourful jams.
The vibrancy of 'Oneida' and 'Cluck Ol Hen' warranted as much fervency from the crowd as 'All Your'n', which the delighted crowd lapped up as soon as the sparse, joyful chords built into it's ascendency. His Jubilee versions of 'Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven?' and 'Old Country Church' were born to be heard live, the rapturous grandeur of the sound even more rich live.
Surrounded on stage by fauna and his beloved group The Food Stamps, Childers introduced his band to the masses, many of who were very much aware of who they all were.
He has the best band introductions in the game, reeling off character personifications like a match announcer at a boxing fight. He's a truly funny guy, letting down the guard that surrounds the severity of his performance to get a little loose and sentimental with the crowd.
Having lead the crowd through a stunning acoustic run of 'Nose on the Grindstone', 'Follow You to Virgie' and 'Lady May', only Childers could close out his show with a harrowing acapella take.
A dedication to his friend Moonshine Mike, who tragically passed away last year, Childers wearingly rasped and cried as he wallowed the mournful 'Sour Mash', all before smashing the glass in his hand down to the crowd and departing the stage.
It was a stunning ending to a joyful, emotional and transporting set. Childers can take comfort in the knowledge that Kentucky will always be his.
Tyler Childers - Setlist
Take from his live performance at Railbird Festival 2023, Lexington, Kentucky - Sunday June 4, 2023:
For more coverage from Railbird Festival 2023, see below: