Curled cowboy hats and pointy toe boots were the de rigeur wardrobe choices at the Palomino Fest Saturday as thousands of country music fans descended upon Brookside Park outside the Rose Bowl for an all day celebration of musical traditions deeply rooted in the American experience. The performing artists represented a mix of country and western themes influenced by indie rock, punk and alternative sound.
The gig was set up to be as relaxing or as intense an experience as one desired—you could brave the crowds and be close to the stage, or hang back amongst the strategically placed lawn furniture, including a sand trap or two on the Brookside golf course, which doubled as festival grounds.
Multiple food vendors proffered pizza, barbeque and sweet treats, along with margaritas, whiskey drinks, beer, wine, and soft drinks. Others were selling cowboy ware and wear, including the ubiquitous cowboy hat.
The daylong anticipation culminated as Willie Nelson and Family took the stage around 8 pm. Nelson’s voice is still strong as his crack band of luxurious desperados snap the musical whip and he sings along. Nelson’s guitar, Trigger, a beat and battered Martin N-20 nylon-string classical acoustic, still resonates with a sound as soothing and comforting as visiting an old friend.
In front of a projected Lone Star Texas flag, Willie sang a lifelong greatest hits set list, and even tossed something from his 89th album—which he released recently at the age of 90—into the rodeo.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit respectfully waited to start their set until Nelson finished.
Headliner Kasey Musgraves brought her fresh and well-received sound to a happy and familiar audience, whose illuminated wrist bracelets (distributed before her set), changed colors at timed musical intervals during her show, creating a sea of unified color and rhythm from the first tee to the ninth.
It was all quite the rodeo.