It Happened in Telluride: Turnpike Troubadours’ Bucket List Moment
For more coverage from the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, follow Saving Country Music on Instagram.
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The plan was not to give a play-by-play of the Turnpike Troubadours’ set at the 49th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival, but instead give a summation of their performance along with all of the other performers over the weekend in an (upcoming) recap. Turnpike has received ample press lately. But circumstances and the performance they turned in require chronicling.
It was a big week for the Turnpike Troubadours. It started with the band playing the massive Live Nation-backed multi-genre mega fest Bonnaroo in Tennessee on Thursday (6-16), and by all accounts, it was a rousing set. But there’s just some places and events in country and roots music where the stage and setting hold so much more sway, history, and majesty that it means significantly more than than just another gig. It’s not even about the size of the crowd, or the purse it brings in.
“I’m not sure what a bar band from Oklahoma is doing here, but we’re sure glad to be here,” Evan Felker said from the stage. And after witnessing the set Evan and the rest of the boys from Oklahoma turned in, it wasn’t just one of those things you say to butter up the crowd. They felt the moment, and the honor, and rose to it.
Turnpike fiddler Kyle Nix said after the set on social media, “Played Telluride Bluegrass Fest today, and got to meet Sam Bush and Béla Fleck. Bucket list stuff. Wish we could have brought Byron [Berline] with us. He would’ve loved this.”
Byron Berline is the legendary fiddler from Oklahoma who passed away in 2021, and helped shepherd the Turnpike Troubadours through his DoubleStop Fiddle Shop in Guthrie. Kyle Nix later posted a photo of Berline playing the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1979, speaking to the history of this event, and how far it goes back, and how it’s intertwined with the Turnpike Troubadours.
Now it was the Turnpike Troubadours’ turn to make some memories and history. It was fair to wonder just how much bleed over in the fandom of Turnpike you would see in the Telluride faithful. However progressive the approach of the festival might be, it is still a bluegrass festival at heart. The music of the Turnpike Troubadours needs a bit of pre-existing knowledge about it to appreciate it fully, because songwriting and the stories are so significant to the gravity of the music, and must be understood and digested. It’s not like a jamgrass outfit that can hit a groove and get most anyone moving.
But the Turnpike Troubadours were well-received, and a good healthy dose of dedicated fans either made their way to Telluride for the day, or were already among the crowd, and were there to sing along to every word, and roar their applause after every song. And it’s not like Turnpike was completely out-of-place. Featuring prominent fiddle, as well as bouts of banjo, accordion, and dobro from Hammerin’ Hank Early, they have solid roots in traditional acoustic instrumentation.
It also happens to be that one of the band’s most popular songs (and the one with the most streams) was penned by John Hartford, who was one of the founders of newgrass, and a regular performer at Telluride during his tenure. Playing “Long Hot Summer Day” on the Telluride stage was definitely one of the “moments” during their set, with Evan Felker making the rare decision to turn it into a crowd call-and-answer singalong. Another was when bass player RC Edwards played “May All Your Favorite Bands Stay Together” by Dawes. When the chorus came around the first time, the crowd erupted, including many in attendance unfamiliar with Turnpike, Dawes, or the song. It’s just such a great universal sentiment.
The Turnpike Troubadours’ set at the Telluride Bluegrass Fest was one of the ages. The band’s first show back after their hiatus at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa in April will always be the one most fondly remembered, and may never be topped in regards to the emotion in the room, and the memories made there. But they were only getting their feet back under them at that time. It was a dress rehearsal. What we saw in Telluride was a band polished, excited, honored, and still hungry. It was the most animated I’ve ever seen Evan Felker, healthy and infinitely happy, and the same goes for the rest of the band, taking in the moment themselves while entertaining the crowd.
And incidentally, the weather in Telluride all week was mostly less than favorable. Thursday was scorching hot, and large portions of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were rainy and cold, though the show always went on. Despite a heavy rain shower right before their set, the clouds parted, and Turnpike might have enjoyed the best weather all weekend.
The Turnpike Troubadours are not taking these moments for granted. They’re not resting on their laurels. They all know the swell of attention they’ve been receiving lately could end or plateau tomorrow, because they lived through that already. They’re playing every gig like their careers depend on it.
