The leavening of Willie Nelson 

October 21, 2022

Seat at Willie Nelson Concert
Quite a discount on this package

   I thought this would be an emphatic but easy “no!” This time Carol had won tickets for something called the Willie Nelson Outlaw Music Festival. If anything sounded like a MAGA magnet to me, this was it. But after my third “no!” It was clear Carol wasn’t even listening to me anymore.  “It’s a festival. It’ll be more hippie than MAGA. We can sit out on the lawn and just lay back and listen.”

   I should have realized her persistence was a premonition of something special in the offing for this show. As my “no!”s continued to accumulate, Carol’s sweeteners kept pace. “They rent chairs,” she said brightly. In the brief time we’ve been together, I’ve developed a keen sixth sense of when my wishes wouldn’t be prevailing in given situations, and my sixth sense was percolating at an nth degree on this one. I think Carol has become my kryptonite. I girded myself for what was now the inevitable. I sent up one last weak flare of warning. “If we see one Trump 2024 flag, we’re leaving.”

Carol was correct. The look and feel of the grounds was more like Comicon for Walmart People

American Flag stage at Willie Nelson Concert
The flag in a better context

   There were none. Carol was correct. The look and feel of the grounds was more like Comicon for Walmart People. The scent of weed was dominating, as were images proclaiming many of Willie’s long-expressed pronouncements and advocacy for legalizing pot. I settled into my rental chair thinking, this might not be so bad.

   It wasn’t. All the preliminary acts had a rockabilly beat to my untrained ears, which I’ve always found to be a cheerful, fun living sound. The buzz in the crowd was not for Willie, due to come on last this night, but for the group preceding him. Neither Carol nor I had heard of the Avett Brothers, but evidently we were the only two in that crowd not to have. The entire lawn population made their way inside the arena en masse as the Avet Brothers set time arrived.

Willie's Remedy
It just might work

   I would describe them as Alison Krauss and Union Station with their fingers stuck in electrical outlets. Their energy had the crowd on their feet, and everyone seemed to know all the words. Most surprising was that I was really enjoying the whole spectacle. People were standing all over the place, and it didn’t bother me a bit. I felt liberated. I glanced over at Carol several times during their set and thought, how do you know all this?

   Even with a huge American flag as a backdrop (used more ubiquitously as an instrument of insurrection recently, rather than its aspirational symbol of true freedom), Willie and sons sang a patriotic message of harmony and unity that hasn’t resounded meaningfully to me for some time. But if Willie Nelson can still believe at age 89, who am I to argue?

   Maybe I just need to start smoking weed. I’ll probably need to start right after the midterms. And then I thought, the MAGAs were here. They just didn’t feel comfortable standing out and spewing in the (heady) atmosphere Willie had created. And, really, that’s all we’re looking for in this country. Thanks Willie Nelson for showing us how it can be done.

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