1st Tyler Childers Show in 16 Months Caps off Under the Big Sky Fest

As an independent country music fan, you have to stop viewing the world with an underdog’s mentality. Tyler Childers isn’t just a superstar in the country musical realm that exists wholly separate from mainstream country radio play and major award shows. Tyler Childers is a superstar, period, competing and often beating many of his mainstream brethren when it comes to streaming numbers and other metrics on a weekly basis.

When Childers rolled up to the Under The Big Sky Fest in Whitefish, Montana Sunday night (7-19) to play his first show in some 16 months, it wasn’t to warm the stage up for the big mainstream band that had blown in from Nashville in the Brothers Osborne, it was vice versa. And that’s the way it should have been. Tyler Childers is a bigger act than the 3-time CMA Vocal Duo of the Year.

A lot has changed in the last 16 months for Tyler Childers. After having to cancel his extensive, 43-date arena tour with Sturgill Simpson after performing only 12 of the shows (the last was Charleston, South Carolina on March 10th), Childers has gotten sober, he released a surprise album, and he’s seen his popularity and mystique only grow, especially behind the continued popularity of his album Purgatory.

Where most of the other big artists in country music have announced tours, Tyler still only has a couple of one-off events on the calendar, including Big Sky Fest, which was a commitment he’d made the year before. So there were a lot of question marks about what exactly to expect from Tyler.

Like most all the acts that came out on the stage at Under The Big Sky Fest, Tyler Childers was caught off guard by the sheer number of people present in the crowd, and their pent-up enthusiasm after the pandemic. “What are you doing?” Childers said, surprised by the reception. “How have you been?”

Childers took everyone to church to begin the set, surprisingly not clenching an acoustic guitar, but standing there naked-handed, a little bit unsure what to do with them, while he sang the Hank Williams spiritual “Old Country Church.” This led into Tyler’s unreleased and excellent “Take My Hounds to Heaven.”

From there Childers did pick up the acoustic guitar, and turned in a rousing set of many of his signature original songs, along with covers such as Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night” popularized by Sammy Smith, “Tulsa Turnaround” made famous by Kenny Rogers, and ended with his epic version of “Trudy” by Charlie Daniels.

Some of the conversation after the set was about what Tyler Childers did not play (see full set list below). There was no “Lady May,” “Feathered Indians,” or “Whitehouse Road”—all three of which have now been Certified Gold by the RIAA, and “Feathered Indians” as Platinum, speaking to Tyler’s wide popularity. Tyler also did not perform an encore, though this was likely due to noise restrictions, not Childers blowing off the howls from the crowd for more. His 90-minute set included 20 songs, and ran as long as it could.

With only a few one-off engagements currently on his calendar—including two nights at Red Rocks that sold out almost immediately, and a performance at the Hinterland Music Festival in Iowa on August 7th—fans felt like they were getting something rare by seeing Tyler Childers live at all. And after three days of affirming the power, importance, and rising popularity of independent country music at Under The Big Sky Fest, it was just about the perfect encapsulation and ending.

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Stay tuned for a full recap of Under The Big Sky Fest. You can also check out further coverage of the fest on the Saving Country Music Instagram feed.

Set List:

1. Old Country Church
2. Take My Hounds to Heaven
3. Country Squire
4. Creeker
5. Tulsa Turnaround
6. Housefire
7. Gemini
8. Born Again
9. All Your’n
10. Purgatory
11. Long Long Time to Get Old
12. Help Me Make It Through The Night
13. Rock Salt and Nails
14. Shake The Frost
15. Bus Route
16. Deadman’s Curve
17. Honky Tonk Flame
18. Universal Sound
19. Peace of Mind
20. Trudy

Tyler Childers testifying at the beginning of the set
Craig Burletic
“The Professor” Jesse Wells
James Barker
Rodney Elkins
Chase Lewis – Keys
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