Luck Reunion is referred to as an anti festival music festival and it’s held at Willie Nelson’s Ranch. Due to our unpredictable Texas weather, the 2023 event was delayed by a day. That meant it would take place not only on the Friday of SXSW Music but also on St. Patrick’s Day. We worried we wouldn’t be able to make it, but luckily, if there’s a Will(ie), there’s a way! Though my first time at Luck Reunion got off to a later start than planned, we made it.
A First Timers Experience at Luck Reunion
As you enter Luck Reunion you find yourself in an old Western town that was built on Nelson’s ranch for the film adaptation of his 1975 album Red Headed Stranger. There’s a chapel at the entrance which doubles as an intimate performance setting for 40 lucky people, and anyone who can see in through the beautiful stained glass windows to catch the musical acts playing there. To the left, a liquor sponsor is housed in a log cabin with tastings and a signature cocktail. This year it was Jack Daniels and a double cherry old fashioned.
All around the property you will find vendors, drink stations, and musical stages with a food truck area tucked in near the entrance.
We started out at the Tecovas hat decorating station which also featured Chicken Sh!t Bingo earlier in the day. We then checked out the leather goods by Rethreaded which are made from donated Southwest Airlines seats and produced by survivors of human trafficking. While amazing music was playing at the Revival Tent nearby, we browsed the hats, boots, and many custom designed goods being sold.
Realizing we needed to eat before settling in to watch the upcoming musical acts, we got in one of the many long lines for food. East Side Kings was a winner with delicious fried chicken (although they ran out of rice by the time we got our meal). We stopped by Willie’s Reserve and picked up a few trinkets then made our way to the Barn Stage for the highly anticipated performance by The War and Treaty.
I first heard Michael and Tanya Trotter of The War and Treaty a few months ago and instantly became a fan. From the moment they came on stage you could feel the electricity bubbling. They performed a powerful mix of their own songs and a few covers while the audience was singing and rocking out, clearly enjoying every moment. Musicians who had already performed that day, such as Tami Neilson, were seen piling in on the side of the tent to catch the fiery duo.
With our ears ringing and our hearts exploding for more, we decided to quickly stop into the Saloon Stage to get a peak at the Tito’s setup which was vibing with red and orange lights and packed to the brim. Next up, we headed over to the World Headquarters Stage to get a good spot for the legend himself, Willie Nelson. We met people who had flown in from all over the world just to see him. The excitement, and some smoke, was floating in the air!
10 Reasons Why You Should Never Miss Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion!
The moment arrived and Nelson took the stage along with his youngest son Micah, professionally known as Particle Kid. Ray Benson, front man of Asleep at the Wheel, also joined in on the fun. After a quick, “How ya doing?” Willie and company jumped into “Whiskey River.” While I knew seeing Willie perform was a bucket list opportunity I could’t miss, I wasn’t prepared for how great he was going to sound. And although his voice is beautiful, I was most impressed by his stamina as he sang song after song for an hour straight.
“Big Dog” Ray Benson was incredible on his guitar and Particle Kid brought a playful presence to the stage. His introduction of “If I Die When I’m High I’ll be Halfway to Heaven” was sweet and highlighted the family dynamics that made the audience feel right at home. Everyone was singing and dancing along to classics “On The Road Again,” and “Always On My Mind.” Then, as the stage filled with musical guests that had performed throughout the day, the show came to a close with “I’ll Fly Away” and finally, “Deep In The Heart of Texas.”
We were high on Willie as we walked to get our shuttle, which took over an hour to arrive. That meant we had plenty of time to chat with fellow festival goers and reminisce on the amazing event. From the anxiety of not being able to attend due to the date change, to it all working out beautifully in the end, I was reminded that sometimes you just need a little Luck (Reunion) in your life!
Featured photo by Brooks Burris.