So, I think I’ve mentioned this before, but Willie Nelson has a profound effect on people. He’s just got this hella strong positive energy emanating from him, and it makes any one watching him go positively crazy with glee. Hey, it happens to me every night.
I say this because the other night we were able to really witness Willie’s effect on a large crowd. You see, most of our shows have been at large performing arts centers, or cool old theaters. If there is one thing that all these venues have in common, it’s that they all have strict policies to reign in the audience. There is no dancing in the aisles and any rushing of the stage is reserved for the encore. Most places won’t even let you stand up in your seat too long before a burly security guy comes and tells you to sit down. This has more or less kept the crowd wildness to a minimum. Willie does shake hands and sign autographs when he can at the end of the show but during the show things are pretty calm.
And then we played Williamston, NC, population 5200. The venue wasn’t a theater, but rather…well I think it may have been some kind of horse arena type thing. It may host a Rodeo or two and definitely hosts horse shows (is there a name for those? I have no idea). The ground was covered in compact sand, rather than flooring. Seats were set up in front of the stage, and people could also sit in the bleachers on the side. Very different from the other places we’ve played.
Photo by Dan Schram (Thanks, Dan!)
But the real difference between the Williamston venue and the other theaters was the security. It may have been because they knew a bunch of the folks there, or because they’re not full time security guys, or maybe they just didn’t want to deny anyone the Willie experience–whatever the reason, these guys were way lax. They let the crowd run all over them.
And we got to see how Willie fans act when they stop being polite and start being real.
They go wild!
First off, people were up and out of their seats from moment one, taking pictures, trying to catch Willie’s eye, dancing around. There was a little barrier between us and the crowd–a lane created for press photogs. I’m pretty sure without that we would have some attempts at climbing on stage. But people were getting as close as they could.
It was relatively calm at first. But as the show wore on the crowd kept getting more and more amped up. More and more people were out of their seats. Signs were held “we love you Willie!” And “You are on my bucket list”
Then the clothes items throwing started.
The first thing thrown was a hat. I saw the guy do it. He was standing right up at the barrier and seemed poised to leave and let someone else have his spot. Then a wellspring of excitement and happiness just seemed to grab hold of his spirit. He whipped his hat off of his head, let out a whoop of joy, and let fly his hat.
It was followed by a shirt, two more baseball hats and a multicolored striped bra. I think I saw the woman who threw the bra. She was pretty well endowed though, and there was no visible post-bra throwing droopage, which led me to conjecture that she either had on a bra underneath her thrown bra or had brought a bra specifically for throwing.
By the time Willie threw his cowboy hat into the audience the crowd was at near frenzy state. No one was hurt, but man, did people go for that hat.
The bandannas however, almost caused a riot. The first bandanna Willie thew didn’t quite clear the barrier in front of the press lane. Consequently, you had people going both over and under the barrier to get it. One woman who felt the bandanna had been intended for her but wasn’t able get it (she opted for over rather than under) was pissed! She yelled for another bandanna, and when Willie went to throw it, she climbed up on the barrier, stretching her body towards the stage. The poor security guy try to get her down, but she yelled at him, explaining in a not so polite manner that that was her bandanna! And her bandanna it became.
It was an awesome show, both musically and crowd watching wise. We really got to see the full effect of Mr. Nelson. It’s a beautiful thing to watch in all it’s unfettered glory. So often we keep a lid on our joy. We worry about what other people think. We stifle ourselves. But sometimes you get to watch Wilie. And Willie’s vibe is such that you stop the tamping down and start the enjoyment. Especially if there aren’t any security guys there bumming your groove.