FORT WORTH — God has to be a Willie Nelson fan, if the Texas icon’s 40th annual 4th of July Picnic is any indication.How else to explain an July day in North Texas with temperatures in the low to mid-90s and a steady breeze? It was a startling contrast to past picnics, where diehard fans often sizzled under triple-digit temperatures.The heavenly vibe extended to all three stages Thursday in the Fort Worth Stockyards, with sublime sets in the afternoon and evening from talents as varied as Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson and Burleson’s the Quebe Sisters Band. An estimated crowd of 10,100 spent the day getting blasted on beer, bonhomie and UV rays, celebrating not only the picnic’s 40th anniversary and its return to the North Forty behind Billy Bob’s Texas, but also the recent 80th birthday of its founder, who was in fine form during his headlining set.Ah, but the devil was in the details; specifically, that nagging divide between old country and new. Some artists, such as Johnson, Ryan Bingham, and the Quebes respected Music City’s past, even as they put a modern spin on their sound.Others, such as penultimate performer Gary Allan, blew right past tradition and didn’t look back. His cover of Vertical Horizon’s Best I Ever Had was particularly disorienting. Still, the crowd embraced it all. On a day devoted to freedom and fireworks, the altogether spiritual vibe in the Stockyards was hard to ignore.
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones