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What do Beyoncé and Garth Brooks have in common? They both brought something amazing to this year’s world-renowned local music festivals.

On Sunday afternoon, Garth Brooks and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, appeared in the Rose Garden at the Empire Polo Club for a press conference, where Stacy Vee of Goldenvoice announced this year’s Stagecoach had set a record with 75,000 attendees.

Brooks started off by thanking Goldenvoice CEO Paul Tollett and Vee, Goldenvoice’s festival talent-buyer, for the invite to play at Stagecoach. He also mentioned that Yearwood had played the festival 10 years prior in 2008—its second year.

I asked Brooks during the press conference how many times he had been approached to play the festival, and what made him finally decide to say yes this year.

“We’ve been very lucky that Stagecoach has asked for us to be here,” Brooks said. “We retired back in 2001 and raised our babies, and that’s when the festivals really started to take off. We went from places like Jamboree in the Hills … that were just kind of thrown together, so the art of the festival is still somewhat new to me. But they were sweet enough to ask every year, and every year we’d say, ‘Thank you, but we’re raising our babies right now.’ Once we stopped having to raise them and got them off to college, we were on tour for three years and just couldn’t do it. So I promised them that the first available chance we had that we’d play here, and this year was the first available chance we had.”

Brooks was asked how he prepared to play Stagecoach after performing in Vegas and on tours.

“The main thing is this: If it’s five people or it’s 500, it’s still about connecting one-on-one,” he said. “It just always is. Getting to play the presidential inauguration, you’re lucky to step out in front of crowds of that size, and what I have found is that the larger the size, the more (the crowd acts) as one.”

Later in the evening, Brooks’ Stagecoach debut came with the same high winds that Saturday headliner Keith Urban endured. Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” played over the house music system; the lighting team apparently decided to distract the crowd by synching the lighting to the song—before Brooks suddenly appeared onstage.

Brooks’ choice of a headset microphone caused some technical difficulties—the wind could be heard blowing into his microphone. The wind also caused a wardrobe malfunction: His cowboy hat blew off, exposing his head before someone quickly ran out and gave him a blue baseball cap that he wore backward for the rest of his performance.

Wind-related problems aside, Brooks looked thrilled—and at times surprised—by the sight of the crowd. He told the crowd: “I know you’ve been here for three days, but you’re going to be here all night!”

The performance was billed as “Garth Brooks with Trisha Yearwood,” and close to an hour into the set—right after Brooks played “The Thunder Rolls”—Yearwood finally came onstage, after Brooks joked with the crowd: “I know I’m biased because I’m sleeping with her, but this woman has a voice like no other.”

While Brooks took a breather, Yearwood performed “XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl),” her big hit “How Do I Live?” and “She’s in Love With the Boy.” Brooks then returned to the stage and continued his performance until just before midnight—making it a marathon more than two hours long.

After years of rumors, Goldenvoice had finally triumphed and brought Garth Brooks to Stagecoach. One has to wonder where the festival will go from here.

Here are some other highlights from the day.

• Lukas Nelson (son of Willie Nelson) and his band, Promise of the Real, started off their set in the Palomino by dedicating their set to his father, who was celebrating his 85th birthday on Sunday, and performing “Turn Off the News.” Nelson at one point mentioned he had written a song about alien life; he said he really wanted to meet an alien, and that he’d written that song while watching an episode of Rick and Morty. Hmm. Anyway … Nelson’s performance was a combination of country, psychedelic rock and folk music—and it was fantastic. Fans were hanging on through every minute of it.

• Folk-icon Gordon Lightfoot was the final act to perform in the Palomino on Sunday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t loud enough. No matter where you stood, people talking were enough to drown him out—and right next to the stage, you could hear motorcycles revving from the nearby Harley Davidson exhibit over his voice. From what I could hear, the 79-year-old sounded as if he still had it. I wish I could have heard more.

Check out some images from Day 3 below, from Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Reviews

Stagecoach has always offered attendees a lot of variety in terms of country-music subgenres—but this year, the lineup seeks to skimp on alt-country, Americana and old-timers (like Willie Nelson).

