Willie Nelson is
royalty! Bob Dylan smiles! When’s the next tour?!?
BY CARL HANNI
August 11, Tucson, AZ: Of all
possible places for a band to spend five nights in the middle of a summer tour,
Austin, TX, is surely one of the most prime. And indeed, the road gods smiled
on The Wiyos, and gave us five nights in a big house off Lamar on the South
side all to ourselves after, during and before gigs in Houston,
Austin, Corpus Christi
including two full days off. Our host (an Austin
musician friend of The Wiyos’ Michael Farkas), his wife and kids were on
holiday at just the perfect moment for us to turn it into a home-base; a very
good thing, considering how oppressively hot and humid it was at every turn in Texas.
Arriving late Sunday (8/2) after a drive from Houston, we had the whole next day to run
errands, hit thrift stores and try and avoid spending the tour profit in record
stores. Highlights: Cura’s for lunch, and a dip in Barton Springs at sunset.
There’s no way to overstate how awesome the huge, spring-fed public pool of
Barton Springs is; Austinians of every stripe flocked there by the hundreds and
there’s still plenty of space. I got to hang out with the fabulously talented Austin musician Graham
Reynolds (Golden Arm Trio, etc.) for a Texas BBQ dinner and his usual high
level of discourse.
Tuesday’s show was at Dell Diamond in the sprawling suburban city of Round Rock, just north of Austin. The Wiyos played a great set looking
straight into a blazing sun to a huge, happy, crispy crowd. These folks were
ready to party, and the show had a festive atmosphere, despite the local
coppers actually busting people for pot in the crowd and – I kid you not – dragging
some off in handcuffs. Apparently Johnny Law hadn’t heard that WILLIE NELSON
was playing, but the crowd sure knew; these were Willie people through and
through. I hung with Wammo from Asylum St. Spankers, Graham Reynolds and local
audio tech and musician Buzz, and soaked it up from out front with all the
happy, hot people.
Willie Nelson is royalty everywhere, but he’s the mayor, governor, president
and potentate all rolled into one in Texas,
especially in Austin and Dallas. Everyone wants a little piece of Willie; everyone
feels like they own a little piece of Willie; and he manages, in his own Zen-like
way, to give enough of himself that everyone seems satisfied. This is sort of
the cowboy hat version of the loaves and fishes; no matter how much Willie
gives, there’s always more to give. His show was actually a double-header of
Texas royalty, as the venerable Ray Benson of Asleep At The Wheel, another
legendary Texas icon, sat in for the whole set, rocking his Telecaster and
grinning up a storm. Boy, is he tall. The crowd went bananas, and stayed that
Bob Dylan, perhaps taking cue from Willie, also had an ace up his sleeve; local
guitar hero Charlie Sexton, an alumnus of previous Dylan bands and recordings,
sat in for most of Dylan’s set. He totally rocked up “Tweedle Dee and
Tweedle Dum,” reproducing his original licks from Love and Theft.
Sexton produced an interesting chemical reaction on stage; not only did he add
a hot layer of lead guitar over everything he played on, but he spent quite a
bit of the show inching into closer and closer proximity to Bob on-stage,
unlike everyone else in Dylan’s band, who generally kept their distance.
But as Sexton got closer and closer, locking eyes with
Dylan, Dylan actually started to mug back at Sexton, executing a series of
subtle feints, shoulder rolls, bug-eyes and – HOLD THE PRESSES!! – an actual,
face splitting, ear-to-ear grin that seemed to light up the entire stage like a
torch for about 2 seconds. Now, in most artists a single grin might not be
front page news, but Dylan generally seems pretty detached and sometimes a bit
dour on stage. This one grin, though, was so full of genuine mirth and
(momentary) good cheer that… well, it made me feel a little different about
the man. It broke through the surface, and kind of made the tour.
was absurdly hot and humid, and put The Wiyos in an even hotter on-stage oven
in front of a fairly modest and sun-stunned, rough looking crowd. The ball park
was beautiful, but the setting was desolate, situated in a totally decrepit
industrial area that wasn’t even coolly decrepit, just ugly. On the other hand,
they had a POOL just behind and to the right of the stage; Wiyos Parrish and
Joe Bass and I lounged around in the pool with Willie Nelson playing 40 yards
away; ah, that’s the life. A full
moon shined like a sky-lamp, illuminating our way back to Austin by midnight.
On Thursday Parrish and I hit Waterloo Records for a few used vinyl scores (The
Gossip, Brother Jack McDuff, John Hammond, 3 Mustaphas 3, more) while the band
took care of the never ending errands and we convened for a fabulous meal at
My last day on the road with The Wiyos was less than scintillating, but we all
do what we have to do, and what I had to do was stay behind with the tour van
at the Freightliner repair shop in Austin for repairs while the band caught a
ride to Dallas/Grand Prairie with Nevada Newman, another Asylum St. Spanker. I
didn’t get on the road till 4 pm, just in time to catch some crap traffic out
of town, and it was almost 8 pm by the time I hit Dallas, long after The Wiyos’ and Willie’s
sets. Oh well. I got in a final, fabulous meal (thank you DEGA!), said some
good-byes to the promoter folks from JamUSA and some stage crew, and we beat it
to a hotel. The band was up and out and on their way to Lubbock
by 8 am and I caught a noon-time flight back to Tucson.
The Wiyos went on to Albuquerque and have a few
shows in S. California, ending 8/16 in Stateline,
NV, at Lake Tahoe.
The Phoenix show on 8/11 was cancelled due to
heat (what DID they expect in Phoenix
in August?); instead of being at the show, I’m here writing about the tour.
Back home. To the heat, the routine, the fish tacos, the sunsets. I love it
But still: hey Wiyos, when’s the next tour?
For Wiyos tour
video blogs, see:
Carl Hanni, a music
industry publicist, record collector and club deejay based in Tucson, regularly
blogs for Blurt. Read his blog “Sonic Reducer” HERE – including the previous installments
in his Wiyos/Dylan/Nelson/Mellencamp tour diary, plus a bunch of exclusive