Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson and More Create Lasting Memories on the Pancho Stage At Palomino Fest
LOS ANGELES, CA- Country, roots, and Americana from established and rising stars in music were on full display at Goldenvoice’s Palomino Fest in Pasadena, California on July 9, 2022. The one-day music festival was held at Brookside at the Rose Bowl and featured 19 artists whose performances were spaced across two stages. With the legendary Willie Nelson slated to perform, the producers named its two stages after Willie’s 1983, honky tonk album with Merle Haggard “Pancho & Lefty”.
The “Pancho Stage” was designated as the main stage, and “The Left Stage”, which was appropriately staged left of the Pancho Stage, was the secondary stage. Below are some thoughts on each performance Blurred Culture was able to catch on the Pancho Stage. Don’t forget to click through the artist’s image to check out their full photo gallery and some found fan-video from the performance!
If I hadn’t gone down the digital rabbit hole, I wouldn’t have discovered that Logan Ledger, the first act up on the main stage at Palomino Fest, is a native Californian. He is Nashville-cased these day, and that’s California’s loss. California could always use more country artists they could claim its own.
Logan’s 2020 self titled debut album is a solid effort that produced by the legendary T-Bone Burnett. Rumor has it, T-Bone was so impressed with Logan’s classic honky-tonk sound that he put off retirement to specifically work on the record. It’s a breezy collection of easy going music that highlights Logan’s classic sounding voice. Those comparisons to Roy Orbison that I picked up on are well deserved. That timbre and subtle vibrato definitely give those Roy vibes.
Logan’s set was a mellow one, perfect for a lazy weekend afternoon. His baritone voice massaged the “just relax” ethos for the weekend warriors in attendance. While the thematic mood of his set was generally filled with the “cowboy blues”, I don’t think the crowd necessarily picked up on those topics. After all, isn’t “Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me” a song about the preponderance of death? LOL. No … the crowd was there to enjoy the scene and atmosphere. With the sun shining bright on a glorious day in LA, the moody songs simply did just that. They set the mood.
What the holy fuck did I just walk face-first into? That’s what I asked myself when I got back to the Pancho stage where the raucous punk of a nouveau Jerry Lee Lewis was standing on his piano while a posse of fantastically thick ladies crushed the backup vocals. And before you even think about branding my description of the women onstage as some male gaze chauvinist objectification — that was the point. That was the intent.
To be sexy on the stage through an entirely uninhibited display of musical prowess and powerful bodies. This was something visual to behold. And it was a lot. Enough that I wondered whether there’s even much listening to Low Cut Connie once you’ve borne witness to the live experience. While the women on tambourine and guitar celebrated their thighs and high energy showmanship, Low Cut himself channeled a blues rock with echoes of George Thorogood’s but with a little more Little Richrard than Bo Diddly.
And to whom does Low Cut offer his dedication as the patron saint and GOAT of live performance? Tina Turner. Of course. Tina Effing Turner. Shoulda seen that coming. All you have to do is imagine her iconic pivot in Proud Mary and you get a feel for why she is the ethos personified of everything happening here. Tradition. Rupture. The energy and awesomeness of Low Cut; the radical and raw of the ladies backing him up — the whole band always about to go off the rails but somehow staying on track.
Of course, none of this would be all that shocking if I was more intimately acquainted with his oeuvre. After all, the song titles of his most listened to tracks spell out the screenplay for all that shall pass at a Low Cut Connie show: “Revolution Rock n Roll”, “Shake it Little Tina”, “Big Thighs, Nj”, “Boozophilia”, “Get the Lotion Out” … swear I didn’t look that up until after I wrote this. You see them live and you live it. Experiential rock at it’s finest. Now, to be fair, I do love Low Cut recorded. It’s just that seeing them live is like flying first class. Hard to go back.
I’m not sure how I got introduced to Sierra Ferrell, but sometime during one of those god forsaken Covid lockdown, I caught wind of a breezy, old-timey song titled “In Dreams” by Sierra Ferrell. There was something about its musicality that intrigued me. While it harkened back to traditional musical themes, there was something just innately fresh about it. That single was like a Jambalaya of musical deliciousness; a crock pot with dashes of bluegrass, jazz and country.
That single led me to her full debut album, Long Time Coming, and it was love a first listen. Perhaps I was a bit influenced by all the rave reviews that other publications and critics had published, but I’ve listened to that album straight through on multiple occasions, and it’s a pleasure to listen to every time. The creativity involved in writing new music through the lens of the traditional is something that’s done effectively only on rare occasions. Sierra’s album just knocks it out of the park. It’s a classic sound for the modern day, and I absolutely dig it.