Still, there is a lot to see. Here are my Stagecoach recommendations.

Friday, April 27

Jade Bird: It’s shocking, yes, but this young woman who excels at Americana … is British. Regardless, she has one hell of a voice. Her music would perhaps better fit a Coachella crowd, but she’s likely going to be awesome at Stagecoach. Her main showcase is her vocals. I highly recommend her single “Lottery” and her song “Something American.”

Joshua Hedley: It’s no surprise Joshua Hedley was named one of the “10 New Country Artists You Should Know” by Rolling Stone in 2016. He’s a throwback to the era of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. He’s a purist, thank you very much, and does not wish to change anything about his vintage sound. Jack White’s Third Man Records will be releasing his debut album, Mr. Jukebox, on April 20, which will make this show pretty sweet.

Molly Hatchet: For country fans who have a bit of a rock edge, Molly Hatchet can’t be missed. The band is certainly one the edgier Southern-rock bands with an extensive history, but it is down to only one original member, bassist Tim Lindsey. If you’ve ever longed to hear “Flirtin’ With Disaster” or “Gator Country” live, here’s your chance.

Saturday, April 28

Tyler Childers: Country music has long had a dark side, and Tyler Childers is continuing that tradition by telling the stories of hardships and day-to-day challenges in his native Kentucky. Fun fact: Sturgill Simpson produced his album Purgatory. Considering storytelling via songs that were darker in nature made the careers of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and many others, Childers should be a hit at Stagecoach.

Ronnie Milsap: Here’s one of the relatively few old-timers! Ronnie Milsap had one hell of a ride in country music in the ’70s and ’80s, when he took Nashville by storm. His sound was a hit with both pop-music and country audiences. The music from his heyday was absolutely unique for its time, and there is not anyone like him. The good news is he’s still going strong. His set will definitely be a highlight of the weekend.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: One of the most-recognized songwriters in the alt-country music scene, Jason Isbell found new life after leaving the Drive-By Truckers in 2007. He found sobriety in 2012 after an intervention that included his management, his wife and singer-songwriter Ryan Adams—and he’s made three fantastic records since. Isbell has played Stagecoach before, and he’s always been welcomed by a large audience.

Sunday, April 29

Colter Wall: He’s from Canada … but there’s a lot of great country music coming from Canada these days. Colter Wall (below) has a rough-and-tumble voice, but his songwriting is top-notch. He has a lot of high-profile fans, from professional wrestler Brock Lesnar, to Shooter Jennings, to Lucinda Williams.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real: I must have caught Lukas Nelson on a bad day last year when I interviewed him before his show at Pappy and Harriet’s. Regardless, he’s one of the best young artists in country music. Yeah, he’s Willie Nelson’s son, but he and his band have accomplished a lot on their own—including backing Neil Young, and doing so marvelously. He’s sure to have a big crowd waiting for him.

Gordon Lightfoot: One of Bob Dylan’s most-comparable contemporaries is Gordon Lightfoot—a true folk-pop icon. Bob Dylan has even covered some Gordon Lightfoot songs, so that says something. Lightfoot has put out more than 200 recordings, and he’s a legend in the business. If you go to Stagecoach and don’t take in Gordon Lightfoot … what was the point of going in the first place?

Published in Previews

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real may be the luckiest band in America.

Make no mistake: The band, helmed by a son of Willie Nelson, has made a name for itself, in part, by playing excellent modern country music. However, the band has been blessed to back Neil Young (even during his performances at Desert Trip last year), and recently filmed scenes as Bradley Cooper’s backing band in the upcoming remake of A Star Is Born.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real will be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, Sept. 30.

During a recent phone interview, I learned right away that Lukas Nelson prefers to let the music do the talking: It wound up being one of the toughest and least-insightful interviews I’ve ever done. His bus had just arrived at a tour stop, and he seemed irritated; everything I asked him about was “great,” or he didn’t want to answer the question.

On the subject of participating in the remake of A Star Is Born, he sounded somewhat excited.

“It was great. I loved the experience of it and would do it again,” Nelson said. “I think Bradley did a great job, and so did Lady Gaga.”

Nelson hesitated when I asked him what it was like working with Lady Gaga.

“It was great. She’s a good friend; she’s a beautiful musician; and she’s a nice person,” he said.

Neil Young is like family to the young Nelson, so it makes sense to have Promise of the Real backing him.

“It’s been great, and it’s been a wonderful experience. He’s a great mentor, and I can’t say enough amazing things about it, to tell you the truth,” Nelson said.

I asked Nelson if this could be one of the greatest times to be a country musician, considering the budding underground country scene and the big mainstream scene. He responded, simply: “Sure, you could say that,” so I asked him what songwriters he currently likes in country music.

“Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Margo Price, Nikki Lane and Nicki Bluhm. There a lot of good ones out there,” he responded.

I asked Nelson where he finds himself within country music. That proved to be a mistake.

“That’s a question I don’t want to answer or really care about,” he replied. “If you don’t mind me saying, that’s a question for writers and not for musicians. I’m not looking to where I fit in anywhere. I’m just playing music.”

It was more of the same when I asked him about his band’s just-released, self-titled album: “A lot of great music on there,” he said.

When I asked him what his favorite studio is to record in, he mentioned three places in Austin, as if I were asking for suggestions on places to personally record.

Finally, I asked him about Pappy and Harriet’s. For once, he didn’t use the word “great.”

“I love the vibe there. I like it out in Joshua Tree, and it’s beautiful out in that area,” he said. “I really like the feeling there.”

Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

On Day 2 of Stagecoach 2017, two music legends celebrated their birthdays.

In recent years, Goldenvoice has booked some psychedelic rock bands with 1960s heydays to play the festival. On Friday, the Zombies played to a large crowd in the Palomino Tent; on Saturday, it was Tommy James and the Shondells.

When Tommy James and the Shondells took the stage, they started with their 1971 hit “Draggin’ the Line.” I immediately noticed was how tight the band sounded—and how well James can still sing and play his guitar; it appears he’s taken care of himself over the years. James told the audience that in their time slot, they couldn’t perform their standard repertoire, but he promised everyone a good time with as many songs as possible. The band then launched into “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”

At one point, the band endured some technical difficulties that went on for a few minutes. James told the crowd, “What can I do for the next five minutes?” before telling a joke that intentionally fell flat. It appeared they couldn’t get an acoustic guitar that James intended to use for a song to work. In the midst of this, the man who introduced the band came back out and informed the crowd that it was James’ birthday, and asked the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday.” James was turning 69.

Eventually, they gave up on the guitar and started playing “Crimson and Clover.”

If you grew up during the 1980s, you probably heard Tiffany’s awful cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” at every roller-skating rink, school dance and shopping mall in America. Well, hearing the rock version played live by the band that originally performed it makes you forget all about that horrible cover.

During the last song, “Mony, Mony,” James hopped into the photo pit below the stage and walked the entire line, shaking hands, kissing ladies on the cheek, and posing for some selfies as the band repeated a portion of the song. James then hopped back up onstage and finished the song and the set.

The Palomino Tent was already swelling toward capacity when Jamey Johnson took the stage and opened with “High Cost of Living.” Johnson announced during his set that it was Willie Nelson’s birthday, and led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday.”

Before Willie Nelson—84 as of April 29—performed, Bradley Cooper appeared onstage and informed the crowd that they had seven minutes of time to film a scene for the upcoming movie A Star Is Born, which will star Lady Gaga, and that Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real were going to come out and pretend to play a song that couldn’t actually be played “due to legal issues.” (Lukas is one of Willie’s sons.) He asked the crowd to show enthusiasm and excitement.

Willie Nelson finally took the stage after 8 p.m., well beyond his 7:45 p.m. scheduled start—and the crowd was massive; people were appropriately wondering why Nelson wasn’t appearing on the Mane Stage. The audience quickly learned Willie Nelson didn’t have his full band with him; instead, Lukas backed him with a couple of other musicians.

As was the case with Jerry Lee Lewis’ performance on Friday, the sound was hard to hear at times, especially when the crowd sang along to songs such as “Whiskey River,” “Still Is Still Moving To Me,” and “Good Hearted Woman.”

