CONCERT REVIEW: I Was Saved By Willie Nelson


Willie Nelson. Photo by James Minchin.

My wife was given a Ticketmaster gift card for Christmas last year and we really did not know what to do with it. Playing in a local band has made me sway away from these bigger shows just due to the ungodly high price tickets have become. That is before all the service, convenience and whatever else they can come up with charge. I can not fathom paying for two seats what my whole band usually can not earn. Well we had this gift card and what to do with it? We looked over the list of the who’s of yesteryears which may be worthy of our time and then my wife said, “Willie Nelson is coming”. Now there is a legend. Let’s go.

Well from the time we secured these tix until now I have had a visit with the demon of high anxiety. I lost my mother last year and have been taking care of my 80 year old dad struggling to keep him in his house. Lawyers, accountants, doctors, medical bills… it will take a toll on you. To a point where I had to even give up smoking pot. After 35 years I realized there are only two folks on this planet that have smoked more, Snoop Dogg and Willie. And I was saved by one of them.

This was going to be a test of patience for me. Willie draws a mob scene and the traffic and parking I knew would drive me up the wall. Lucky I have Tonto by my side in the form of my wife and she guided me through. If you have never been to the Pompano Beach Amphitheater it is flopped right down in the middle of a neighborhood. Next to a park and a high school. I have been there a few times, the last seeing the Flaming Lips years ago, and the parking is usually adequate. Willie Nelson draws a friggin’ congregation you have never seen before and it was a test not to just turn around and get out of that traffic jam. Tonto kept me calm though bless her heart. We ended up getting the second to last spot at Pompano High School for $10 and it was worth every penny.

We got out of our truck at 7:30 sharp and right on time the opening act Dwight Yoakam hit the stage. We had to wander in and were greeted by the nicest ticket takers and concert friskers you’d have ever seen. The workers at the amphitheater are real people of all colors and persuasions and I hope some of that service charge goes to them. We needed a drink before we went inside and since I only visit the grapes we needed to find some juice. Not an easy task in most places. We found at the concession stand there they had what we needed and the ladies working there looked like everyone’s grandma in Pompano. They kicked ass and we ordered a large wine which was basically a beer cup filled to the top with a pretty decent Cab. Bingo!

I have to say when mentioning an opening act Dwight Yoakam is more than that. He is a legend in his own right and it was a pleasure to see him play. We had the proletariat seats which were standing room only in  the back. Probably best for us since we are socialists and my condition. We first positioned ourselves behind a bunch of folks and it wasn’t easy to see. Then we wandered behind the sound board and realized this was the place. A clear view straight to the band like we were watching on a old Sony Trinitron. We also got to watch the sound man do his thing. It was a rare jacket weather cool night for South Florida, something we do not get anymore (not that the earth is warming) and it was incredibly windy too. Tough job for the sound guy but he tuned in Dwight just right at least for us and I gave him kudos.

Dwight’s set was as fantastic musically as the sparkling outfits his  band wore. He played tribute to Merle Haggard by doing a handful of his songs even doing Mama Tried. During his set I ran into a big time music producer from down here (hey I know everyone I’m Mr. Entertainment) and we chatted about the band. He informed me that Dwight’s bass player use to live down here and they played in a reggae band in the ’90s. That cracked me up. By the time Dwight was into Guitars and Cadillacs we were on cruise control and those large wines were doing the trick.

Then the legend appeared with his trusty guitar Trigger, a stripped down stage and his sister on piano, a drummer with only a snare drum, stand up bass, a utility guy and a harmonica player. Willie handles all the guitar himself, at fucking 84 years young! “Whiskey River take my mind…”. And off he went bashing out song after song like some  country punk jazz sage. One tune after another in rapid fire. I can’t even name them all and will not try. There was a point when they did an instrumental and I realized that Willie Nelson was the greatest guitar player on this planet, one notch above Rat Bastard. As the first encore was about to happen we decided to cut out. My new enemy of anxious was in the back of my head and I knew that giant traffic jam was not in the cards. I know everyone else who stayed were saved by Willie Nelson, too, so I was comfortable with that. We got home just in time for Saturday Night Live to be on but turned the TV off. I am all for making fun of this new administration but I am more looking forward to overthrowing it. That’s the outlaw in me.

Willie Nelson live at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater. Photo by Staisha Grosch.

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Steven Toth

Ambassador of Goodwill at HoTown Records
Steven "Mr. Entertainment" Toth has frequented records stores since the 70's, played in bands since the '90s, his wife Mrs. Entertainment and him were married by Howard Finster in the '80s, they live in a house built in the '20s which is basicallyh an outsider art museum, and his family goes back to the '30s as Hollywood residents. Therefore he is known as the un-official mayor of Hollywood.

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