For years, the place to be on New Years’s Eve in Tulsa was the corner of Easton & Main, there you can find the historic Cain’s Ballroom, where the Turnpike Troubadours regularly perform on New Year’s Eve to sold out crowds. New Year’s Eve at Cain’s Ballroom is something that should be experienced by every music fan. Normally there are two nights of music put on by The Turnpike Troubadours, but for 2018, there was a single, sold-out show. These shows have a reputation for being rowdy, but on this night, it was nothing but 1800 people there to see a double bill of Oklahoma artists, opener Kaitlin Butts and the Turnpike Troubadours as the headliner.
Starting out the evening was Kaitlin Butts, a vision in her flouncy, red dress and auburn hair. If she was at all nervous to be playing Cain’s Ballroom on one of the biggest nights of the year, it wasn’t the least bit obvious. Working the stage, interacting with her band and wowing the crowd with her voice, it was clear to me why everyone I’ve spoken to that has already seen Kaitlin live has nothing but good things to say about her. Almost as enjoyable as her voice, is her storytelling. Leading into her songs with snippets of what inspired her is always such a great way to get more insight into an artist, especially one that you’re not familiar with. A particular moving story and song was, “Elsa”, based on Kaitlin’s interactions singing at a nursing home and one woman in particular that she met there who had dementia. The song chronicles what Kaitlin wants to be treated when she’s that age and how she wants to act before she grows older. Included in the set were “Gal Like Me” and “Don’t Push It”, two songs off her 2015 album Same Hell, Different Devil. A high point occurred when Kaitlin brought Cleto Cordero of Flatland Calvary up on stage for a duet of the song, “It Ain’t Me Babe”.
2018 has been a year of ups and downs for The Turnpike Troubadours and in particular, front man Evan Felker. Going into this show, I was hopeful the band had overcome any issues that had led to a month of canceled shows and would proceed to wow the crowd with their steady stream of hits. I have to admit that I was a bit worried when within the opening song, “Tornado Warning”, there were flubbed lyrics and Evan Felker was visibly rattled. To his credit, after several songs, he seemed to regain his composure and was able to relax and continue the show without any more major incidents. I can’t say enough good things about the band as a whole. These guys have been together for a long time and their musicianship is top notch. Almost every song in the set was met with cheers and often a sing-a-long. It’s obvious people love The Turnpike Troubadours and with people from all over the United States attending, their fan base seems not to care the distance they have to travel for a show. The setlist was a great mash-up of songs off the groups five studio albums. “Gin, Smoke and Lies”, “Easton and Main,” “1968,” “ Good Lord Lorrie,” “Every Girl” and “Kansas City Southern” were just a few of the songs included within the set and one could hear members of the crowd yelling, “Get it Nixie” as the song “Birdhunters” began with the strains of Kyle Nix’s fiddle. The floor in Cain’s Ballroom was noticeably shaking from the pounding of 1800 pairs of feet during the song, “Long Hot Summer Day”, something I’ve never experienced at Cain’s Ballroom until this show. Co-founder of the band and bassist, RC Edwards, took the lead for the song “Drunk, High and Loud,” while fiddle player Kyle Nix took over playing bass. Joining the sextet on stage for most of the set was Thomas Trapp, a renowned flat picker and rounding out the band were regular members Gabe Pearson on drums, Hank Early on steel guitar and accordion and Ryan Engleman on lead guitar. Playing for almost 90 minutes, to include an encore, the band rang in the new year with bottles of champagne on stage. I’m not sure that The Turnpike Troubadours have gained back the momentum they started 2018 with just yet, but I’m hopeful that 2019 will be a smoother ride for them and will find them once again as strong as they’ve been in years past.
Both Kaitlin Butts and The Turnpike Troubadours will be touring throughout the spring. You can find tour dates for them here: https://kaitlinbutts.com/ and here: http://www.turnpiketroubadours.com/pg/tour-dates