The Dead at the Willie Nelson Picnic, July 4th, 2003
(setlist at bottom)

by Jon D from

Personal notes:
It took us about 2 hours to drive the final 2 miles to the venue. The local community and parking staff were certainly not equipped for the volume of traffic entering the facility Friday. As we drove into the venue lot, which had only a single, one-lane entrance for all traffic, it became clear this new facility was not yet completed. The "parking lot" was simply bulldozed woodlands; there were no paved roads or lots. Additionally, there were signs posted in the parking lots as you entered that said "Anybody caught selling anything will be arrested."

Pedestrians walking from their cars did not have the luxury of separate walkways from the make-shift driveways, and had to share the road with cars entering the lots, adding to the slow pace cars were entering the facility. Now we understood why parking was a mere $5. I felt pity for the folks who would be going the next day in the rainstorms, because non-4WD vehicles most certainly would have gotten stuck in this mudpit. As we walked away from our parked rental car, we saw the parking crew starting to park cars in three deep--fortunately, we were not blocked in at the end of the night, but lots of other people were.

By the time we got inside it was about 430, two hours after our planned arrival, and no one I asked had any idea as to when The Dead would be going on. Ray Price was on stage at the time, and when he was done, it was announced The Dead would be next. We had luckily just made it in time; although we did meet two different people later that evening that did not get inside until the end of the first set, due to the traffic and parking snafus.

No recording gear was allowed inside, nor were any cameras other than disposables, apparently in deference to the many other artists performing that day. We did not see any stealth tapers, but we weren't on the lookout for them, either. Vending was all done inside, presumably by vendors of someone else's choosing. We did not recognize any of the vendors from The Dead Tour, and there was a conspicuous absence of Dead merchandise inside. We also noticed that the camping facilities provided (sold) by the venue were within earshot and eyesight of the stage--why this wasn't "marketed" baffles me, as I would have forked out big bucks knowing I could hear the show from my campsite.

Venue security at the entrance was pretty light--no pat downs and no rigorous searches. It seemed to me that as long as you didn't have food or drink, or recorders or cameras, they didn't care what you brought in. Another plus: beers were cheap--only $4 for a 16 oz can-- and food was relatively inexpensive compared to most other venue prices.

Inside, we were truly amazed at the number of Deadheads there were, as we expected Deadheads to be clearly outnumbered by the non-heads and country music fans. But Deadheads were a significant contingent in the crowd, if not even a majority. We did have a chance to meet and chat with several folks who never listened to or saw The Dead before; they were there for Willie and the other performers, with The Dead just being an extra, or coincidental, act. However, they all had this warm curiosity to finally find out what it's all about, and they all seemed quite impressed with the band's performance.

The first set kicked off with Let the Good Times Roll, which surely kicked things into high gear right away. But by the time Music Never Stopped and Eyes of the World ended the set, it was clear the boys weren't fooling around at this show. Perhaps sensing that the crowd wasn't sure whether The Dead were done after Eyes or not, Bobby said to the crowd, "Thank you, we'll be back in a little bit."

The second set Caution was a highlight for me, with Joan strutting her mojo and pushing Phil into a solo bass jam with the line, "does Phil have what it takes?" During Caution a rainbow appeared in the southern sky, and for a moment I thought a double rainbow started to appear, but that may have been either my wishful thinking or my eyes playing tricks on me. =) Bob mentioned something about the sunset after Caution, while Willie was coming on stage. And although I heard China Doll in Camden, hearing it again was so worth it-- Joan does wonders with this song. The set ended with a powerful China/Rider/Not Fade, which would have bulldozed those venue parking lots had it not already been done. Maybe Not Fade was the "planned" encore, maybe not--but either way, after the set ended an encore seemed irrelevant.

We left shortly after The Dead played, partly because I'm not a big country music fan, but mostly to ensure I could get OUT of the venue parking lots in a reasonable time. Which we did.

The rest of the weekend was spent seeing and doing in Austin, during which I learned these things: Texans are very friendly people. Awesome barbecued food. Beer can be bought in regular grocery stores. Beer is cheap, competing with milk in the grocery. Gas is even cheaper. Speed limits are 70, so you can burn up your cheap gas quickly. Police are everywhere. The Stevie Ray Vaughn Memorial does exist. Great live music. And at least on Saturday nights, 18 square blocks are closed off to traffic for what amounts to a MardiGras atmosphere in their entertainment district, clearly explaining why they claim the title "Live Music Capital of the World!" Do visit sometime.

The Dead
Willie Nelson Family Picnic
Two River Canyon
Spicewood, TX

Let the Good Times Roll (Joan, Bob)
Truckin' >
Tomorrow Never Knows (Joan, Phil) >
Baba Jingo >
Cumberland Blues (Bob, Joan, Phil)
@Black-Throated Wind
Music Never Stopped >
Eyes of the World (Phil, Joan)

Jack Straw >
%Caution (Joan) >
+@El Paso
+@Ripple >
+$Milestones >
Drums >
Space w/Supralingua (Joan) >
China Doll (Joan) >
China Cat Sunflower (Bob) >
I Know You Rider >
Not Fade Away

@ Weir acoustic
% w/Phil solo jam
+ w/Willie Nelson
$ extended piano and drums jam as segue to Drums

First set ran 6:00 to 7:15 pm.
Second set ran from 7:55 to 940pm.
No encore.
The show was broadcast on XM Radio.