The insane demand we saw when they first started announcing reunion shows has started to cool of slightly, like we knew it would. Some of their recently-announced shows in the southeast that are outside of their native region haven’t sold out immediately like we saw previously. But if they keep putting performances together like this, they won’t have any issue filling out venues, and being offered bucket list opportunities, like playing the Telluride stage where mentor Byron Berline, and so many other bluegrass and country greats once held court.
(Mostly) Complete Set List:
1. Every Girl
3. Good Lord Lorrie
4. Blue Star
5. The Bird Hunters
6. Something to Hold On To
7. A Tornado Warning
8. The Housefire
9. Morgan Street
10. Gin, Smoke, Lies
11. Whole Damn Town
12. Kansas City Southern
13. May All Your Favorite Bands Stay Together (sung by RC Edwards)
14. Long Hot Summer Day
16. Bossier City
17. Long Drive Home
Photos by Kyle “Trigger” Coroneos
The Turnpike Troubadours just SLAYED at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado. Career moment for the boys from Oklahoma. pic.twitter.com/lCMsYgRHvR— Saving Country Music (@KyleCoroneos) June 20, 2022
June 20, 2022 @ 10:53 am
New album being announced this week?
June 20, 2022 @ 5:54 pm
Wishing it into reality or you got something?
June 21, 2022 @ 7:38 am
They teased a huge announcement this week.
Looks like it could be that Felker is appearing on a Dropkick Murphy’s album of Woody Guthrie cover songs
June 20, 2022 @ 11:12 am
Did you happen to see Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi, while you were there?
That girl is fierce!
She IS bluegrass, & everything else she chooses to be.
An AMAZING talent. Vocally, Instrumentally, as Part of A Band.
She also seems to be one of those people i could be best friends with, in a heartbeat.
“However progressive the approach of the festival might be, it is still a bluegrass festival at heart. The music of the Turnpike Troubadours needs a bit of pre-existing knowledge about it to appreciate it fully, because songwriting and the stories are so significant to the gravity of the music, and must be understood and digested.”
Maybe i’m taking this statement a bit too literally, but people do not need to be beaten to death with background information, to enjoy, or not enjoy, anyone’s music. ESPECIALLY, not while engaged, at some festival.
Get your tit, out of the Turnpike’s mouth.
Let them grow up, & fly
We want to hear more about Rhiannon.
June 20, 2022 @ 8:12 pm
Yes, saw Rhiannon and Frencesco and wrote about them on Instagram (link above). Will also mention them in the upcoming festival recap.
June 20, 2022 @ 9:08 pm
You are the bomb
June 20, 2022 @ 11:44 am
Looking forward to seeing them this weekend (along with Shane Smith and the Saints, Mike and the Moonpies, Margo Cilker, Reckless Kelly, Jeff Crosby, and many others). Gonna be a good one.
June 20, 2022 @ 12:21 pm
TT played a very similar set list in Waite Park, MN, on 6/11. And they absolutely crushed it then as well. I’m just hoping for a new album and a return to the upper Midwest in the near future. Thank you for continuing to cover this band, Trig.
June 20, 2022 @ 6:39 pm
I have heard from half a dozen folks saying the same thing. They must have killed it up there.
Cool Lester Smooth
June 20, 2022 @ 4:48 pm
So confused by the “Progressive” line, haha.
If you see Turnpike outside of Texas and Oklahoma, it’s a pure NPR Country crowd, where the most mainstream artists they listen to are Mark Knopfler and the Dixie Chicks (plus Emmylou and Steve Earle).
Telluride is exactly their speed.
June 20, 2022 @ 6:10 pm
I accidentally liked your post but Fargo, ND and Waite Park, MN would argue that.
June 20, 2022 @ 6:41 pm
“If you see Turnpike outside of Texas and Oklahoma, it’s a pure NPR Country crowd.”
Yeah, I don’t think so.
Cool Lester Smooth
June 21, 2022 @ 12:00 pm
Maybe, “In states whose economies function without oil” would have been a better descriptor.
