The Time we Took Our 9-Year Old Daughter to a Bar. On a School Night.

Yep. You read that right. We took our daughter to a bar on a school night. But we had a really, really good reason. And no, it wasn’t because we couldn’t find a babysitter.

You see, one of the best things about Texas is that we’ve got some amazing musical legends right here in our backyard. The Crazy Train is based just spitting distance from the Live Music Capital of the World, so we’ve got plenty of concert opportunities.

In 2012, The Hub and I crossed Willie Nelson off our bucket list, but our eclectic little GirlChild was furious to have been left out. You see, Mags isn’t like most girls her age. We’ve not been tortured (yet) with whatever tween chipmunk helium techno bubblegum earworm death sentence that some parents suffer through. She’s got a heterogeneous musical palette that is admirable for a 10 year old girl. Her playlist has everything from Neil Diamond to Taylor Swift.

Willie 6

(The afternoon before the show.)

So when Willie and Family brought the legendary bus back through our neck of the woods in 2013, we had to go. The 80 year old Redheaded Stranger might not have too many touring years left, so we decided to carpe diem and spring for tickets. Seeing Willie at Floore’s in Helotes had always been on my Bucket List, but the folks in Luckenbach say Gruene is best. Unlike Floore’s, Gruene Hall’s stage is elevated, and it’s a lot bigger, so you’re not packed in like sweaty sardines.

Willie 9If you’ve never seen a show at Gruene Hall, you should. The historic dance hall was built in 1878, and is known as “the oldest continually run dance hall in Texas.” Not much has changed in the last 135+ years. It’s something like 6,000 square feet of wooden dance floor history with the kind of bar that only serves ice cold longnecks. I think if you ordered something pink with an umbrella, they’d be forced to call the Texas Rangers on you. The fact that it’s un-airconditioned is really irrelevant. The design keeps it fairly comfortable year round.

Willie 8

Tickets went on sale about a month out, so I made sure to be online and ready to pony up with my plastic at the instant tickets went live. In under a minute, I was $312 poorer, but I knew I’d have one excited little girl on my hands.

On the day of the show, we prepared as best as we could.

Willie 5

Brothers at Grandma’s: Check!

Comfy jeans and boots: Check!

Cooper’s brisket in the belly: Check!

In line at 5pm sharp: Check!

While we were in line, we schooled Mags on the concept of General Admission Seating. There’d be a lot of standing around and waiting, but if she played her cards right, it’d be worth it. We told her that once the gate opened and they took her ticket, she’d need to high-tail it to the stage—front and center—and park it there. Don’t wait for mom. Don’t wait for Dad. Park it front and center and DO NOT MOVE.

Willie 2

When the doors opened, she flew to the stage and anchored herself right behind a lady in a wheelchair. BRILLIANT move, Grasshopper. She watched, wide-eyed, as Willie’s road crew prepped the stage. When they set Trigger up directly in front of her, she realized that she had the best spot in Gruene Hall.

Willie 4

About an hour passed before Paula, Willie’s daughter, took the stage. Paula Nelson is a joy to watch. She seems to really enjoy singing both solo and with her brothers and her dad. She has a great voice, and she’s just plain fun to watch. But after a few songs, Mags was tired of waiting for the REAL reason she was there.

But when Paula finished and she saw those braids for the first time UP CLOSE and IN PERSON, she knew that the wait was worth it. She sang. She jumped up and down. She danced. She took pictures. And when Willie threw his bandanas at the end of the show, she freaking caught one. SHE CAUGHT WILLIE’S BANDANA. He threw 2 of them, and she caught one!!! (How do I NOT have a picture of this?!?!?!)

I am SO not kidding. Holy crap. My daughter, age nine, had the most amazing first concert experience ever. She got to see a living legend at an historic venue. She got to stand front and center, and she came away with the ULTIMATE souvenir.

Since thWillie Notee show was on a Sunday night, we chose to crash at a nearby hotel and head back on Monday morning. Knowing that I am not a good enough liar to pull the “she was sick” card, and I am trying to teach her honesty and integrity, I told her it was OK to go ahead and tell her teachers the truth as to why she had missed school on Monday. And I sent a note. With a picture.

A couple weeks later, I saw her teacher and the principal at school. When the principal saw me, she just laughed, telling me that in ALL her years in education, she had NEVER seen such an awesome absence excuse letter. We laughed about it and I shared the story. Only in Texas is taking your 9-year old to a bar on a Sunday night to see a Willie Nelson concert an acceptable excuse from 4th grade!


Unfortunately, I am afraid I have completely ruined the entire concert-going experience for her for the rest of her life, but I am so happy to have given her this awesome memory. Now she has her sights set on meeting him, but I don’t think it’s going to be as easy as she seems to think it’ll be. But then again, she’s a pretty lucky girl! She just might find a way to make it happen.

(In case you can’t read the note, it says: Dear Mrs 4th Grade Teacher: Please excuse Mags from school on Monday… She had a ticket to the sold out Willie Nelson concert in Gruene on Sunday night and she had to stand in the front row and catch one of Willie’s bandanas! I am sure you understand this once in a lifetime opportunity was too good to pass up. Thank you! Mrs CrazyTrain)

And yes. All these photos are mine. Please be cool and don’t copy ’em.


