On December 12th, 2018, Oklahoma-based red dirt band Turnpike Troubadours brought their best faces to Richmond Virginia’s acclaimed music venue The National. The show was one of the first stops on their East Coast tour, and the band delivered an absolutely impressive performance.
This was my third time seeing Turnpike Troubadours, and this was by far the best yet. The first time I saw them was opening for Jason Isbell in 2016, and following that I saw them at a beer festival in Richmond this past summer. While both of these shows featured commendable performances, the focus of the audience was not fully on them in either case. So the energy felt a little off at those shows. This time around, the band was in their element in the 1500 capacity venue, which was packed full to the brim with fans. The setlist consisted of a selection of fan favorites, picking songs from each of the band’s four albums. Frontman Evan Felkner stepped aside for a moment to let bass player R.C. Edwards step forward, fronting the whimsical number “Drunk, High, Loud.”
Aside from the music, the age demographics of the room was also striking. I saw people ranging from age 10-70, and a significant portion of the audience appeared to be in their twenties. For a red dirt band far from home, I found it a pleasant surprise. I often feel as if I’m one of the youngest people (21) at a lot of shows I attend, so it was nice to see other people my age enjoying one of my favorite bands.
The band display a great deal of grace under pressure. Felkner announced early on that he was suffering from a cold, but was still going to put on the best show possible. Fiddle player Kyle Nix was having some technical troubles midway through the show, and there were some issues with the front of house mix throughout the show. Despite everything that was going against them, the band still delivered in a big way. The energy projecting off the stage was substantial. Guitarist Ryan Engleman was in rare form, and Hank Early absolutely shone as a multi-instrumentalist. His contributions to the band, switching between pedal steel, accordion, and banjo, are not to go unnoticed. Drummer Gabriel Pearson kept the energy flowing with hard hitting drumming. Despite the technical troubles, Nix blew the crowd away on the fiddle, switching between reserved fills and bold solos. With Felkner pushing on through his cold, the band played for almost two hours and included a two song encore in their performance.
As they continue to prove themselves to be one of the best bands in country today, Turnpike Troubadours will wow audiences with their incredible musicianship and pointed lyricism. In the face of difficulty, the band still delivered a captivating show. Seeing a room full of people invested in their performance was spectacular. Catch Turnpike Troubadours on tour: www.turnpiketroubadours.com