NOTE: At this point, I got the idea that I could take a laptop with me into the Picnic and file blog reports throughout the day. The following appeared on statesman.com and austin360.com in 2011.

Live blog: Willie Nelson's 2011 Fourth of July Picnic in Fort Worth

By Dave Thomas

Jamey and Willie

 

By 9 p.m. the outdoor stage was torn down and Billy Bob's was full of 6,000 sweaty people, many of whom were feeling the effects of the daylong show. It wasn't uncommon to see someone just sitting on the floor in an apparently random spot.

Jamey Johnson did his new-outlaw thing and had a large group of fans. He opened with his own hit "High Cost of Living" and followed that with a cover of Johnny Paycheck's "11 Months and 29 Days" that had a bluesy makeover with a John Lee Hooker-esque groove.

It quickly became obvious that Johnson had never met a song that he couldn't stretch to death, on the front end, the back end or both. But he played his hits (following through at this year's Picnic on "In Color") and a choice group of covers, including "The Way I Am" and "Set 'Em Up Joe."

After a well-thought-out surprise guest acoustical appearance by Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers, Willie was announced at 11:07. He came out at 11:12. Any guesses as to what had his attention for those five minutes?

No need to detail Willie's set: He did the hits ("Good Hearted Woman," "Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain," etc.), he did a Stevie Ray Vaughan song — "Texas Flood" — to show off Lukas' guitar skills. He did a handful of Hank Williams song, closing out the night with "I Saw The Light."

Then somebody said "Play some more."

And he did. For quite some time.

It may not have been the best Picnic. Certainly it was among the smallest. But it ran like clockwork and that counts for a lot, considering the outlaws that have to be wrangled for this event.

he 2011 Picnic gets an honorary upraised turkey leg and can of beer, plus an official "whooo!"

Now how about 2012?

Ray, Ray and Ray

 

Ray Price's years are really starting to show in his slow shuffle toward the microphone, but the crowd at Billy Bob's loves him even more for it. A roar greeted songs like "Heartaches by the Number" and "Crazy Arms." And his voice reached for old heights on "A Way To Survive."

It's always good to see a legend get the respect he deserves. Even better to not to have to watch him struggle in the heat. With two indoor stages, the Picnic is not the survival struggle it has been, and the music in some cases has benefited from it.

Still, outside the spirit was right. It's not a real Willie Picnic to you see two upstretched arms, a giant turkey leg in one hand, a can of beer in the other and a head in the middle shouting "whooo!" It was Ray Wylie Hubbard who got that reception, making the most of his prime-time slot.

"Snake Farm" and "Screw You (We're From Texas)" were well-received, but everyone sang along with "Redneck Mother" — a Picnic tradition if there ever was one. Hubbard's son, Lukas, looked a little bored with that song though. Maybe because it's not worthy of his guitar wizardry. Or maybe because he's heard it his entire life.

Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel were involved in the Picnic's first delay. But it was only 10 minutes before "Miles and Miles of Texas" and "Bob Wills is Still the King." We also got our second rendition of "Faded Love" in less than an hour.

Ray Price did it better.

The Reflactacles

Sandwiched between the similar-sounding country rock of Brantley Gilbert and Lee Brice, was the Reflectacles: Round 3 of the Willie Nelson offspring performance cycle.

Featuring Micah Nelson, the Reflectacles didn't make such a good impression with the Picnic crowd last year at the Backyard. You might recall, they came on about 11:45 p.m. while the crowd was just about ready to revolt if Willie didn't show soon.

This year, at the much more respectable time slot of 4 p.m., the half-dozen hip musicians got a much more positive reaction from Picnic-goers. They can jam, though. David Allan Coe could fit a good 3 songs in any one of their lengthy jams.

Their jangly cover of "Man of Constant Sorrow" was a crowd hit, as was bringing out the family for their closer: "This Land is Your Land."

David Allan Coe

The Picnic didn't start with the national anthem this year, but David Allan Coe opened with "Whiskey River" and that's probably close enough.

It might have been an unusual move for Coe to open the Picnic, but he didn't take offense, tearing through quick versions of  "Whiskey River," "I Can Get Off on You," "The Ride" and "You Never Even Call Me By My Name" in 10 of his 30 minutes.

Coe seemed to be in good spirits, was surprisingly non-profane and put in a strong performance, at one point pausing to show off his newly shaved head. An early crowd 1000+ did the Picnic stand-in-the-sun thing.

He ended his set with a full-throttle medley of "Midnight Rider," "I've Always Been Crazy" and "Whipping Post."

Indoors, at least 30 degrees cooler, Johnny Bush and a six-man backing band sounded great. Bush seemed to be fit, relaxed and was in good spirits, cracking jokes about former bandmate Willie Nelson.