by: Matt Fountain and Sarah Linn
Legendary folk rocker Neil Young stopped Thursday in San Luis Obispo for a secret show.
The Grammy Award winner took the stage at SLO Brewing Co. at 9 p.m., backed by rock band Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real and played until midnight.
The spur-of-the-moment concert was presented by Good Medicine Presents and Numbskull Productions. Good Medicine co-owner Todd Newman said he and his wife, Korie, have been working with Nelson, son of country star Willie Nelson, since 2007.
“Lukas contacted us last week and asked to work on a secret show,” Todd Newman wrote in an email. “He didn’t offer many details. He simply said, ‘Let’s plan for a concert Thursday and we are going to bring something special to Good Medicine and SLO.’
”It wasn’t until shortly before the show that we found that Neil was the special surprise.”
San Luis Obispo resident Jason Hill was sipping a beer at McCarthy’s Irish Pub at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday when a friend sent him a text message about the Neil Young concert.
“I dropped my beer, ran to the show and got right in line. And then I realized I had no cash,” said Hill, who borrowed enough money to purchase pre-sale tickets for himself, his friend and their fathers.
“It was the best show in San Luis Obispo at SLO Brew,” Hill said. “Because it was a total surprise — and it was Neil Young.”
When Mike Johnson, who lives a few blocks from downtown San Luis Obispo, heard about the show after work, he, too, raced to SLO Brewing Co.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Johnson said. “Seeing Willie Nelson’s son’s band play backup for Neil Young in a tiny venue at the spur of the moment? It was one of the more entertaining things I’ve ever experienced.”
Concertgoers paid just $10 to hear Young play two sets that included a nearly 10-minute long version of “Down By the River” as well as favorites such as “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” and “Ordinary People.” The energetic crowd that packed SLO Brewing Co., which has a capacity of 457 people, ranged from college students to older folks.
Young announced in January that he is working on a new album with Lukas Nelson and his brother, Micah Nelson.
Known for a long string of hit songs that includes “Harvest Moon,” “Old Man” and “For What It’s Worth,” Young helped shaped the sound of the 1960s and ’70s as a member of two bands — Buffalo Springfield and rock supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He’s also enjoyed a successful, decades-spanning career as a solo artist.
Young was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo musician in 1995 and as a member of Buffalo Springfield in 1997.
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