“We came to Salt Lake City to party!” declared Travis Tritt at his concert on Friday at Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre. And party people did. After the first song (“Drive In Your Country,” Country Club, 1990), Tritt flicked his guitar pick into the crowd, and it landed on our blanket. My accomplice for this evening of Outlaw Country picked it up. One of the Tritt superfans sitting nearby clamored to get a look, ecstatic to behold a little piece of the Tritt.
The next time she came over to ogle The Pick That Touched The Hand of Travis Tritt, my accomplice pressed it into her hands. “You can have it,” he said. She positively gushed. She looked at me, asking for permission to give my accomplice a hug (a request I do not have the authority to grant) but she threw her arms around him without waiting for an answer anyway.
She jumped up, showing off the pick to her partner, who immediately offered to us that which is most sacred at a Red Butte show: his cooler. “Can I offer you a drink?” he asked. (The answer to that question should never be “no.”) Our generous blanket neighbors introduced themselves as Britney and Scott and kept us in drinks for the rest of the show. Like Travis Tritt, we had all come to party.
That was the energy at Red Butte that night. Even when Tritt long reminisced about the days you could “Smoke In A Bar” (Set In Stone, 2021) and windingly venerated veterans injured in combat (as well as his own acting career) to set up his song “Anymore” (It’s All About To Change, 1991), the party would not be stopped.
If you’ve heard a Travis Tritt track before, you’ve heard him sing live (not that there’s anything wrong with consistency), although the singer’s onstage asides make for crowd-pleasing moments. At one point, he looked down at his instrument and begged, “Talk to me guitar.” When Tritt introduced a song off his new album, Set In Stone, his first studio recorded album in nearly 15 years, he leaned into the microphone and crooned, “I’m baaaaack,” earning an approving cheer from the audience. All told, the show came with few surprises. Tritt played the old hits and even the new stuff sounds a lot like the old stuff (once again, not that there’s anything wrong with consistency).
Tritt’s set, for all of its unholstered fun, also included earnest tributes to Outlaw Country legends and “Honky Tonk Heroes” Waylon Jennings and Charlie Daniels of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” fame, who passed away last year.
More in that sober vein, you’ll find the sound of the opening act, Michelle Moonshine. “When I’m happy, I only write sad songs,” she said from the stage at Red Butte. “When I’m sad, I don’t write anything at all.” It comes through in Michelle’s voice—notably with an honest crack in her vocals that will break your heart.
The power she brought to the stage might have been a surprise for those who hadn’t heard her before, but she’s been a working musician for more than a decade now. Salt Lake magazine interviewed Michelle Moonshine back in 2018 as part of our Small Lake City Concert Series. Her brand of Americana, as she dubs it, features twangy guitar, smokey vocals and hauntingly beautiful harmonies.
It’s a local outfit, too. Their single “Wait A Minute” (2020) was recorded live, reel to reel, at Orchard Studios in North Salt Lake, with Michelle (vocals, acoustic guitar), John Davis (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar), Bronk Onion (upright bass) and Daniel Young (drums). Their latest single, “Nineteen Ninety-One,” released in 2021, is about the year before Michelle was born and strikes that perfect note of bittersweet nostalgia.