by Nick Paruch
It’s July in Dallas and summer here can be brutal, but that didn’t seem to deter the country music fans who stuck out the heat and humidity for the nine-hour Outlaw Music Festival at Dos Equis Pavilion. This year’s line-up included Colter Wall, Hayes Carll, Steve Earle & The Dukes, Casey Donahew, Alison Krauss, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, and Willie Nelson & Family.
Since the event was held on a weekday (July 3rd) before a holiday weekend the early acts didn’t receive the fan love had the festival been on a weekend. But the crowds slowly filtered in as folks left work anxious to start their Independence Day celebrations with some boot stompin’ country, outlaw, roots & Americana live music. Undeterred, both legend Steve Earle and Hayes Carll, and Casey Donahew had exhilarating performances, but it wasn’t until Alison Krauss took the stage that the crowd really started to pay attention.
While almost everyone else played in front of the standard Outlaw Music Festival signage, Krauss and her band performed in front of a mock backstage, a fake brick wall complete with glowing windows and vaudeville posters. The 27-time Grammy Award winner turned the cavernous space into an intimate blues hall with merely her soulful voice and tender lyrics. Krauss enthralled the crowd with “Down to the River to Pray”, “Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby”, and “Gentle on My Mind”, among others.
After a quick stage change Nathaniel Ratliff & The Night Sweats (NRNS) set began and the venue erupted with cheers. The band jammed on the horn riff from their latest album’s opening track, “Shoe Boot” before Rateliff emerged, clad in dark denim, a black vest, and his signature unbuttoned shirt and black cowboy hat. Rateliff’s powerful voice cut through the big band’s wall of sound like a knife.
The band bounced between songs from their self-titled debut album (2015) and new “Tearing At The Seams” giving the NRNS fans the soulful Americana/folk sounds they came for. Highlights of the evening were certainly “I Need Never Get Old”, “S.O.B.”, and “Tearing at the Seams”.
To cap off the night, the one and only Willie Nelson, the true outlaw of the Outlaw Music Festival, came on stage, playing in front of – what else – a giant Texas flag. The crowd immediately leapt to their feet shouting, “We love you, Willie!” Nelson has such die-hard fans that follow him everywhere that many were probably there only to see him and no one else.
After shaking off the rust on his opener, “Whiskey River,” Nelson performed song after song, calling out to the crowd on his most popular lyrics and skillfully plucking away on ‘Trigger,’ his trusted guitar. The set blazed through country history and beloved icons – playing a bit of Hank Williams, “Hey Good Lookin” and “Move It on Over”, and some of his late best buddy Waylon Jennings, “Good Hearted Woman” – with the energy and momentum of a locomotive. You don’t expect an 86-year-old to electrify a crowd to life on a work night after a marathon day of music, but that’s exactly what happened. Considering his annual 4th of July Picnic music festival in Austin was the next day, Willie didn’t appear to hold anything back or show a need to pace himself.
See all our concert photos from the festival.
Read more about Outlaw music festival at here.