1. I got to be on stage at the Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic. It was a small Picnic. It was the secondary stage. It was during soundcheck, not a performance. But it was damn cool. I took a few notes, chatted with a roadie, got a picture of Ray Wylie and Lucas Hubbard. The only other time I came close to the stage at a Picnic was in Luckenbach in 1995 or 1996. I went around the corner and there was the stairs to the stage. The only thing separating me from glory was a security guy who looked to be particularly upset that he had narrowly lost a Conan the Barbarian lookalike contest. I didn’t try it.
2. Interviewing Willie was cool, of course. I mentioned that this was my 13th Picnic and that I had interviewed him before and he just said “Well, I’m glad we’re both still here.” A very polite way of saying “Yes, you and a thousand other assholes.” I was prepared, kept it businesslike and Willie was nice, but not inclined to elaborate in his answers. They had planned to pair my interview with some TV fellow, but he was late and I didn’t have to share. Good.
3. I missed “Whispering Bill” Anderson. Damn. This is mostly because the laptop I was given to take to the event was pretty much shit dipped in molasses. Trying to file my blog reports, which I’m sure nobody read, took forever.
4. I was told there were 4,000 people. I heard that it was 3,000, maybe 3,200 at best. This wasn’t really a Picnic in any sense but the marketing. It was just a very nice concert at Billy Bob’s.
5. Why was it not a Picnic? It’s July 5th and I’m not sunburned. I’m not sore. I didn’t wake up exhausted. My feet don’t ache, my back doesn’t hurt. Hell, I think I had a seat in the shade for every outdoor set until Billy Joe Shaver took the stage late in the afternoon.
6. If Lukas Nelson is going to keep whipping his head around like that, he needs to grow his hair longer or cut it short. Right now he looks like he’s trying to shake off an angry varmint that is attacking his head. The phrase epileptic muppet did occur to me. Also, I guess I’m supposed to be impressed that he can play his guitar with his teeth, but the only thing that goes through my head is “Jesus, that’s just asking for an emergency trip to the dentist.”
7. Paul English walked right in front of me. Twice. Going from backstage to the T-shirt vendor. If you’ve read enough about Willie Nelson, you’ve read about what a badass Paul English was. After rain threatened to collapse the roof of the stage back in ’75 (or ’76, I don’t recall off the top of my head), Paul pulled out his pistol and shot a couple holes in it to allow for a little drainage. Even when I interviewed Willie in 1995, Paul was still a scary presence. Now, after a stroke, he appears every bit as old as he is. I wish him the best.
8. In case you were wondering: $4 for a longneck inside, $6 for a 16-ounce can outside. And Willie’s merchandise folks were selling CDs for $25 a piece. Can you believe that shit? Who is going to buy a CD for $25?
9. The folks at Billy Bob’s Texas were really cool to me. I got to sit at a table in an office to curse at my molasses-shit laptop and file reports. I constantly expected to get harangued by some security guard about “who are you? You can’t be here,” but I eventually came to recognize that my media pass was actually pretty valuable.
10. Will there be a 40th Picnic? If Willie lives that long, it looks like it. Should there be a 40th Picnic? Yes, but it should be the last. Where should it be? It should be at Zilker Park. Am I going? Yes.