Nel­son closes sea­son at pavil­ion with fest

The Republican Herald - This Weekend - - CALENDAR - BY PA­TRICE WILDING STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: pwild­ing@ timessham­rock.com

Har­mon­ica player Mickey Raphael has stood by Wil­lie Nel­son’s side for 45 years. But no mat­ter how much time passes, the view of the leg­end never gets old.

“From my van­tage point, which is about six feet away, I’m a fan. At 85 (years old), Wil­lie is still one of the most en­er­getic gui­tar play­ers there is,” Raphael said dur­ing a re­cent phone in­ter­view from Nashville, where he lives.

The long­time friends and col­lab­o­ra­tors come to town for the Out­law Mu­sic Fes­ti­val to­day. The con­cert, which also in­cludes ap­pear­ances by Van Mor­ri­son, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lukas Nel­son + Prom­ise of the Real and Par­ti­cle Kid, be­gins at 3 p.m. at the Pavil­ion at Mon­tage Moun­tain, Scran­ton.

Watch­ing the magic of Wil­lie Nel­son per­form also keeps Raphael on his toes as a mem­ber of the band, thanks to the spon­ta­neous na­ture of the clas­sic coun­try crooner’s style of play­ing.

“We don’t ever prac­tice. It’s all im­prov. There’s no set list,” Raphael said. “The set fol­lows a cer­tain pat­tern, but we just fol­low Wil­lie. He starts ev­ery song and then we come in, but he can change.”

The fans in at­ten­dance hold sway over how the mu­sic pro­gresses, too, Raphael said. When the en­ergy is high, the per­form­ers feed off the en­thu­si­asm, and it af­fects the sets.

“When you have a crowd that’s present and in­volved, it pushes you to ex­press your­self in dif­fer­ent ways,” Raphael said. “You can look out there and see young peo­ple and older peo­ple — it crosses all gen­er­a­tional lines — you can see that they’re get­ting into the mu­sic. There’s no­body sleepwalking through this thing.”

The easy­go­ing vibe car­ries through­out Out­law Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, which orig­i­nated in Scran­ton in 2016. This year’s col­lec­tion of tal­ent on stage, in­clud­ing much-cel­e­brated Van Mor­ri­son, makes for a good time not just for the au­di­ence, but also for the artists, Raphael said.

“This tour is go­ing to be great,” he said. “All the acts, they’re so much fun to watch that all the mu­si­cians are out there watch­ing each other play. They’re not hang­ing out on tour buses.”

But as much as Raphael en­joys his point of view, he promised that noth­ing com­pares to be­ing in the crowd be­fore Wil­lie Nel­son when he’s in the mo­ment.

“Wil­lie is the kind of guy that when he’s singing, you feel like he’s singing right to you, and he is,” Raphael said. “He makes con­tact with the au­di­ence.”

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