Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion Return

Thirty miles from downtown Austin’s roaring hustle and the scooter-filled sidewalks of South by Southwest, Willie Nelson hosted his annual one day festival on his family’s ranch. From the perfect lineup, to a beautiful day gleaming of sunshine and a light breeze, topped with great company, the experience was unlike any other music event. Welcome to Luck Reunion 2019.

Story and Photos by Hayli Rudolph

If you’ve ever lose sight of what being an Austinite really means and you’re feeling lucky, enter the raffle to get into the fairgrounds of the Luck Reunion, the Texas roots music festival hosted by the original Austinite himself, Willie Nelson. To even get your hands on a pair of tickets you have to be selected from the raffle to then have the opportunity to purchase tickets, already making the invitation feel more like a privilege rather than a right.  

Pulling into the dusty, rocky Texas driveway, horses greeted attendees from alongside the road. Fans were eager to park and get to the music. The lineup was full of talented folk, country and rock artists. Musicians like Nathaniel Rateliff, Haley Heynderickx, Shakey Graves, Mavis Staples and, of course, the Nelson family, brought music enthusiasts from all corners of the country. Although all weren’t Texas natives, on Luck day, everyone was wearing an honorary Texas badge.

The festival was decked out in all the makings of a good time. From a ‘Pick ‘n Play’ wall, for people to relax with a guitar in hand, to a hair-braiding booth, where individuals could get complimentary braids of their choosing. Naturally, the Willie braids were mighty popular. Free drinks were at every turn. I repeat, free drinks. The small but kind gesture made this day feel less like a money pit and more like a gathering with friends. The sole purpose of the day was to enjoy live music with great people.

Six stages sprinkled the grounds, including a chapel that’s line never dulled. Although the attendance was exclusive, he stages seemed to reflect that, at times, fans would have to peek through the church windows to get even a look at the performances. That sure didn’t stop the smiles from radiating on festival-goer’s faces. Nothing could.

Inside a multicolored teepee, the grooviest of people found themselves sitting in the shaded point welcoming in strangers to partake in the host’s favorite remedy, if you get what I’m saying. Speaking of, it wouldn’t be a Nelson gathering if there wasn’t a house that had a neon sign that read “Weed” on the side of it. In it you could buy “Willie’s Remedy” lighters, CBD coffee and much more.

Music lovers came in their best country-chic meets boho cowboy fabulous attire. Hats seemed to be a requirement for the day. Attendees e were of all age ranges, some with  newborn glows and others with wise wrinkles.

The more dedicated and experienced fans set up their blankets earlier in the day at the “World Headquarter Stage” to see Lukas Nelson and the 85 year old legend himself. Kind listeners welcomed their neighbors while waiting for each set. Couples spoke of their long Luck Reunion traditions, new friends shared stories of lives, strangers were thoughtful enough to let devoted fans take their front row seat to their favorite artists  while they waited for the big acts at 9pm.

The big moment came as the two-braided guitar legend met center stage. Fans cheered in euphoric hoots and hollers. Accompanying the country musician on stage was his son, Micah, who performed earlier in the evening with his band Particle Kids, and of course his son Lukas, who had many swooning. Eyes fixed on the stage, the crowd never grew tired, only more vibrant. Willie performed classics like “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” as he peered to his family on stage with pride and admiration. It was truly a reunion.

At night came to a close, cheeks were rosy red from the day’s sun, drinks were emptied, stages stood bare and tears had been shed in awe of talented Nelson family. Luck Reunion was the most rewarding music experience one could ever have, where people came as strangers and left as family and along the way got to listen to some pretty extraordinary music.