  1. This is just … EPIC. You’re probably right that every concert for the rest of your daughter’s life will pale by comparison, but I hope you’ll encourage her to go to many, many more anyway — just in case. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


    1. She wants to see Neil Diamond now, and all the cheap seats for the 2015 tour are gone! Why did I teach her how to read and use the computer? Stupid schools teaching kids how to reasearch and stuff. By the time I sell a kidney, only the cheap, obstructed view seats will be available, and she’ll be too far away to appreciate the gloriousness that is Neil Diamond.

      Liked by 1 person


      1. Oh no! Sounds like you’ve created a monster — a little retro-loving, concert-going monster. But fear not: I’m sure you’ll be able to score a ticket somehow and that your young fan will have another opportunity to catch a sweaty garment thrown into the crowd.

        And PS: You really are the best mom *ever.* 🙂


      2. Haha!!! If not, April is a long way off, so she may not remember. Plus, i know some guys in a killer Neil Diamond cover band called the Diamond Smugglers. They’re not as kid-friendly as the man himself, but most of their campiness would go right over her head anyway!

        Next thing I know, she’ll be begging for Barry Manilow. Hey, at least they’re all shows I’d go see! I’d have to kill the both of us if Justin Bieber was on the table.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The Diamond Smugglers?! That is awesome on so many levels! And don’t knock Barry Manilow — he still puts on a helluva show. HA!


      4. I love me some Barry Manilow!!! I’d love to see him!

        OMG the Diamond Smugglers are AWESOME!!!! They’re based in Austin and they play Neil Diamond covers, in costume, and in character. It’s like 1970s Neil Diamond sequined camp glory on sterroids. But the BEST part is they tweak the lyrics to make them hysterically dirty. It’s a hell of a show that is in no way appropriate for a 10year old!!! I think they have some video footage on youtube. I went to college with a couple of them, and they play once or twice a year. So. Much. Fun!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I’ll admit it — if you don’t tell anyone: I love me some Barry Manilow, too! He’s one of the original showmen, because he knows how to engage an audience and entertain them instead of just *perform.* I think a lot of the young artists coming up are missing that aspect because they grew up going to arena rock shows and don’t really know how to build a rapport with an audience.

        But OMG … the Diamond Smugglers do sound *awesome*!! (“It’s like 1970s Neil Diamond sequined camp glory on sterroids.” I laughed and laughed and laughed at that!) I’ll have to look them up on YouTube; they sound like exactly what I need at 6:15 on a cold January morning. So … thank you for broadening my horizons! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So jealous! I am a lot older than Mags (and you, too, come to think of it) and I have yet to see either Willie or Neil. Wait, I haven’t seen Barry, either. Oh, my goodness, may I have a “do over” on the last few years so I can correct that? I was lucky enough, several years ago, to see Garth Brooks from the tenth row so that should count for something. He puts on a great show. You may, or may not, want to share that tidbit with Mags.



    1. Wanda,
      I saw Garth about 20ish years ago with my cousin. He and a bunch of his friends had tickets and they were all bringing dates, and for some reason, my cousin’s date couldn’t make it. So I told my cousin I’d be his date but he had to take me to dinner and treat me like his date and open doors for me and everything. He was so exasperated with me all night because I kept joking about going to a country music concert with my cousin as his date! At least I thought it was funny!!! And it was a great show. Trisha Yearwood opened for him, back before they were married. But we weren’t in the 10 row or anything!!!



    1. Hahaha!! Wanda– thats hilarious you said that because I kept telling him that all night. And I’d say things like, “you know, if we were in XYZ, dinner and a concert could have a whole other ending for us!” and he would squirm and gag and pretend to throw up…. Good times!



  3. Thanks. Pleased to have discovered you here. Of course going to see Willie constitutes a parental duty! Looking forward to reading more here. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox (Texas artists to feature in a ‘Texas Texture’ series this year!).

    Liked by 1 person


    1. Thom, thank YOU! I totally agree! I had no qualms about her missing school for even a millisecond! Now my two younger kiddos want to go, and I feel obligated to take them as well. My 7 year old (named William) had a conversation with the hatmaker in Luckenbach a few years back that was pretty hilarious. The hatmaker asked if anyone called him “Willie,” to which my son adamately replied, ” NO!” So the hatmaker told him that one of the coolest guys he knows is called Willie, and my William says, sarcastically, “who? Willie NELSON?” And the hatmaker said yes, and William replied, “well, I guess if Willie Nelson wanted to call me Willie, I might let him, I guess.”
      I love having 3 kids under the age of 10 who would rather meet Willie than Justin Bieber! It makes me feel like I’ve done SOMETHING right!

      Can’t wait for the Texas Textures series! If there’s anything you need from the Crazy Train to help out, just ask, and we’ll do what we can. I onviously have no problem taking my kids anywhere (or leaving them at home!).

      Liked by 1 person


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