My birthday isn’t actually until Wednesday, but I did most of my celebrating over this past weekend. This year the weekend before my birthday coincided with the larger of the two street festivals that happen in my neighborhood every year, HonFest. If you’re not from Baltimore and have no idea what HonFest is think your typical street festival with food, vendors, and music but with people dressing up like they’re in John Waters’ Hairspray. There are also contests for Baltimore’s Best Hon in various age groups. The pre-school age one is usually the cutest, though we didn’t make it out in time to watch that this year. We met up with a couple of friends on Saturday afternoon and walked around the festival for awhile. It was a great day for it. Usually by the time HonFest rolls around Baltimore is already stupidly hot and humid, but this year was one of only two years that I can remember that the weather has been really great for it.
Saturday night I made my husband take me to see Kacey Musgraves, Alison Krauss and Union Station, and Willie Nelson at Merriweather Post Pavilion. As I already mentioned the weather was gorgeous on Saturday, so it was the perfect night for an outdoor concert. It was quite pleasant out with the sun up, and then after it went down it was perfect a perfect barefoot blue jeans night as Jake Owen sings. Chilly enough to be wearing jeans and a hoody, but still warm enough that I had no shoes on. Of course not everyone thought it was so pleasant. I was cracking up when Alison Krauss came back out on stage to sing at the end of Willie Nelson’s set she was all bundled up in a winter coat. My husband makes fun of me because he says I’m always complaining that it’s cold when it’s not, but I said hey at least I’m not that bad.
The concert itself was great. I had gone back and forth about whether or not I wanted to go. I really wanted to see Kacey Musgraves and Alison Krauss and Union Station, but I just don’t care that much about Willie Nelson. Since he was the headliner I didn’t immediately jump on it, but eventually decided it would be a fun birthday weekend activity and even if I’m not a huge Willie Nelson fan it would be cool to see a music legend in concert. As suspected I loved Kacey Musgraves and Alison Krauss and Union Station, but was not super excited about Willie Nelson.
Kacey Musgraves has been hitting it big in country music over the past year or so. If you listen to country music you’ve probably heard her songs “Merry-Go-Round” and “Follow Your Arrow”. I’ve been wanting to see her for awhile, but I remember last summer she was touring with some country artist that I don’t care for. I don’t remember which one. There’s a whole collection of what I think of the bro country artists, which are all the male artists that sing seemingly exclusively about drinking and trucks or at least that’s my impression from the singles they release. I don’t much care for them and I generally can’t keep straight which one of them sings which song. At any rate I was happy to see Kacey Musgraves touring with people I also wanted to see. I enjoyed her set a lot and look forward to seeing a lot more of her in country music over the years. My husband said he didn’t think she fit with the rest of the bill, but I said haven’t you learned anything from watching Nashville? You send the young upstart out with the veterans so their fans can learn about her and become her fan too. She definitely did have a bit of a different vibe though. Her set was very dressy with a bunch of stuff in the background including neon cacti and some lighting tricks during the set. Alison Krauss and Union Station on the other hand had nothing on stage with them except their instruments as did Willie Nelson aside from a giant Texas flag hanging in the background. So yeah a bit of a different mindset there. As the young person on the tour though she was surprisingly the last of all the people on the stage who pulled out their cell phone to record the last few songs of the concert when everyone was back out on stage with Willie Nelson. All of that cracked me up. I love seeing musicians, even veteran ones, excited enough by the people they’re getting to play with as well as the audience that they want to record it.
Alison Krauss and Union Station’s set was flawless. I love her voice so much. She also has a little understated wit. I told my husband their set was the anti-Jackson Browne. We saw him a few years ago and he played exactly zero of his hits. I’m still kind of mad about it. At any rate, Alison Krauss and Union Station did the exact opposite. They have had a long 24 year career together, so they obviously have an extensive catalog of music to work from. I would expect them to play some of their hits, but certainly would not expect to hear all of them. Yet that’s what they played. If the only songs you know by Alison Krauss and Union Station were ones you’ve heard on country radio or from the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, then you heard what you knew plus obviously some other stuff. I loved them and would gladly go see them again any time.
Then there was Willie. I’ve never really sat down and listened to a Willie Nelson album, so I wasn’t sure how many of the songs I would know. Turns out that as a country music legend who has written a ton of songs that have become country standards I have picked up on a lot because I knew the majority of songs that he played. It was cool just to say I’ve seen him and his legendary guitar “Trigger” with it’s many signatures and hole worn into it from over 40 years of playing on it. However, at 81 years old Willie Nelson is not really in his prime anymore. He almost spoke the lyrics to his songs more than he sang them, and he wasn’t particularly engaging. He definitely lost a number of people sitting around us, who left partway through his set. By far the best part of the set was the last four songs when he had Kacey Musgraves and Alison Krauss and Union Station come back out on the stage and sing with him. That part of the show was a lot of fun, and is the kind of stuff I live for with live music. Then that was the end of the show. There was no encore, which was weird to me since I couldn’t even tell you the last concert I went to where the headliner didn’t come back out for an encore. I didn’t especially want him to, I just found it surprising since encores really aren’t that anymore they’re just an expected part of concerts. All in all it was a good concert and I’m glad we went.
Sunday I invited friends over to have some birthday cake with me. I really hate planning stuff to do for my birthday. I always want to celebrate it with friends, but I hate trying to figure out something to do and trying to wrangle my often not great about RSVPing friends if I plan something where I need to know if people are going to be there or not. Thanks to medications I take I haven’t been able to drink in many years, so just saying something like come hang out at this bar or something like that doesn’t really appeal to me. Thus I’m always trying to come up with ideas of low key things that don’t take too much planning on my part. I stress out about it every year anyway including this year, which was about as simple as it gets. I should probably just give myself a break and enjoy my birthday by not doing anything next year. At any rate since it was HonFest weekend, and we live a block away from where that happens I told people to just drop by my house between 4 and 6 on Sunday for some birthday cake after they were done enjoying HonFest. Of course when I made the plans I failed to realize that it was Father’s Day since I have no kids and my dad lives on the other side of the country from me. I lost a lot of people to Father’s Day plans. I did wind up having a decent turn out though and we put a serious dent in the cake. Though there is still plenty left for me to enjoy birthday cake for the rest of the week. I usually like to bake, but decided I didn’t want to have to bake my own birthday cake this year. Instead I ordered it from the Baltimore Cakery. The one I got was a 4 layer chocolate cake filled with dark chocolate ganache and cookies and cream buttercream icing. It was tasty. I amused though by how many people said this is good, but I’m really sad you didn’t bake something because your cakes are the best. I also decided that if I was going to go completely little kid birthday with only a birthday cake I was going to kick it up a notch and make some sherbert punch too. I took myself back to my childhood and made some good old punch with pineapple juice, Sprite, and rainbow sherbert. It’s as simple as that, but oh so tasty. I also provided some rum and vodka for people to make it adult punch if they wanted. All in all it was a fun birthday weekend.