'We missed you': Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic is moving to Q2 Stadium in Austin
Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic will return this year, and it's going green.
The (mostly) annual summer concert and its fireworks show will be held at Austin's Q2 Stadium, home to the Austin FC soccer team.
Concert promoter Live Nation and Austin FC President Andy Loughnane announced the move on Friday morning.
"This has been something we've wanted to be able to introduce in a way that's authentically Austin. I don't think we could have delivered a more authentically Austin artist" to hold Q2 Stadium's first official concert, Loughnane told reporters from the stadium's bright green pitch. Q2 Stadium opened last year.
Asked whether Nelson would wear Austin FC's signature green, Loughnane said, “We’re not going to make Willie wear anything he doesn’t want to wear."
The 2022 event also marks the in-person return for the Picnic, which made a virtual pivot during the pandemic. From 2015 to 2019, the patriotic holiday party had been held at Circuit of the Americas.
“I’m so happy to be bringing back my annual 4th of July Picnic for the first time in two years,” Nelson said in a statement. “Come on down. We missed you.”
In addition to Nelson and his Family band, the lineup for 2022 will include Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, Tyler Childers, Brothers Osborne, Midland, Charley Crockett, Allison Russell, Particle Kid, Steve Earle & the Dukes, and Asleep at the Wheel. This will be the first Picnic since the death of Bobbie Nelson, the country music star's sister and longtime pianist. She died in March at 91.
The stadium can hold up to 25,000 people for the 10-hour Picnic, Loughnane said. A floor covering will be laid over the soccer field, and the stage will be put under the field's east canopy, where the seats beneath spell out "ATX," he said.
Actor Matthew McConaughey, who is an Austin FC owner and the club's minister of culture, said in a statement that "there’s no one better to kick off" the stadium's first concert than Nelson, "the one and only living legend."
The Picnic's history stretches back to the 1970s. In March of 1972, Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn and more headlined the Dripping Springs Reunion. While not a Nelson-organized event, it served as inspiration for the "On the Road Again" singer's inaugural 4th of July Picnic in 1973, also held in Dripping Springs. That event drew about 40,000 people. The lineup boasted Nelson, Jennings, Kristofferson, Leon Russell, Billy Joe Shaver, John Prine and more.
Over the years, the Picnic has moved around quite a bit, and sometimes, there's been no event at all. Before finding a consistent pre-pandemic home at Circuit of the Americas, venues such as Zilker Park, Southpark Meadows and the Backyard at Bee Cave all hosted Nelson and company, as did a pasture next to a truck stop between Waco and Dallas.
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That first year at Circuit of the Americas also marked a return to the Live Music Capital after several July 4 shindigs in Fort Worth. Over the years, the Picnic's tunes and rowdy fun have wandered to Luckenbach, Manor, Liberty Hill, College Station, Gonzales, Dallas and other towns. Nelson has even marked the Fourth of July out of state in places like Atlanta and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Over the decades, a cavalcade of stars have joined Nelson, including Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jimmy Buffett, the Pointer Sisters, Doug Sahm, Lynyrd Skynyrd, George Jones, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, along with such modern-era talents as Sheryl Crow, Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price and many more.
Tickets for the 2022 Picnic will start at $55 and go on sale to the public at 10 a.m. April 15 via q2stadium.com. Austin FC season ticket holders and those who are waitlisted can expect a ticket presale, Loughnane said.