Long live rock, I need it every night

Monday, March 02, 2009

Free Willie

[photo credit: Sounds Like Austin]

It's not everyday you see a living legend perform. For free. In front of about 200 people. On Thursday I was 4 feet from the stage when Willie Nelson played a free show at Waterloo Records in Austin. Willie was there along with Asleep At The Wheel to promote their new album, Willie and the Wheel, a collection of classic Western Swing songs. The in-store was promoted as an Asleep At The Wheel only performance. I would've skipped the event but I was tipped off that Willie would also be there. They kept it hush-hush so there wasn't a massive crowd. They didn't want to deal with denying hoards of people from entering (you know, Fire Marshall rules and all that).

I got in line at 4:40 and at 5:00 the doors opened. I easily made my way close to the stage as they finished the sound check. I was unsure if Willie would actually be there, until I saw his ratty old guitar - pardon me, Trigger - up on stage. After a few songs by Asleep At The Wheel, Willie descended from the tour bus and entered the store. He was sporting a cowboy hat over long braided hair, black jeans and some comfy New Balance sneakers. He was also wearing a "Willie & The Wheel" shirt with their motto, A Joint Production, on the back. A "Joint" Production - get it? Har-har. That Willie is such a kidder. And by kidder I mean total pothead.

When Willie appeared, a lot of people were caught off guard. I guess the word hadn't spread about the "surprise" appearance. Willie hopped onstage and they launched into a number of tunes off of Willie and The Wheel. In fact, they played almost the entire album. Unlike most in-stores where the band plays four songs and is out the door, Willie and the band kept going. They even covered some of Willie's classics, including "Poncho and Lefty" (originally sung by Townes Van Zandt). During the show, Willie messed up a bunch of lyrics (weed is a hell of a drug) and had some sound issues. It didn't matter one bit though. Each song was great and the fans couldn't have been happier (myself included). Asleep at the Wheel is a sick band. They're all killer musicians. Even if it was just Asleep at the Wheel it would've been a great show (but I'm glad Willie was there).

[photo credit: Sounds Like Austin]

I must admit - this was my first Country show. I grew up in Upstate NY (yes, I'm a Yankee) and listening to Country music was unheard of. Even the band dorks made fun of kids that liked Country. Through the years I came to appreciate certain genres within Country music, namely Outlaw Country (Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Jr.) and more recently Texas Country (Townes Van Zandt, Doug Sahm, not the Dixie Chicks). Willie fits into both of those categories. The Man in Black is great but Willie Nelson has always been my favorite. Who doesn't love the guy? He's like Ferris Bueller. The sportos and motor heads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads...they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude. He proved it too by playing for over an hour and then spending another hour talking with his fans. He signed CDs, albums, boobs, and posters for almost every person at Waterloo Records (both those inside and those waiting outside). He took his time as he chatted and posed for picture after picture. I always respected the guy, but after seeing him on Thursday I have nothing but total admiration for the guy.

I've been to hundreds and hundreds of shows and without a doubt this ranks as one of my favorites. As everyone was having a great time, cheering loudly after each song, I kept thinking, "This is fucking awesome." As far as Country shows go, I don't know if you can top that performance. Maybe I should go out on a high note, like Constanza. Or maybe this is the first of many Country shows to come. Who knows, maybe I'll ditch DC Rock Club and start Austin Country Club.


Potsy said...

Austin Country Club, that doesn't already exist?

Nice run down, though it seems obvious that you've been reading lots of stories to BabySlice. You know that ghey voice you use when you read to her? That's all I could hear in my head when I read this post. Up until the Ferris Bueller quote, which I enjoyed quite a bit.

Anonymous said...

Glad you finally made it country show.
Now, get your butt to a Dale Watson show!

Matt said...

Great recap. Felt like I was there. Willie is one of a kind. Truely righteous, a man blessed with talent and the ability to share, and boy does he share. If you've got more photos, be sure to get them online at any of the free online photo album sites, or put more up on this blog. It's fun to see photos.