Tyler Childers at the Santa Barbara Bowl, April 26, 2023 | Credit: Carl Perry

The Santa Barbara Bowl was turned into the bayou on Wednesday, April 26, for a sold-out show featuring country singer-songwriter Tyler Childers. 

A fake billy goat held a majestic stance at the forefront of the stage, surrounded by cattails, moss, and rocks against a tree-lined backdrop. Childers and opening act Charley Crockett brought the country to our coastal city, or, one could say, brought the country out of it. 

Charley Crockett at the Santa Barbara Bowl, April 26, 2023 | Photo: Carl Perry

The large crowd was dotted with cowboy hats, leather, and fringe, even if some of the attendees were all hat and no cattle, so to speak.

But the Bowl’s full house was unmistakably enraptured by the Kentucky boy and his longtime band, The Food Stamps, as the group belted out tunes tying together bluegrass, folk, and classic country melodies.

Childers began with a few solo acoustic songs, reminiscent of gospel music and full of soul, which were accompanied by the echo of the crowd singing along like a choir. When the band joined in, the audience kicked up their heels and many practically yee-haw-ed in celebration. 

Childers’s set was syllabic and spiritual, primarily composed of songs from his latest dynamic album Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? that features three distinct sonic perspectives — Hallelujah, Jubilee, and Joyful Noise. 

With song titles like “Purgatory,” “Old Country Church,” and “Way of the Triune God,” you’d think the album would be akin to god-fearing gospel, but, lyrically, it is far from it. Childers’s live performance highlighted the compassionate, emotional, and often upbeat rejection of traditional Christian narratives that is contained within every verse and underlies every note.

Behind his lyrical storytelling is a country twang that crescendos and breaks into climactic vibratos and then dips back into a buttery smooth southern drawl. His romantic, catchy ballad, “All Your’n” from his 2019 album Country Squire had fangirls at the front of the stage reaching out their hands and clutching their hearts as they sang along. 

Tyler Childers at the Santa Barbara Bowl, April 26, 2023 | Photo: Carl Perry

And if Childers wasn’t singing, he and The Food Stamps were cutting loose and jamming out in a rough and rowdy, country funk fashion.

The talented multi-instrumentalists rocked the bowl with piano glissandos and a breadth of other rhythms one might hear in a Kentucky or Nashville bar — equipped with accordions, fiddles, steel guitar, electric bass, drums, and trumpets. 

Some songs’ lead-ins had the morning crows and clucking of roosters, or croaking frogs and chirping crickets characteristic of a creek late at night, which only added to the stage’s rustic scenery. 

Attendees could almost feel the heat of a nightime, crackling bonfire, illuminated by nearby fireflies; or smell eggs and bacon frying in a cast-iron skillet from a wood-cabin’s kitchen. 

Or, maybe, the music brought about the invigorating burn one may feel in the back of their throat from, to quote Childers, “drinkin’ that moonshine” or “sniffing that cocaine.”

Get News in Your Inbox


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.