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Willie Nelson & Friends
at the Greek, April 30

At one point Saturday night, the Greek Theater’s open-air stage
was crammed with a dozen musicians helping Willie Nelson celebrate his 72nd
birthday. Plus Jessica Simpson.

In addition to the extended Willie Nelson family (which now includes
Willie, a sister and two sons), both chanteuses from the night’s opening acts
and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons found their way onstage to give Nelson a hand. It
was a hell of a show, with the shape-shifting assembly partying through more
than 30 mostly megahits.

Plus Jessica Simpson.

Give her credit: The would-be pop diva could have spent her night
elsewhere, before a more appreciative crowd. And Simpson, who plays Daisy Duke
in this fall’s screen adaptation of The Dukes of Hazzard (Nelson plays Uncle
Jesse), showed genuine pleasure at the talent around her — before brashly mangling
a center-stage duet of “Amazing Grace” and an awkward, Marilyn Monroe-esque
“Happy Birthday.” (When Simpson insisted on a second round for the
birthday boy, no one else seemed to have heard.)

Simpson showed sense to exit fast, leaving the rest of the concert
a hootenanny of ability. Nelson dominated, with improv guitar solos and that
iconic voice on favorites such as “Night Life” and “Blue Eyes
Crying in the Rain,” and the new “Superman” (“Too many pills,
too much pot, trying to be something that I’m not/I’m not Superman”). It’s
nice to see night steam coming off a 72-year-old.

Other highlights included Nelson’s sons, Lukas and Micah, who
look set for post-Dad country careers. Lukas does terrific electric blues guitar,
while Micah led on drums for about half the show — not bad when the guy you’re
sitting in for is Paul English.

Also shining was opening act Susan Tedeschi, whose Janis Joplin–like
voice and tight, tight, tight blues band trumped the following act, a very rocky
Shelby Lynne, who acknowledged after her opening number, “That was pretty
fucked up.”

There was no encore when the Willie Nelson caravan said goodnight,
and after such a fun, rambling time, that felt fine. Among the fans spotted
basking in the Nelson glow: Vince Vaughn, Quentin Tarantino, and Jack Black
of Tenacious D.

—Ben Sullivan

Stars, shoes, gossip and L.A. bonding . . .
The Promiseland benefit
at Union Station, April 28

If you weren’t at Mr. Cartoon’s Promiseland art auction and benefit
April 28, you missed one hell of a Gathering of the Tribes. The party, held
at Union Station, raised funds for L.A. Parks and Rec and Self-Help Graphics,
and featured an L.A. who’s who of Mexican celebs and hip-hop folks. Cartoon,
who is known for his tattoos, recently inked a deal with Nike to launch several
limited-edition shoe lines, and walked around in the new tricolor (red, white
and green) Mexican Nike Air Ones.

Promiseland was emceed by baseball announcer/Dodger Hall of Famer
Jaime Jarrin and featured music by Eastside O.G. band Thee Midnighters featuring
Willie G., plus Monterrey, Mexico’s eclectic party band Kinky. Milling in the
crowd were Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs, actor Danny Trejo (Heat, Con Air, From Dusk
Till Dawn), and the baddest sound dude in film, Frank Gaeta (Motorcycle Diaries,
Sideways). Also ran into a clean-shaven, dreadless Zacarias De La Rocha, fresh
from a solidarity trip to Argentina. (For all those waiting on word of his solo
album, Zacarias said he’s still working but would give me an interview when
it dropped — holla, homey!) Kanye West, along with Yoked-out model Tyson Beckford,
also made an appearance. But the coolest moment had to be hanging out with West
Coast producer extraordinaire Fredwreck (Ice Cube, Snoop, Xzibit) and Imperial
Highway homey and KDAY DJ Julio G. Fredwreck; Julio and I chambered up in Fred’s
burgundy Escalade and bumped unreleased cuts from his upcoming album droppin’
in June. Tats, Mexicans and DUB sounds, you know how we do!

—Ben Quiñones



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