I grew up with the same line in my social arsenal as most of my peers: “I like all kinds of music, except Country” We were idiots.
When the opportunity to Willie Nelson in Duluth with The 4ontheFloor and Trampled By Turtles, I was absolutely stoked! Willie is a legend, an icon and someone I haven’t really gone out of my way to buy his albums or listen to his music, but I know dozens of his songs because they are classics. Five friends and I packed into two cars on Saturday morning with enough camping gear for 20 people and made the trek from Minneapolis to Duluth. We had decided it would be a grand time to camp instead of getting a hotel. It poured rain the entire way up and kept going strong as we set up two tents in the woods of Duluth. As luck would have it however, the rain stopped an hour before the concert kicked off.
The 4ontheFloor opened the three band show with some raw stompin blues, rock, and howling vocals that was just what the giant crowd needed to get the blood moving. By the end of their set, people were clapping, stomping along, and yelling back “Change!” during their song “First on a List of Things I Don’t Need”.
Hometown favorites Trampled By Turtles took the stage after and the growing crowd lost their collective minds! People took to the security railings, singing every lyric to every song, and Bluegrass; if not for just an hour and change; was Rock and Roll. This was Trampled’s last show in Minnesota this year, and only being the beginning of August, I can say it will be a long four months without them here.
While backstage during the day, there were two massive tour busses that sat all day. A few friends had been invited to was their hands on one of the buses and they did not spot Willie on there, so we decided he had to be on the other bus. This is a very logical process of elimination we thought. We shoot corrected when with 20 minutes left in the TBT’s set, a tan bus with desert murals on three of four sides backed up right next to the stage. He had arrived.
Willie Nelson went directly from the bus to the stage wearing all black and promptly equipped himself with Trigger: his trusty guitar. He stepped to the mic and proceeded to play hit after hit after hit and sounded fantastic! With “Georgia on My Mind”, “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys”, “Always on My Mind” and others, it was musical heaven. Being 78 years old and putting on the show he did, simply astounding. It was really a surreal experience being in the photog pit, so close to this man. It was and will always be one of the most memorable moments in my concert going/shooting life.