For the last seven years, the only way to see Willie Nelson’s private Luck Ranch in Spicewood, Texas is to score a pass to his Luck Reunion.
One-part family gathering and one-part music festival, Luck Reunion is the only time out of the year when Nelson opens his property to thousands of music lovers for a day of live concerts with good people, good eats and good vibes. The day-long event is held annually during Austin’s South By Southwest conference on the portion of the property that was originally the movie set for his 1986 movie Red Headed Stranger.
The 2018 event was sold-out and hosted 3,000 fans, crew and 35 acts representing all genres who were all very lucky to be there.
Highlights included live blues by rising artist Devon Gilfillian, New Orleans jazz by Preservation Hall Jazz Band, a surprise collaboration by Paul Cauthen and Margo Price on Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty’s “You’re the Reason Our Kids are Ugly” and a full surprise set by Price with the Band Of Heathens at the Luck chapel. Others on the bill included Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Nikki Lane, Kurt Vile and Lily Hiatt.
After canceling a run of shows in February, Nelson, 84, brought the fire for Thursday’s (March 15) all-star headlining set. Throughout his entire performance, there was never a break between songs, giving the crowd of adoring fans the full force of his iconic vocal tremolo and fluid guitar solos on his trusty acoustic, Trigger. Onstage he was backed by his longtime band, including harmonica player, Mickey Raphael, his sons Lukas and Micah Nelson, his sister Bobbie, plus special guests Ray Benson, Price and Rateliff.
The amenities onsite made the entire festival a VIP lounge. Beverages flowed at the festival’s bars featuring Tito’s, Jim Beam, Lagunitas, Hendrick’s, El Silencio and Playa Real. Mountain Valley kept everyone hydrated with stocked water stations. A local food truck court served affordable high-end eats, barbecue and other healthy options. Local artisans and vendors sold funky vintage threads and home décor. A screen printing company sold made-to-order Luck Reunion t-shirts. And in the VIP lounge, a tattoo artist was available for minimalist tattoos for those who wanted to rock their love for Luck in permanent ink. The clothier Maker and Smith also designed custom Luck rings for every artist who performed at the event.
Backstage at 4:20 p.m., select media were invited to a private vinyl listening session of Nelson’s next album, Last Man Standing, on a vintage tour bus that was originally custom-built for Nelson’s drummer, Paul English. As each side played, samplings of Nelson’s new strain of sativa from Willie’s Reserve were passed around, causing exhalations of smoke to billow throughout the cabin. Named after the album, the strain is set to launch when the album releases on April 27 in states where marijuana is legal.
Luck Reunion was put on in partnership with Southwest Airlines. The event was preceded by a welcome dinner and performance by Nelson and Family, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. Enjoy scenes from the event: