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reports and thoughts on legal issues, music, Orthodox Christianity and/or whatever else strikes my interest

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Location: Houston, Texas, United States

My name is David Stone. I live in Houston, Texas. I am a 30-something single white male. I am an Orthodox Christian and am a member of an English-language parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Willie's Family Picnic

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Saturday I was able to attend Willie Nelson's Family Picnic at the new Showgrounds venue at Sam Houston Race Park. The all day event was a lot of fun but came with a few disappointments.

The show began at 1:00pm and continued to around 11pm. I arrived early but not early enough to catch the first half of Asleep At The Wheel's opening set. It would have been nice if the promoters had released a schedule prior to the event. It also would have been nice for them to make some kind of announcement that Merle Haggard would not be performing as advertised. I managed to find my seat and catch the last few songs by Asleep At The Wheel which included "House of Blue Lights", "Boogie Back To Texas" and "Miles and Miles of Texas". The band finished just before a thunderstorm blew through releasing a deluge of rain. Many in the crowd sought cover inside the race park lounge for around 30 minutes or so until the rain dissipated.

Once the thunderstorm passed the temperature cooled off somewhat and after a moderate delay Ray Wylie Hubbard took the stage. Ray was joined by his teenage son Lucas on lead guitar who is becoming quite a skilled player. Ray, Lucas and the rest of his band played a rocking set that included: "Snake Farm", "Screw You, We're From Texas", "Wanna Rock and Roll", "Drunken Poet's Dream" (a song Ray co-wrote with Hayes Carll) and a raucous sing along version of "Redneck Mother".

Ray and his band were then followed by the legendary honky-tonk hero Billy Joe Shaver. The set by the 68 year old Shaver was one of the highlights of the day. He still has a commanding stage presence and offered full-throated versions of many of his hits including: "Georgia on a Fast Train", "Try and Try Again", "That's What She Said Last Night", "Honky Tonk Heroes", "Old Chunk of Coal", "The Tough Get Going", the theologically suspect but contagiously fun "If You Don't Love Jesus Go To Hell" and his signature anthem "Live Forever".

Next up was David Allan Coe, the sometimes controversial singer-songwriter, who is also 68 years old. He was a sight to behold with his flowing long hair, braided beard, tattoo-covered arms and his rebel flag guitar. While the years have taken their toll on his voice he offered a relatively short but entertaining set consisting of songs from throughout his long career which included : "Please Come to Boston", "Me and Bobby McGee", "Take This Job and Shove It", "The Ride", and "If That Ain't Country".

David Allan Coe was followed by Los Lonely Boys. Their set was truly a family affair (not just among the sibling band mates) due to the presence of a few of their young children playing on the side of the stage. I hope they had earplugs because the band delivered a smoking set of their trademark road-house rock sound. They played a number of songs from their new cd as well as some of their most popular hits including: "I'm a Man", "Staying With Me", "Forgiven", "Heart Won't Tell a Lie" and "Heaven".

Next up was the legendary Ray Price. The 82 year old singer-songwriter was probably the biggest highlight of the entire day. He still looks very fit for his age and sounds almost as good as he did 30 years ago. He and his band, complete with a small violin section, offered a number of songs Price has written over the past several decades. Ray sang a memorable set in his characteristically crooning style that included such classics as: "Release Me", "Crazy Arms", "Heartaches By The Number", "For the Good Times", "Night Life", "Make the World Go Away", "Spanish Eyes", "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and "I Wish I was Eighteen Again".

What followed next was one of the few disappointments of the night. Merle Haggard was originally scheduled to perform before Willie but he had to cancel the morning of the show. That is understandable but the fact that no announcement was ever made to the crowd was not. So instead of Merle's set, and instead of the Ray Price and Willie set that was printed on the schedule (which was only handed out after one entered the grounds) the crowd was treated to the music of 40 Points led by Willie's son Lukas Nelson. Again this rescheduling would have been understandable if anyone would have bothered to announce it to the crowd. But no one did and the crowd was left to wonder who was this band that was playing when Merle or Ray or Willie should have been on stage. It wasn't until a few songs into Willie's set that Lukas was formally introduced to the crowd.

Finally, after nearly nine hours, Willie Nelson took the stage. A huge roar went up from the crowd as Willie took the stage and launched into "Whiskey River". I have to admit I was a little dubious going into the show over how well he would sound at this stage of his career. The 75 year old Willie left little doubt however that he still has plenty of voice left. He was in great form and sounded (if not as great as he did 20 years ago) quite good. Nothing to complain about at all.

He also delivered a very generous set. With very few commentaries or introductions he launched into blockbuster hit after blockbuster hit that left the crowd standing and cheering throughout. The band also lived up to the "Family Picnic" description as it featured Willie's sister Bobbie on piano, his son Lukas on guitar, as well as Paul English on drums, Mickey Raphael on harmonica and young Ruby Jane on fiddle. The set included so many classic songs and hits that I can't recall them all. Some of the highlights that I can remember included: "Whiskey River" (his opening and concluding song), "On the Road Again", "Always On My Mind", "Superman" (one of his newer songs), "Good Hearted Woman", "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys", "Georgia On My Mind", "Stay All Night, Stay A Little Longer", "I'd Have To Be Crazy", "Funny How Time Slips Away", "Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground", "Beer For My Horses", as well as a few gospel tunes sprinkled in such as "I'll Fly Away", "I Saw the Light" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken".

He played a memorable set but there was one final personal disappointment to the day. No Merle Haggard meant no "Pancho and Lefty". I had been waiting all day for that song and thought it would be the likely final song of the evening.

It was a real thrill, however, to finally see a Texas legend such as Willie. It made up for all the heat, rain, long lines, and ridiculously over-priced beer and food I had to endure.

I hope Willie comes back to Houston soon and I hope Merle can make it next time.



Blogger Fernando said...

Nice write-up Dave. Sounds like it was a good time.


5:16 PM  

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