Just outside the confines of SXSW, a sea of locals gathers to celebrate Texas country at Willie Nelson’s Luck, Texas ranch.
The Luck Reunion is a small, somewhat exclusive event (just 2000 tickets are sold) that’s been happening since 2012. It features a variety of outlaw musicians, artisans, and vendors who, as the official site says, follow their dreams without compromise.
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In stark contrast to SXSW, this festival is easygoing and easy to maneuver. There are few lines, no bad vibes, and just a heckuva lot of friendly folks happy to enjoy the reunion and all that it has to offer.
Here are 10 other reasons this festival is one you shouldn’t miss.
1. The ranch, itself
Luck, Texas, was initially built on Nelson’s ranch in the mid-1980s to serve as the set for the film adaptation of his 1975 album Red Headed Stranger. The makeshift town has stood ever since, though it was damaged by tornado force winds in 2014. While some damage is still evident, the majority of the western town is intact and stands as the perfect backdrop for this celebration.
2. All the Texas musicians
From big names like Billy Joe Shaver, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ray Benson, and Hayes Carll, to local musicians like Dan Dyer, Paul Cauthen, and Shakey Graves, and up-and-comers like Thomas Csorba, the music reminds you of why Texas country is the best kind of country. Of course, we may be a little biased. At the end of each year’s fest, Willie takes the stage, accompanied by a variety of Texans, including sons Lukas and Micah.
3. The drinks are free
Yep, while food and other vendors have items for sale on site, the drinks are all free. And that includes the adult kind. A variety of beers are offered along with specialty drinks from the likes of Tito’s Vodka, Jack Daniels, Knob Creek, Monkey Shoulder Whiskey, and more.
4. Luck Reunion keeps it local
Almost all the food trucks are from Austin companies, like Garbo’s Fresh Maine Lobster, The Stiles Switch BBQ team, Eastside King, and more. Vendors include local companies like Sound Sight Tarot, alongside independent shops from around the South. California based Aviator Nation took part in 2019, with Luck Fest branded merch from their South Congress locale.
5. There’s free swag too
Upon arrival, each guest receives a bandana. Branded guitar picks have also been given out, as well as peanuts from Southwest and items you can brand at the tannery. Vendors like Epiphone have also distributed items like t-shirts, sunglasses, and keychains that hold your guitar picks. In 2019, vintage denim jackets were on sale for just $25 at the Willie’s Reserve pop-up and each purchase came with a free patch and application.
6. The people are chill
As mentioned earlier, there are no bad vibes at this fest. In fact, that’s one of the things listed to leave at home on the festival site. While you may experience some unruly fans at SXSW music events, the crowd here is cordial and downright friendly.
7. It’s the place to rock your country roots
Anything goes when it comes to fashion at this fest. Been wanting to sport your biggest belt buckle or perhaps just a traditional hat and boots? This is the place to do it. Please note, however, that hat really hinders the ability of the folks behind you to see the stage. But we’re not complaining.
8. The sound is stellar
Don’t stress about fears of being too far away to hear. It’s not even possible. Since this is a rather small gathering, you’re never too far from the action, making each artist sound awesome no matter where you’re situated.
9. It’s not as far out as you may think
Located in Spicewood (not Spicewood Springs), the ranch is located a mere 30 minutes or so out of Austin. The drive was easy breezy and parking was convenient. But pack your patience for the end of the night. It takes some time to get out of the ranch.
10. The surprise guests
You never know who may show up. Since it isn’t that far away from Austin and SXSW, and Willie’s got a lot of pals, the opportunity for a surprise show is always there. In 2017, guests were treated to last minute performances from Shovels and Rope and Elle King. Plus, Billy Joe Shaver joined Willie on stage at the end of the evening. Keep your eyes peeled for familiar faces in the crowd as well. We once spotted CBS News anchor Bob Shieffert, who was born in Austin, enjoying the show in a TCU ball cap.
Want to go? Tickets for the Luck Reunion, held each spring, are released on a rolling basis via several “pop-up” sales leading up to the event. For each sale, they release a unique code, typically on social media channels just prior to the on-sale time. You need that code to gain access to the ticket sale. They also may send codes exclusively to email subscribers.
To learn more so you’re ready for next year’s event, check out the official site.
All photos by ATX Gossip
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