The end of Nelson’s set had a surprise: Neil Young came out and sang “Happy Birthday,” after Nelson had asked the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” along with him. It seemed sort of odd to have Willie asking the audience to sing to him for his own birthday … but, hey, when you’re the Redheaded Stranger, and it’s your 84th birthday, you can do whatever the hell you want.

Other highlights

• John Doe of the punk band X performed in the early afternoon in the Palomino Tent to some of the edgier—and older—members of the Stagecoach crowd. DJ Bonebrake, the drummer of X, played as part of his band. Things got political for a couple of moments when John Doe told the audience that if they’re eating fruit, it was picked by someone else’s hand—and to try to think about that. While tuning, he told the audience that California was in a drought, and added, “There might be 10 feet of snow on Mammoth Mountain, but it’s still happening.” This enraged a man, wearing a cowboy hat, near me, who screamed: “CLIMATE CHANGE IS A HOAX!”

• Robert Ellis played an afternoon set in the Mustang Tent while decked out in an awesome colorful suit—with planets and other extra-terrestrial objects on it. It was definitely the best outfit I’ve seen at Stagecoach this year so far.

Coachella and Stagecoach are just around the figurative corner—but March is bringing local music fans a lot of amazing shows to tide them over.

The McCallum Theatre’s fantastic season just gets better: The theater is dark just two days in March. At 8 p.m., Monday, March 6, you can experience Benny Goodman’s legendary 1938 concert with the Salute to Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall. This all-star tribute features some of today’s most talented jazz musicians. Tickets are $37 to $77. And now for something completely different: At 3 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 12, John Cleese of Monty Python fame will be appearing. The comedy legend will be telling stories from his autobiography, which also covers some of his best work, such as Life of Brian, The Holy Grail and A Fish Called Wanda. Tickets are $57 to $97. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, Art Garfunkel will be performing. In 2014, I attended his performance at Fantasy Springs and enjoyed his mix of poetry, solo songs and well-known Simon and Garfunkel hits. Tickets are $47 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

If you thought Fantasy Springs Resort Casino’s February lineup was great, the events in March are just as spectacular. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 4, singer-songwriter Paul Anka will be performing. “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” “My Way,” and “(You’re) Having My Baby” are just a few of the Canadian crooner’s hits. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 24, Saturday Night Live alumnus Dana Carvey will take the stage. Carvey is also well-known for the sketch-turned-film Wayne’s World and a handful of other comedy movies. Party on, Garth! Tickets are $39 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 25, you’ll be happy to know that former Bad Company frontman Paul Rodgers will be returning to the Coachella Valley. Rodgers was also part of Free, as well as The Firm, and performed with the surviving members of Queen. Tickets are $49 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, smooth-jazz superstar Kenny G will break out the sax. Kenny has sold 45 million records, and if you’ve ever been in a dentist’s chair to have a root canal, you’ve heard Kenny G. Tickets are $29 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente has a packed March. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 3, Southern-rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd will be performing. After losing three members in a plane crash in 1977—including original frontman Ronnie Van Sant—Skynyrd kept going and found new life when Van Sant’s brother, Johnny, took over on lead vocals. Sadly, the band has continued to tragically lose original members, and guitarist Gary Rossington is now the only one left. However, the band is still fantastic and puts on a great show. Tickets are $96 to $126. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 24 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 25, country great Alan Jackson will take the stage. Jackson has had a string of hits, and he’ll always be remembered for his post-Sept. 11 song, “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” Tickets are $130 to $160. At 7 p.m., Monday, March 27, Placido Domingo will be performing with the L.A. Opera Orchestra. Domingo has made more than 200 recordings, and is one of the world’s most popular opera tenors. Tickets are $65 to $400. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