Sierra’s performance was a joy to watch. Honestly, if I had my druthers (and wasn’t wearing about 30 pounds of camera gear), I could have easily laid down on the festival lawn, propped a beer on my torso and zoned out to her music. With her band set up around her in a tight traditional bluegrass formation, she breezed through her set with a nonchalant ease that only enhanced the mood of her songs. Dreamy and effortless. Classic yet modern. I’m a fan.
Oh dear, Langhorne. A man of my heart. If you have half an hour, please listen to his interview on NPR. The dude is so fascinating and honest, and he has a magical way of making the darkness of his own radical experience feel relatable to those of us who suffer the more pedestrian trials and tribulations of civilian life. Which is why I think he works so well live.
It begins with the music; he crushes it straight out of the gates. From moment one, a mad frenzy of keyboards and drums launch the afternoon into a delightfully controlled chaos that’s held on course by the reckless but perfect beauty of his vocals. Vocals drenched in celebratory angst; a proverbial wall of sound, a sonic rainbow – both auditory and visual – that shoots from the microphone, ricochets off your earhole, and lands somewhere between the nadir of your bowels and the apex of your heart. He elevates. And yet… he wants to relate. He wants to connect. He wants to annihilate the inherently hierarchical structure that’s baked into live performance: artist above, audience below; artist in the light, audience in the dark. No, that’s not Langhorne.
For him, artist and audience is we and us, not us them. That’s why he can’t be more than a song or two into his set before he leaps down from the stage to sing to the crowd, from the crowd. In a moment between songs, his voice cracks in ecstatic agony: “Music is the most divine medicine we have … to share and lift our souls.” Can’t tell if he’s telling us or pleading with us. And it’s a soundbite that might sound cliche from any other artist but certainly not from Langhorne and certainly not now. Not when it’s possible that anywhere from 30 to 60% of THIS crowd on THIS day, is at their first music festival — possibly their first concert — in upward of three years. It’s a message that hits hard in what for many has been an emotionally hard time.
Oftentimes I’m looking for a sensei in my artists. A guide to follow. In Langhorne, not so much. Instead, I see a friend. A man to hug because, dammit, we all need one … to embrace as an equal; who’s been through a lot more of some shit, and a little less of some other. That’s in part because there’s an uncertainty that feels very conscious during his performance where it’s unclear whether he’s sharing his pain or reflecting your own. Either way it works because he’s flattened the landscape between you and him. He’s stepped down from the pedestal. Even in his reflections on sobriety, there’s an awareness of communal ethos.
“I’m not against booze and drugs … but wanna leave some for you, because I was doing them …ALL.” His story is your story is our story, albeit different degrees of intensity. Can’t say I’ve ever tried to do ALL the drugs. But his impulse control and the hurt behind it — a hurt that drove him all the way to LA, only to realize when he ran out of land that he was still just himself but “in a sunnier place”. Well… count yourself lucky (or in denial) if you never struggled with something akin to that. As he walks his anthems of pain, joy, and sadness straight into the middle of the crowd, the audio and the visual begin to integrate with the tactile. One hand on a shoulder, one hand on the mic. My shoulder, your shoulder, our shoulder. Oof, that third dimension of sensory experience is so powerful when done properly, from the heart. When he screams “I ain’t dead” could it be anywhere else but from the middle of the crowd, a horde of heartbeats, holding and being held by the audience around him?
Nikki Lane is a pro. She’s always been good. But now she’s a pro. And that makes this an interesting and low-key delicate turning point in her career. She’s cut her teeth as the lovable bad girl, the fallen angel of a beauty queen who lost her wings and tiara somewhere near the bottom of a whiskey bottle. I think she described herself once as girl/friend who’s a whole lot to handle but always worth it. Probably a messy paraphrase but the gist was that she’ll bring the party but there might be a lot to clean up the next day. Although the odds of her pitching in are better than 50/50.
A country punk but with a heart of gold. And she’s always seemed to revel in being a sort of alpha in the margins, in that Groucho Marx fuck any club that would have me as a member kind of way. But what now? She’s an increasingly bright light that’s hard to hide. Things are looking a little more polished. She has a brand — High Class Hillbilly, a vintage clothing boutique with brick and mortar in Nashville and a mobile team that sets up at most her shows. That way, if you like the way the sound feels, you can look the way the sound feels.
Throwback. Sexy. Comfy. Perfect for pulling up to an Echo Park dive bar in a 1978 Ranchero. I don’t know. She’ll be just fine. Because you still see the hustle in her. You still see the smile and the grit and get a sense that as sweet as it may be to achieve “success” as defined by money and sales and all the metrics, if her friends aren’t having a good time, she’ll tear it all down and start from scratch.