Each year during SXSW, there’s a reprieve from the madness of downtown Austin, just outside of the capital city at Willie Nelson’s Spicewood, Texas ranch, dubbed Luck, Texas. The annual Luck Reunion is held on the grounds where Nelson’s 1986 film Red Headed Stranger was filmed. The town is aptly named, because after 30 years, the makeshift western town of Luck still stands and it makes for the perfect place to throw a giant party hosted by Willie and his closest friends and family.
The 2018 Luck Reunion was a reflection of that spirit, shining a light on rising Americana and country artists, celebrating artist collaboration and ending with an all-out jam session from the Red Headed Stranger’s every growing family band.
With four different stages, it’s nearly impossible to see everything at Luck Reunion. But that means there’s always something happening. Your best bet is just to wander around and see what you stumble across.
Lilly Hiatt helped kick off the day of music in the small Luck chapel. Hiatt filled the 50-seat room with alt-country and rock from her 2017 album Trinity Lane.
Hiatt was followed by Sunny War, a rising folk-punk musician who enthralled the audience with tunes from her recently released album With the Sun.
The Texas Gentlemen hit the World Headquarters Stage in the early afternoon for their “Gents and Dames” set, which included Ruby Boots, Erika Wennerstrom, Nicole Atkins and Lauren Ruth Ward. Atkins teamed up with the Texas Gentlemen for a powerful cover of “Stand By Your Man” that channeled Candi Staton’s classic soulful take on the song.
The foursome also joined the gentlemen for country-funk jams “Habbie Doobie” and “Bondurant Women” from the Gentlmen’s 2017 album TX Jelly.
Americana artist Aaron Lee Tasjan was another highlight of the day, keeping the crowd entertained with his folk-fueled rock music.
Particle Kid, the stage name of Willie Nelson’s son Micah, and Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real kept the music rolling on the World Headquarters Stage.
Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real were joined by surprise guest Margo Price.
Meanwhile, in the chapel, Joshua Hedley was performing to a packed house (and extra packed pews). Hedley and his backing band The Hedliners performed a spellbinding set of songs from his upcoming debut album Mr. Jukebox and, fittingly, one Willie Nelson cover.
Following Hedley, Margo Price took the chapel stage with Band of Heathens. The audience erupted in cheers when Price emerged onstage and welcomed everyone to church. (“I forgive all your sins,” she later joked.) Price preached the gospel of Young, Dylan and Petty all night, delivering rollicking covers of Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues,” Bob Dylan’s “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine” and Tom Petty’s “Last Dance With Mary Jane.”
The singer avoided her own songs, save for an incredible performance of “All American Made,” the title track to her sophomore album. Accompanied only by her keyboard and her husband Jeremy Ivey on harmonica, Price gave a sparse and chilling performance of a song that’s sure to be considered one of her signature works. You could tell by the audience, including those that crowded around the chapel windows when they realized what was going on inside, that it was a special, only-in-Luck performance.
Nikki Lane performed on the Back to the Source stage, set up under a large tent in the middle of the grounds and had help from a special guest.
Once Willie Nelson and Family launched into the familiar opening notes of “Whiskey River,” the crowd made a mad dash back to the World Headquarters Stage to see the main act. Nelson was joined by sons Micah and Lukas and friend and frequent collaborator Ray Benson. The evening ended with Margo Price, The Preservation Jazz Hall Band and Nathaniel Rateliff joining Willie and crew in sending the Luck family off until next year’s family reunion.