It’s a trend: Spotlight 29’s March is also filled with great shows! At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 11, heaven help us all, because Michael Bolton is back. Wasn’t he just here? Anyway, tickets are $56 to $86. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 18, country singer Martina McBride will perform. She’s had six No. 1 hits and has sold more than 18 million records. Last year, she released her 13th studio album, Reckless. Tickets are $99 to $139. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 25, get ready to dance, because Kool and the Gang (above left) will be stopping by. After 45 years in the business and 70 million records sold, they are still fantastic. At one of my former workplaces, we had a saying: It wasn’t “That’s cool”; it was “That’s Kool and the Gang!” Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, country singer-songwriter and actor Dwight Yoakam will be coming back to the Coachella Valley. I admit: I’m a big fan. You must listen to his Dwight Sings Buck, his tribute album to the late Buck Owens. Tickets are $55 to $75. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

While Morongo Casino Resort Spa’s lineup is not as insanely good as those at the other local casinos, it sure isn’t bad. At 10 p.m., Saturday, March 4, P.O.D. will be stopping by. P.O.D. was one of the first Christian-metal bands to receive significant acclaim. The video for “Rock the Party” went to No. 1 on MTV’s Total Request Live back in 1999, and the band toured as part of OzzFest in 2000 and in 2002. After the success peaked, the group went back to making music for a more conservative Christian crowd. I don’t know what Jesus would say about playing a show at a casino, but rock on! Tickets are $20. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has some fine shows leading up to the craziness of April. At 9 p.m., Saturday, March 4, queen of the high desert Jesika Von Rabbit will be performing; also on the bill are the Yip Yops. Von Rabbit, chosen as the Best Local Musician by Independent readers, has enjoyed more widespread success recently thanks to her new single, “Going Down,” being played on KCRW. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 10, pop-punk band Joyce Manor (below) will be performing. The Epitaph Records band has become quite popular after the 2014 record Never Hungover Again became a hit. A new album, Cody, dropped in late 2016. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25, Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real will be returning to Pappy and Harriet’s. The entire band backed Neil Young on a recent tour, which included both weekends of Desert Trip. Lukas and his brother, Micah, are Willie Nelson’s sons; do you need any other reason to go to this show? With or without Neil Young (and who knows when he’ll show up?), Lukas and the boys are great. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Meanwhile, in Indio, The Date Shed has a couple of events on the slate. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 11, Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute band Righteous and the Wicked will be performing. I’m not a big fan of tribute bands, but they can be fun sometimes—and any band willing to take on the Chili Peppers songbook must be pretty cool. Tickets are $10 to $15. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, Date Shed regulars Fortunate Youth will be back. Tickets are $20 to $35. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews

The members of Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real met at a Neil Young show.

After the concert, Lukas, drummer Anthony LoGerfo, bassist Merlyn Kelly and some friends adjourned to Kelly’s practice pad in Seal Beach, Calif. They jammed into the wee hours and went surfing in the dark. It was so much fun that, when a stingray zapped Nelson, he shook it off to keep the night alive. The next day, he wrote the lyrics for “My Own Wave”: So much left to show / But the music never slows / It goes and goes.

“We started the band that night,” Nelson said.

After recruiting longtime family friend and percussionist Tato Melgar, the foursome spent the next six months playing on the beach for anyone who’d listen. Then they decided to hit the road.

Nelson wanted the band to pay its dues. “I’d just read (Hermann Hesse’s) Siddhartha—I needed to leave a place of comfort and go out and feel the extremities of both sides of humanity. I wanted to sleep in cars, on couches, and get to know people. I felt like my parents had already given me a fulfilling life; I didn’t want to have to ask them for money.”

That’s an admirable sentiment, considering Nelson’s father is living legend Willie Nelson.

So in the fall of 2008, POTR lit out in LoGerfo’s old pickup, calling themselves Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, inspired by a verse from Neil Young’s “Walk On”: Some get stoned / Some get strange / But sooner or later / It all gets real.

On tour, Lukas bared his soul and used his teeth to play ripping extended guitar solos. The crowd embraced POTR’s open, joyful vibe and sincere, raucous country-rock tunes. It took five months before the group saw any money, but finally, proceeds from a soundboard-recorded EP, Live Beginnings, enabled POTR to upgrade from a truck to a dangerously rickety RV.

That’s when Willie and his wife, Annie, intervened: “They didn’t want us to kill ourselves in that RV,” Lukas said. The Nelsons gave the band a bus, but left the fuel, maintenance and driver expenses to Lukas and co.