All I know is that it was a lot easier to get a Turnpike ticket in Athens than in a larger venue in Boston.
There’s a reason Jason Isbell doesn’t worry about being a dick:
People who buy albums by and tickets for lyric-driven country-rock artists that aren’t native to their local “scene” tend to be white-collar liberals looking for modern iterations of Springsteen, Petty, and Dire Straits.
It’s a bit of a Pepperwood Chronicles thing.
June 20, 2022 @ 6:53 pm
Seen them twice in Chicago, neither time was an NPR crowd
June 20, 2022 @ 7:36 pm
I saw them in the belly of the beast and it was clear as day that folks drove from outside the NPR / NPC radius.
June 20, 2022 @ 7:39 pm
“If you see Turnpike outside of Texas and Oklahoma, it’s a pure NPR Country crowd, where the most mainstream artists they listen to are Mark Knopfler and the Dixie Chicks (plus Emmylou and Steve Earle).”
You mean a bunch of head up their arse, New Englanders?
Oh man, Cool Lester, this is rich.
Oh, you must be talking about all the hipsters who think playing on Tiny Little Desk, increases their I.Q. along with their “talent.”
Wilson Pick It
June 21, 2022 @ 7:17 pm
“You mean a bunch of head up their arse, New Englanders?”
Well, that was uncalled for, but I forgive you because you’re probably still upset about the Civil War. Sorry we kicked your ass so bad.
Cool Lester Smooth
June 22, 2022 @ 2:42 am
Sherman had the right idea.
Atlanta’s awesome, nowadays.
June 22, 2022 @ 5:25 am
The callousness of seeing rape, theft, torture, burning, wanton destruction, etc. as the “right idea” would be shocking if it weren’t so common for cold, sadistic Yankees. The brutal things the US empire does to people all over the world now, were first put into practice against Southerners. Southern blacks, along with the white women and children, bore the brunt of Yankee atrocities, as they were the ones left to guard the home while the men were at war. It takes a special kind of scumbag to see what Sherman did as good.
Cool Lester Smooth
June 22, 2022 @ 8:11 am
Awwww, do you need a safe space?
So triggered by a little joke. Are you you gonna try to “cancel” me, next?
Anyway, I have a history degree from a Southern university. I’ve read accounts of the March from actual Southern soldiers, whom I trust over the ramblings of dickless, failure-fetishizing Lost Causers like yourself.
Sherman burned the mansions. He burned the railroads. He burned the town halls. He burned the cotton. He stole and killed the horses and livestock.
He left the houses and the food.
June 22, 2022 @ 8:12 am
None of this is relevant to an article about the Turnpike Troubadours playing Telluride. No more comments on this thread please.
June 22, 2022 @ 8:24 pm
June 20, 2022 @ 8:37 pm
I’d rather attend a DAC no-show.
Vickie Lynn Graham
June 22, 2022 @ 8:57 am
I always look forward to the comments any time you write about TT!
Barry S Jones
June 21, 2022 @ 12:09 am
Bout to see them this Friday. Cannot wait. Haven’t been this excited in 20 years. Reading this article pumped it up even more.
Steve Earl is a Guitar God
June 22, 2022 @ 1:38 pm
Kyle Nix looks like he hits the gym hard.
Good read. Thanks!
June 25, 2022 @ 9:20 am
Wow. Saw them last night. This band is at a whole different level now. I loved them live back in the day. This band, today, is 10x better than it ever was. Evan calm, confident, and in perfect form. It was sensational.
June 25, 2022 @ 11:58 am
For the record, I was supposed to be at the Jackalope Jamboree this weekend. Made it all the way to Boise the night before from Telluride (and really, from Austin), started feeling terrible, and tested positive for COVID. Generally, speaking, I don’t like to put my business out there on the streets, but I am absolutely devastated I’m missing the event. Drove a very long way to attend it, and now due to some other drama back in Texas, I’m returning home, while also fighting off a not-very-mild-at-all case of COVID. Hope you all have a great time. I will try to make it there someday.
June 29, 2022 @ 3:18 pm
I think Shreveport was in the set list toward the end. I could be wrong.