Written by Dave Clements

If you have logged on to HMR to get my take on Willie Nelson’s performance at the Outlaw Music Festival at The Woodlands on the first day of July, 2018 let me quickly share with you that I have nothing to offer you in this review. Sadly I didn’t stay for his set that didn’t start until about an hour before the venue’s curfew.

Outlaw Music Festival-130I wasn’t approved for a photo credential to take pictures of his performance. I’m afraid given that, plus the heat and humidity along with the Sahara Dust Cloud that blew over our fine city, it all got the better of me just before he was to perform so…I went home!

If you check back in October of this year I hope to have been approved for the New Jersey leg of this tour. I’ll try to get you the lowdown on his performance that night, maybe even with photos!

Now that we have Willie out of the way let’s talk about the seven hours of music I did witness at the Outlaw Music Festival.

Particle Kid was first up to a sparse crowd. That’s what happens when your show starts 7.5 hours before your famous father goes on the same stage.

Micah Nelson is Particle Kid, or I guess more accurately his band is the Particle Kid Band. Whatever the case, Micah was out first and I really enjoyed his sound. The two highlights for me were when he played the title song of his album Everything Is Bullshit (and maybe that highlight was because I have had many days in a row when everything I’ve seen and read especially in our papers and on TV feels just that way). The other highlight was when Lukas Nelson, an older sibling, came out and played air guitar during one of Micah’s songs. The two of them were fun to watch.  The interaction on stage had them playfully pushing and shoving each other like brothers will do. Way to go guys, thanks for sharing the love!

Outlaw Music Festival-102Lukas was next on the bill with Promise Of The Real and what a treat they were for this first time observer. This handsome offspring of Willie’s not only had a great smile but an even better vibe on stage. The boy can sing his ass off and has his Dad’s voice ten times stronger and so rich in tone. I was blown away with what he and his band mates brought to town. It is clearly no wonder how and why these guys have been Neil Young’s backing band since 2015. Lukas’s tune Forget About Georgia, the antithesis of Georgia On My Mind, is as clever a song as I’ve heard lately. I also enjoyed his Turn Off The News, worth You Tubing…or better yet buying!

The Wild Feathers, from Katy, TX and now in Nashville were next up. I had been ‘warned’ by our HMR Editor how good they were, and that they were. I loved their energy and their harmonies. I’m not sure exactly how these guys connected but this reviewer was glad they were part of the tour. It seems I always enjoy a group that shares the spotlight side by side four wide. I am happy they are now on my radar screen so I can learn more about their music and catch them again, soon!

Outlaw Music Festival-158I had always wanted to see Edie Brickell and had never had the opportunity until almost 5 pm this evening. By this time of the day my enthusiasm was starting to wane and the temps and humidity were working on my body and my head. Edie’s presence on stage was the perfect antidote for my quickly declining ability to stay focused.  She was happy, refreshing, all smiles and fun to listen to. Why she was on this ‘Outlaw’ Tour is beyond me but I am sure someone way wiser thought it was a good idea. Maybe Edie and Willie are buds, maybe Mickey Raphael (a bandmate of Willie’s) and she are friends.  Why did I mention Mickey?  Well because Edie had on a tee shirt that shared with the entire world (or at least this audience), proclaiming ‘Mickey Raphael, Number #1 Harmonica Player’.  I certainly think he is worthy of consideration of that title!

Regardless of why she was there, she was good. Actually gooder than good. I was really hoping that Edie would play ‘What I Am’ and bring her husband on stage.  But okay, one out of two ain’t bad. (Paul Simon was a no show)

Ryan Bingham, a product in part of Houston’s Westfield High School just off FM 1960, was the next performer up. Ryan has come long way from when I first saw him at The Historic Crighton Theatre in Conroe, TX when he was a part of the Sounds of Texas Music Series. Back then there was a dark and mysterious feel to his show that made it hard for me to get into his performance. Not so these days.

Outlaw Music Festival-210It’s worth mentioning too that Ryan had on lead guitar Mr. Jesse Dayton of Beaumont, TX playing some kick butt licks. Jesse is a very entertaining artist in his own right and I thought he added a nice touch to Ryan’s show. Good to see you on stage, Jesse. It has been way too long since I’vs seen you perform and still bring the house down!

The Head and The Heart were next on the bill. I was not familiar with them either before coming to this show.  Lead singer Chris Zasche shared with us that half the band is from Seattle and half the band from Richmond, VA.  I’d sure like to know the story how those two ‘halves’ came together.

And which was the Head and which was the Heart? Either way, I liked these folks and I am guessing that Chris is from Seattle as he was really struggling with the heat and sun. It was still pounding down on the stage at 7pm when they went out. In spite of the weather they got into the crowd that was continuing to build for the headliner. Like The Wild Feathers I will be paying more attention to The H&H from this point forward. A highlight of their set was when they covered Blowin’ In The Wind and brought out Ryan Bingham to help sing it. Well done!  The crowd and I appreciated their collective version of Dylan’s iconic 1962 tune. By the way no one on stage was even born when the song was first released. Does that say something about Dylan?

Last for me this night was Sturgill Simpson. I’d been hearing about him for the last few years, all good, but had just never connected with him before this evening. I’d always heard the word ‘country’ associated with his name so I had preconceived notions and imagined a somewhat generic sound. However, just a minute or two into his first song all those ‘country’ thoughts had vanished from my head and I was hearing a lot of straight out rock & roll. Way more to my liking than what my expectations were.  This guy can play some serious guitar and did it in an intense sort of way. I was impressed and hopeful that I could catch him again when I wasn’t on my last leg, tired, hot, cranky, and disappointed that the night was coming to an end and no Willie for this boy tonight.

Willie, if you are reading this, please don’t take it personally.  I think you are great, I appreciate all what you do to help others including the girls with Rett syndrome and thank you for being a part of my book, Raising A Hand. You are the best, along with Hag.

Until next time, please continue to support live music venues so they don’t disappear in the middle of the night because no one showed up.