In June 2009, the group released the Brando’s Paradise Sessions EP, featuring “My Own Wave.” Kelly left, and Corey McCormick joined in time for the band’s eponymous first LP.

April 2012 brought the group’s second album, Wasted. The band picked up more new fans—like Neil Young, who came to POTR’s show this time. Although Young and Willie had been friends for years, Lukas “didn’t know Neil that well”—they’d only met a few times, Lukas said. Since connecting backstage, however, Young has become POTR’s guru.

“He’s given us a ton of advice,” Lukas said. “Besides my father, Neil is my biggest influence.”

Mutual admiration led Young to invite the band to back him up on his 2015 album, The Monsanto Years, which is credited to Neil Young + Promise of the Real. POTR toured with Young to promote the record, and will do more shows with him soon. In the meantime, the group is finishing its third album, and has released Realer Bootlegs Vol. 1, a stopgap EP to pacify fans while POTR talks with record labels.

Lukas pledges that he’s all about keeping it real.

“That’s a promise Neil made, and it’s a promise we make: We’ll deliver reality, whether it’s sadness, happiness, boredom, good friends, inspiration,” he said. “Whatever it is, we’ll deliver it musically.”

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real will perform with Insects vs. Robots at 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com. This story originally appeared in the Salt Lake City Weekly.

Published in Previews

There was so much buzz surrounding the Pappy and Harriet’s indoor show by Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real that the crew cleared as much space in the adobe music venue as possible.

Of course, there was the normal droning on social media about how Pappy’s should have moved the show outside, where there’s more space. Never mind that it was hot as hell, plus the logistics of an outdoor show are immense.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, aka POTR, started performing live in 2008. One reason for all the buzz: Lukas Nelson is the son of Willie Nelson, and he has toured with his father.

One of his major influences is Neil Young. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real played on Neil Young’s 36th album, The Monsanto Years, and POTR just wrapped up a tour with Young. This may explain the demographic shift at Pappy’s that suggested some in attendance might have seen Buffalo Springfield live while in their teens. Even my hemp-fedora-wearing consigliore friend, who believes all music died when the Beatles left Candlestick Park, was in attendance.

The show was a family affair, with Insects v. Robots opening, with Micah Nelson, Lucas’ brother, at the helm. Insects v. Robots is a trippy band that jams the hell out of every tune while mixing genres and having a blast. At one point, Micah asked Lukas to join the set—but he was nowhere to be found, so Micah asked for help from the audience; a brunette with Catherine Wheel and Phil Collins tattoos volunteered to go bang on the tour-bus door. As they say, the show must go on, and Insects v. Robots got everyone harmonizing to the psychedelic vibe. On several occasions, Micah Nelson asked with a smirk: “Does anyone have any questions?”

Joshua Tree’s favorite cowgirl, Jesika Von Rabbit, was briefly front and center to get a picture of Lukas Nelson. POTR opened with a greeting from Lukas: “How are you guys doing? … I think I have a lot of friends here.” Nelson seems not cocky, but cool, when he smiles; he has natural charisma.

POTR’s set included “Don’t Take Me Back,” a authentic song about a breakup: “I was sittin’ in my daddy’s car, with a joint in both of my hands, smokin’ ’til the smoke wouldn’t stop, and the windows roll down, and I’m rolling around in my mind.” Lukas included a cover of “L.A. Woman” by the Doors that was an excellent way to showcase the band’s skills, before switching genres several times, with music including “Diamonds on the Soles of Your Shoes” by Paul Simon. In a nod to “Uncle Neil,” POTR included “Cowgirl in the Sand.”

Nelson guitar skills were hypnotic; at one point, he played the guitar with his mouth as he kneeled on the stage.

POTR was getting ready to head out the side door—until a chant of “five more songs!” started from frenzied fans. To pump up the audience, Lukas turned out an excellent cover of “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. Then he remarked: “This is a song we wrote a while ago, ‘The Joint.’”

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real showed why they more than held their own onstage with Willie Nelson and Neil Young.

As the show ended, I bumped into Jesika Von Rabbit at the bar. She was excited that her favorite Neil Young song had been played.

Published in Reviews