For a few minutes back in August, the local arts center sold tickets for a concert scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving. Willie Nelson was coming to town and I was determined to see him.
Tickets went on sale at 9 that morning and by the time I got through at about 9:30, it was a sold-out show. But while I was still on the phone with the arts center, a pair of tickets in the balcony became available.
So then I just had to wait until the end of November. The show was planned for a Tuesday and on the Saturday before, Willie’s band was in a bus crash.
Eventually, Willie was able to reschedule and the concert was last night.
And I was sick. Feverish. Exhausted. Achy. Whiny.
We offered up our tickets for sale, but there were no takers. I didn’t want to miss it, but I also didn’t want to get off my couch. So we went. Did I mention the snow and ice? Well, there was snow on top of ice.
Willie’s son Lukas and his band were the first act.
Have you ever been so high, so stoned that every thought that came into your head was beautiful and profound? And your friend next to you is only maybe half as stoned as you are and they are like, “What the? Are you freaking stupid?” because the words you are saying are only totally amazing to you? That’s my assessment of Lukas Nelson’s music career.
I really couldn’t help being snarky about him and my husband was no help, either. So there we were in the balcony, a real-life Waldorf and Statler. Lukas kept singing about smoking a joint and he kept playing the guitar with his teeth. “There must be Doritos in there,” I said to my husband. And my husband was all, “His guitar is made of honey buns. Nom nom nom nom nom.”
But finally Willie came on stage.
If I were to make a list of 1,000 songs, or even 10,000 songs that would make me cry, “Whiskey River” would never be on the list. But something happens to me at performances. Something inside my brain switches on and I think, “Oh holy shit. That’s Willie Nelson. And I do not remember a time in my life when I did not know him.” So I cried through “Whiskey River.”
In fact, I cried through most of Willie’s set. Anybody looking on might have thought I was having the worst day of my life. And I even told myself I was being so emotional because of the fever. But the truth is, I’ve cried through just about every concert I’ve been to.
I saw the Avett Brothers in November in Little Rock, my hometown. They opened with “Arkansas Traveler,” a 19th century folk song. And I bawled while the people around me stood with their arms at their sides. So few were familiar enough with the song to identify it, much less appreciate it. The Avett Brothers wouldn’t open their set with that song the following night. It was something just for us. And if you don’t know “Arkansas Traveler,” how can you appreciate the evolution of music? How can you appreciate the Avett Brothers standing in front of you?
Nothing leaves me quite as tongue tied as attempting to write about music. I know what it does to me and how it makes me feel. But expressing it isn’t something I can adequately do. And I don’t think I’ll consider myself a capable writer until I can write about music. Saying that it makes me cry, even if it’s the Pixies singing “Debaser” in an old Memphis movie house, just doesn’t give you much to go on. But I know other people get it. There are other people who don’t need my explanation. And people who just get why I cried through “Whiskey River” are the best kind of people.