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Asher on Aspen: Mood medicine at Red Rocks

Two near-perfect nights of Tyler Childers at Red Rocks Ampitheatre

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen
Tyler Childers at Red Rocks in September. (Andrew Broderick/Courtesy photo)

 

When I first heard Tyler Childers about five years ago, I remember arriving at my destination and sitting in the car for 20 minutes. I sat there, completely dumbfounded, listening to this profound new-to-me voice and never wanting it to end. I was hooked from the first time I heard his creamy-gritty voice in the song “Lady May.” I remember instantly falling in love with his sound and immediately wanting to tell all my friends about this musician. His mystique and lyrics have continued to grow on me since that day.

When I heard he was playing back-to-back nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, I knew that I needed to be there both nights. With how much I consistently listen to his music, I reasoned this would be one purchase and experience I knew I wouldn’t regret. Luckily, I have some Front Range friends who are big admirers as well, and they were all on board to attend the first night’s performance with me.

From my door to Red Rocks, it was almost exactly a three-hour drive. I arrived about 30 minutes before the doors opened and my crew was already gathered in the parking lot making new concert friends and bonding over Childers’ music. My throat was tingling when I arrived as I had been blasting his songs and belting his lyrics in the car for the complete duration of my drive.



I was nearly out of breath by the time we reached the top of the stairs that led to the entrance of the theatre. Giant red, sandstone rock structures of fantastic shapes towered over us, and the view of the Denver skyline shimmered bright in the distance. A show at Red Rocks offers the most stunning views and the incredible acoustic properties make each concert here an unforgettable experience. No wonder attending a Red Rocks show is on everyone’s Colorado bucket list.

We grabbed a beer and then claimed our seats in the general admission section towards the top of the arena. After the two smooth openers—Ona and Margo Price—we were beyond ready and anxious for Tyler to take the stage. The Kentucky-based country star commanded the crowd’s attention with an easy, laid-back confidence. He belted out lyrics to “Country Squire,” a sing-along tune that had the audience on their feet swaying along and singing every word.




Even in his most energetic numbers like “House Fire,” “All Your’n,” and “Nose on the Grindstone,” he remained glued to the mic stand, content with strumming his guitar and using only his vocals to entertain the audience. His lack of showmanship had little effect on the crowd’s excitement as true fans just wanted to hear his rich, raspy voice that had a luscious way of filling the outdoor arena with a big, bright sound.

My friend pointed out that George Strait performs in this exact same manner. He doesn’t move around the stage much and is perfectly content on standing at one spot while performing. Dwight Yokam also conducts his concerts in this way. Childers certainly won’t win any Entertainer of the Year prizes, but his reserved personality and relatable lyrics are what, I think, so many people find intriguing about him. He’s not looking for attention, he just wants to tell a story and share his life experiences.

Though he played a good amount of hits, he also played a handful of uncommon songs from his first album that only his biggest admirers would recognize. Eventually, about ten songs in, he opened up and did a bit of storytelling. He talked about getting his start as a musician, sleeping on friends’ couches and at one point he even contemplated giving it all up to run a goat farm on his grandfather’s property. He joked that he was happy his life didn’t end up going in that direction.

The second night brought all the same feelings, though the experience was considerably heightened: I was sitting in the eighth row of the reserved section. I was so close to him that I could see the whites in his eyes. Being this close allowed me to see his facial expressions and nuances that I couldn’t witness the night before. He was mostly serious, and he sang the lyrics to every song with absolute gumption. If his voice quivered for even a moment, he would embrace it and let the crackling quiver come out in full. He was seriously thinking about and mulling over the words in each song as he sang them, and he wasn’t just going through the motions.

Leaving the venue each night, I overheard many people discussing the songs he ended up not playing. There was no “Feathered Indians,” “Whitehouse Road,” or “Charleston Girl.” This led some in the crowd to wonder why he wouldn’t play his most successful songs. He also did not perform an encore either night—a wild surpris to most spectators. The set list included 20 songs, which led him to be on stage for about an hour-and-a-half each night.

Even though he didn’t sing his biggest hits, I left both nights with an insane concert high that is still lingering, nearly a week later. Tyler Childers provided me with two nights of pure joy, and I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time. Isn’t it incredible how naturally happy music can make us? How much it can boost our mood and serotonin levels? If you’re not a fan already, do yourself a favor and start listening to this incredibly talented country sensation.


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