With his 90th birthday on the horizon, country music icon Willie Nelson is bringing the party to Somerset, Wis., where his Outlaw Music Fest will land at the newly reenergized Somerset Amphitheater on June 23.
The Texas music icon will be joined at the western Wisconsin outdoor venue by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Minnesota string-band favorites Trampled by Turtles, bluegrassy rising star Molly Tuttle and son Micah Nelson's band Particle Kid for what's typically a five- or six-hour music marathon.
Tickets for the Friday afternoon concert — call it a half-day at work that day — go on sale this Friday via Ticketmaster.com or Outlawmusicfestival.com, with presale options beginning Tuesday. Prices have not yet been publicized. Ticket options include VIP packages with reserved seats and festival merchandise.
Located along the Apple River across the Wisconsin border from Stillwater — about a half-hour northeast of downtown St. Paul — Somerset Amphitheater has been a hub for concerts off and on over the past four decades. It has been refurbished over the past 12 years by Twin Cities investor/developer Matt Mithun, who also took over the property where the country music mega-party We Fest is held each August in northwestern Minnesota, Soo Pass Ranch in Detroit Lakes.
With help from We Fest's new partner Live Nation, Somerset Amphitheater has lined up its most active summer in at least a decade for 2023. Other concerts already on the calendar there include Fall Out Boy on July 13, the Lumineers on Aug. 29 and a weedy rock/hip-hop hybrid with Sublime With Rome, Slightly Stoopid and Minneapolis indie-rap vets Atmosphere on July 27.
Somerset will be the first stop for Nelson's traveling caravan in 2023. He has been heading up Outlaw Music Fest lineups most summers since 2016 but has never come nearer to the Twin Cities than this. There's another Outlaw date in southeastern Wisconsin the day after Somerset, June 24, with the same lineup.
The June 23 gig also will be the closest Plant and Krauss have ever come to performing together in the Twin Cities as a duo, after earning a Grammy in 2008 for their debut album and putting out a long-overdue follow-up record in 2021, "Raise the Roof." Krauss and her usual band Union Station also opened Nelson's last Twin Cities gig at Target Center in 2019.
A lot has changed for Nelson since 2019. He lost the two longest-running members of his Family band, devilish drummer Paul English and his saintly big sister and pianist Bobbie Nelson, who died in 2020 and 2022, respectively. He has also lost a little of his own mojo — just a little, mind you — and typically performs seated nowadays. He still has family around him, though, with Micah Nelson often now joining in on guitar and Paul English's brother Billy on drums.
Fresh off releasing somewhere around his 150th album, "I Don't Know a Thing About Love" — he's put out so many LPs, it's hard to officially say how many — Nelson will celebrate his 90th birthday with a star-studded, two-day event at the Hollywood Bowl on April 29 and 30. Some of the many Willie disciples scheduled to join him at the Bowl parties include Chris Stapleton, the Chicks, Norah Jones, Beck, Miranda Lambert, Snoop Dogg and Tom Jones.
Willie's trip to Somerset creates an unfortunate scheduling conflict for Americana/alt-twang fans in the area, because that's also the weekend the Blue Ox Music Fest is scheduled in nearby Eau Claire, Wis., with the Avett Brothers, Sam Bush Band and more.