We can all agree; Maui loves Willie Nelson and Willie adores Maui.
He’s led his family on island for decades now. He is our island’s most famous resident musician. His philanthropic contributions continue to be plentiful, and his musical achievements are legendary.
He has been playing scheduled and surprise gigs on Maui for decades. Check this old video of Willie playing “Jingle Bells” (and see if you can spot the some special guests)! But his life, of course, has reached much further than our shores. He is about as prolific a songwriter and performer that is currently still living. A whopping number total, a tally that is currently: over 2,500 songs and nearly 300 albums; appearances in over 30 films; co-authoring numerous books. But the talent does not stop at the patriarch of the Nelson ‘ohana, not by a long shot.
Maui was just lucky enough to experience the Nelson ohana performing together during this holiday season, exactly two days before Christmas 2022 on December 23rd. The buzz entering the Maui Arts & Cultural Center was humming.
Whether you were 8 or 80, there was multi generations of joyful families all around. Speaking of the younger generation, Micah–aka–Particle Kid, might just have the most quickly growing fan base of the Nelson crew.
While waiting in line, I heard both Micah and his Particle Kid stage name name pop up multiple times. For good reason. As the youngest, he usually played in the background while his father and brother took the front. He would often play drums or even paint multimedia pieces during their famous family concerts at Charley’s. A full grown man now, Micah just released a immense project, highlighting his last 5 years of artistic creation and exploration. An excerpt from his press release below:
“His self-described ‘experimental future-folk solo project’ is releasing a sprawling epic, Time Capsule, taking listeners on a nearly two-hour trip through various genres, ideas and sounds, an eclectic palette of sonic colors, both familiar and exploratory feelings painted together like a collage, as if 90s alt, 60s psych, 70s electric jazz, and some abstract future were all magazines chopped up and somehow cohesively glued together by Micah’s voice and lyrics as well as guest spots from Margo Price, J Mascis and Sean Ono Lennon, among others.”
If Particle Kid encapsulates a more psychedelic sound of the Nelson ohana, Lukas Nelson and his band, Promise Of The Real, follow a similar ethos as Willie does. Crooning love ballads, raucous rock’n’rolling, covering country classics; all while putting a unique and contemporary flavor on it all. Lukas has always been a prolific guitarist, but the older he gets, the more his voice has matured. Like his dad, his soulful sound is now emphasized with a bit of Texas twang.
Lukas & The Promise of The Real (POTR) held down an extraordinarily tight set during their performance at the family concert. Playing his hits like: “4 Letter Word”, “Austin”, and “(Forget About) Georgia” [featured 2 spots above] Lukas + POTR had the crowd singing along to their favorite chords. He is officially out of his famous fathers footsteps, and is trailblazing a hit career every new performance he gives.
Lukas also brought out a dear friend of his, another local Maui musician that seems destined for stardom in the near future…
Lily is a born and raised Maui girl, that has recently reached national fame in part thanks to her appearance on Season 17 of America’s Got Talent. It’s during this competition that she received the coveted “Golden Buzzer” award from Heidi Klum, when the aforementioned judge was nearly moved to tears when Lily sang her hit “Daydream”.
Mentored by super-producer Bob Rock, Lily toured with Willie, and was featured on his album of duets “To All The Girls“. She learned to write songs with Jackson Browne, and has shared the stage with Steven Tyler, Kris Kristofferson, Sammy Hagar, Alice Cooper and more. She spent the last few years in the studio writing and producing the bluesy, soulful pop songs that make up her most recent release. And she shares a deeply close relationship with Lukas, she revealed in a recent Rolling Stones interview: “He’ll listen to my songs and give me notes…I’m just so, so grateful for that friendship. He’s my brother.”
There’s not much more that can be said about Willie at this point. I am lucky enough to consider him a friend, mentor, and poker buddy. He has produced an almost unimaginable amount of art in his lifetime, up there with some of the most prolific of his contemporaries. Even at age 89, he still tours hundreds of days out of the year. His energy and enthusiasm for his craft, and his adoring crowd that follows, has seemingly never wavered.
This concert was no different. Willie commanded the sell out lawn in front of the MACC’s Yokouchi Pavilion, in the A & B Amphitheater. Whether you were in the seats in front or bleachers in back, Willie and his boys held a captive ear. The Nelson clan and POTR masterly performed many of Willie’s classics. Such hits like “On The Road Again“, “Always On My Mind“, “I Never Cared For You (video directly below)”, “Night Life“, and “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die” were particular standouts.
Willie also took a sort of a back seat, playing the back up guitar for both his boys, during their set together. Micah’s “Everything is Bullsh*t” was a particular favorite. It was such a joy to see a father and his sons performing each others music together. In front of their family and friends celebrating the holiday season.
Their smiles on stage together truly warmed my heart and got me feeling especially grateful. I feel particularly blessed to have 2 of my sons working with me on a daily basis. It’s a family affair and couldn’t be any better!
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