Sunday, April 21, 2024

My Chill Bumps Have Chill Bumps: Tyler Childers at the Bridgestone Arena


[Photo by Brittany Monroe]

What do I mean when I say that listening to music with intention is my spiritual practice. There’s the solo walking revelation with your favorite songs or the Friday new releases & the good headphones. Then there’s that kind of musical encounter that merges the magical & meaningful in such a mass cultural & communal way as to transform an arena into a living room & a church and a barn and the back pasture, or at least that’s the case when Kentucky’s Tyler Childers & his band the Food Stamps take over the Bridgestone Arena.

On one of the fan pages, someone juxtaposed images of Tyler at the OG Basement not that long ago, & now he is selling out the same room that the likes of arch-classics like The Who, Roger Waters, Bob Seger, U2, or The Eagles have sold out. Other country artists, as well as indie, pop, hip-hop, jam-bands, and gospel greats have filled the hockey arena too, but there’s something special & dare I say humble about this particular Appalachian singer’s sudden rise to the ranks of those that sell out arenas.

In a town like Nashville, turning the arena into a “church” of sorts isn’t any kind of stretch. Plenty of praise-&-worship tours have set down in this very room. But if you just listen closely to the far ranging lyrics of Tyler’s universe, which feels like misty mountain & crunchy creek & holler, or if you just allow the trippy videos or between song snippets wash over you, we might notice how interspiritual & multicolored & sometimes simply sexy or wild & rowdy all these tracks actually are.

It’s some psychedelic hillbilly reincarnation meets old-school Pentecostal hoedown revival, where not just the piercing lyrics pull you in with all the people singing along, but it’s also each instrument tugging at your entire body, from bass & drums to fiddle & keys, to invoke every “wow” or “hallelujah” your heart could muster. From the familiar singalong lyrics of  “Shake the Frost” or “Follow You to Virgie” or “Lady May” to the sanctified funky of “Triune God” or coke & booze fueled confessions of “Whitehouse Road,” it’s an all-encompassing sonic envelope of the real. Even the instrumental jams of “Two Coats” & “Cluck Ol’ Hen” bring you inside the fire where your true heart burns. 

How do I know that this is a spiritual practice?! Well in this case the signal is strong & the vibes visionary, like from the homey lamps & vintage television that decorate the stage, broadcasting at the frequency of love & fellowship, if not a little bad boy rebellion. The signal sucks you in, singing along. Then, your pins & needles have pins & needles. Your chill bumps have chill bumps. Your entire body is a vibrating, teary-eyed & foot-stomping mess of gratitude.

These songs are part of your story & your very soul & everyone around you tonight seems to feel the same.

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