From start to finish Goldenvoice’s first-ever Palomino Festival at Brookside at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena delivered solid performances from a myriad of alt-country artists on Saturday, July 9.
Country and pop star Kacey Musgraves closed out the evening with a lively set despite her latest album being “very depressing,” she laughingly told the crowd. Some of her newer offerings are a bit slower, but her loyal followers didn’t mind and they swayed along to “Star-Crossed,” “Simple Times” and “Good Wife” before grooving along to “Breadwinner” followed by the more sweet and uplifting “Golden Hour” and “Butterflies.”
Since she’d been touring out of the country, Musgraves, who has a large LGBTQ+ following, asked the crowd if they had a happy Pride Month and added, “I want you to feel safe” and let fans know that “you belong here.” She got everyone dancing with the disco-tinged “High Horse” and hinted at bringing out a special guest by saying she was backstage and found “the highest one of them all,” before fellow Palomino performer and country music icon Willie Nelson joined her on stage.
The pair performed Nelson’s hit “On the Road Again,” with Nelson picking at his guitar and Musgraves grinning from ear to ear as she sang the lyrics and the crowd roared right along with her. She also busted out some Kacey-oke and put the words to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” on the screen behind her and encouraged the audience to sing along, to which they happily obliged. She ended her turn with “Justified,” “Rainbow” and “Slow Burn.”
It was a fine finish to a day filled with stellar sets. There wasn’t one weakling in the bunch. From the acts that took the Pancho main stage and Lefty side stage (a play on the Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard song, which was written by Townes Van Zandt) early on, Palomino concertgoers were in for a treat. Acts such as Jamie Wyatt, Amythyst Kiah, Langhorne Slim and Sierra Ferrell got the party started and Nikki Lane, Paul Cauthen, Morgan Wade and Charley Crockett fired ’em up more.
Country singer-songwriter Zach Bryan, who also served in the U.S. Navy, drew a large crowd to the main stage for his set and got people stirring with songs like “Heading South” and “God Speed.” Over on the side stage, Turnpike Troubadours busted out “Gin, Smoke, Lies” and had the audience dancing and singing to “Whole Damn Town.”
Masked musician Orville Peck looked like he was having a blast on stage. The openly gay country star looked fabulous in his western wear and fringe mask as he busted out elaborate dance moves, acting out several of his new songs like “C’mon Baby, Cry” and “Daytona Sand” as if they were Broadway hits. It’s not just his fashion that’s hard to ignore. Peck’s voice is so pure and also familiar, with hints of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, plus his songs are so well-written and catchy.
Old Crow Medicine Show put on a barn burner set with and covers including “Alabama High Test,” “Humdinger” and “Wagon Wheel.” They closed out with Kiss’ “I Wanna Rock N’ Roll All Night” done country style.
At 89, Willie Nelson is still out there playing his guitar, singing his songs and as an outspoken advocate for cannabis, he’s as high as ever. He performed on the mane stage just before Musgraves alongside his sons, guitarists Lukas and Micah Nelson. They opened with “Whiskey River” and Lukas took the lead on “Texas Flood” while Micah led “If I Die When I’m High I’ll Be Halfway to Heaven,” a song inspired by something Willie said while on the road and also high. The crowd sang along to Nelson’s cover of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” and the Nelsons presented a soul-stirring cover of Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe.”
On Willie’s 89th birthday he released his latest album, “A Beautiful Time.” Before Willie performed the single, “I’ll Love You Till the Day I Die,” which was written by Chris Stapleton and Rodney Crowell, he said it was “one of my favorite songs of all time.” It was a very pretty song. The Nelsons closed their set with the sarcastic “It’s Hard to Be Humble” and invited out several of the earlier festival performers to sing along.
Back on the side stage, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit gave a perfect performance that included songs like “24 Frames,” “Traveling Alone” and “If We Were Vampires,” a ballad Isbell sang so hauntingly it induced chills.
Though the music was spot on all day long, Palomino Festival had its glitches. Like many businesses at the moment, it seemed to suffer from staffing and supply issues.
The festival began at noon and as early as 4 p.m. the bars were starting to tell customers they were out of certain menu items including premium liquors and beer. It was a gripe for many, but they seemed to take a “I’ll drink whatever” approach throughout the day. Reinforcements showed up a bit later in the form of barely chilled Coors Light and Dos Equis tall boys, but those went quickly.
After sundown, the on-site bars became like raiding your parents’ liquor cabinet with you-call-it cocktails as fans were starting to order things like tequila and ginger ale and coke and vodka out of necessity.
Guests were also complaining that several food offerings had run out by early evening and the parking situation was a mess. There weren’t enough staff members in the lots to direct traffic, which caused confusion and heated verbal altercations that led to lengthily backups and local law enforcement needing to step in.
It’s a sign of the times we’re living in. Thank goodness for the music.
When: Saturday, July 9
Where: Brookside at Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena