Willie Nelson's 44th Annual 4th of July Picnic: Insane Texas Summer Heat & One Badass Lineup
The minute I saw the lineup to this years 4th of July Picnic, I immediately jumped at the chance to get tickets. I also had to come to terms with the fact that it would likely be a hot day in the July Texas sun. Fast forward to the 4th of July, and that heat I feared became a reality. With temps reaching 105 degrees, and an open air main stage with no coverage meant it was also going to be a very sweaty and kinda nasty day. So in starting a day like this, one must prepare.
Step 1 - Review the lineup to know when you need to be inside the gates
Step 2 - Hydrate, but in my case I prehydrated in the parking lot with multiple Tito's Texas Mules. But switched to water & Topo Chico once inside
Step 3 - Bring a towel and a head band for security to dip in ice water
Step 4 - Find a shaded spot to escape to when the sun is too intolerable
The lineup for the day was incredible, as I was able to catch some great sets from Margo Price, Kacey Musgraves, Turnpike Troubadors, Lukas Nelson & POTR, Steve Earle, Asleep at the Wheel, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jamey Johnson, Johnny Bush, and the highlight of the night Miss Sheryl Crow. The truth is that the heat just become one of those things that was just there, but you didn't seem to care because the music was so incredible all day long that you kinda forgot about it.
I made it inside the gates at around 2pm, with the Main Stage starting at 3:30pm for Ray Wylie Hubbard. As we made our way in, we stumbled over to the 2nd stage and were able to catch the 2nd half of Johnny Bush's set. Johnny is credited with playing the most Family Picnics not named Nelson. After his set, he stuck around to sign autographs for fans, which was very cool of the old Troubador.
From there, we made our way down to the pit for the main stage, grabbing some ice cold waters for the trek down the hill. First up was Texas favorite Ray Wylie, playing with his son Lucas. Of course we heard the fan fave Snake Farm, Ray also played songs like Coochy Coochy, Drunken Poets Dream, & Mother Blues. An absolute great way to kick off the stage, only to be followed by his buddy Hayes Carll. We had to skip Hayes in order to catch the set from Lukas Nelson, which helped us make it back in time for Miss Margo Price. Despite the 105 degree heat, Margo comes out to the stage wearing a long sleeve American flag custom leather jacket, just looking absolutely amazing and patriotic. As she always does in her performances, she dazzles the crowd. Her energy just got stronger and stronger, as the temps grew hotter and hotter. She finished the crowd off with a killer rendition of Me & Bobbie McGee.
Next up, the Turnpike Troubadors. This was my first time seeing them, and I gotta tell you, they kicked ass. They put on a high energy set that prepped the stage for an outlaw favorite, Mr Jamey Johnson. This was to be my first time also seeing Jamey perform a full set, as I only saw him do song honoring Johnny Cash a few years back. Jamey did what he was supposed to do, and take control of the large crowd. He busted out his hits, but put the crowd in a trance with an incredible version of In Color. As the song was heading into its final chorus, Jamey turned the mic to the crowd, and the entire crowd took it and crushed it. It was one of those powerful concert moments when you realize that the artist has become one with the thousands of people in the crowd. It was quite surreal to be honest.
Next up, Kacey Musgraves, whom I have to credit for having great patience and restrain for the stoned girl behind me yelling "Burn one with John Prine" at the top of her lungs in between every song. Despite the loud stoned gal behind me, Kacey went about her flawless set with her sweet flawless voice undisturbed and sticking to her set list like the pro she is. Kacey's music is something I need in my life on any given day. When Kacey walks on stage, the world is hers. I did leave with a new Kacey Musgraves t-shirt, which just made me happy. Her set ended, and the fireworks commenced. Honestly, it was a pretty badass fireworks show to follow a killer set, to a soundtrack of outlaw music lasting a good 20 minutes.
As soon as the fireworks were over, you hear the strike of the first chord from Miss Sheryl Crow. "All I wanna do is have some fun before I die", and BAM, like that, there she is. Sheryl Crow taking over the main stage in grand fashion, and she stole the show. While she covered most of her all time hits, she performed songs from her new album. The new album is absolutely awesome, and the songs she chose for her set were the perfect compliment to her full set.
The ultimate moment of the night occurred when she invited Lukas & Willie to join her on stage, where they busted out a tribute to the recently departed Gregg Allman with a spiritual version of Midnight Rider. As I stood in the pit, I found myself watching the once in a lifetime performance with the boys from Margo Price's band (Guitarist Jamie Davis, if you are reading, let me know when you need more guitar picks. I got you bro). It worked out in my favor as I was able to catch the remainder of her set hanging with some talented musicians that not only won the crowd over for themselves, but also are fans like myself to a lady as awesome and badass as Sheryl Crow.
After that set, it was nearly midnight, and Willie still hadn't taken the stage. The only problem, we got there early, came in drunk, sobered throughout the day in the insane heat, and sweated through every layer of clothing that the colors from my undershirt began to run into my new Triple Z Threadz shirt. Thank goodness for Tide with bleach. So, yes, in the end, we did miss Willies late set, but we saw something amazing happen all throughout the day. Every performance was awesome and memorable. I am even more excited that it was streamed live on Sirius XM, since I will be able to catch the reruns, and relive that incredible day. This will most likely be a one and done event for me, since the heat is way too much to bear again, but regardless, I am happy that I was able to overcome the heat and catch as much of this amazing day as I physically could.