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With a little Luck Reunion, the SXSW week takes on a sun-tangled glow

Peter Blackstock

The sun was shining brightly when Kevn Kinney took the stage in the Revival Tent at the Luck Reunion a little before noon on Wednesday and sang a tune that could’ve been the theme song of this entire event on the western outskirts of Austin. “Welcome to the Sun Tangled Angel Revival,” goes the song, which Kinney wrote years ago for a record with his band Drivin’ N’ Cryin’. “You can go everywhere, you can see everything, in the world.”

The possibilities indeed seem endless when you arrive in Luck, Willie Nelson’s fictional western town in the hills around Spicewood. These all-day bashes, coinciding with all of the South by Southwest action every mid-March, consistently present quality music in an atmosphere that combines quintessential Hill Country scenery with the cultural sensory overload of SXSW week.

The Luck Reunion isn’t an official SXSW event; it’s more like a big party for Spicewood locals, visiting artists, and various VIPS making a one-day escape from the downtown madness. But it does in some ways feel like the early days of SXSW, when it was still small enough to run in to everyone you wanted to see and have great conversations all day long. In that respect, it’s a social event as much as a musical one.

But the music punctuates everything from 11 a.m. till well past sundown. A fourth stage (dubbed “Music From the Source”) was added this year, similar in size to the Revival Tent which has room for 200-300 people. The World Headquarters stage is the primary gathering spot (capacity in the 500-1,000 range), but perhaps the coolest spot is the tiny, old-west-picture-perfect chapel, which holds less than 100 people yet featured some of the best performers at the reunion.

Highlights for me on this day were plentiful. Kinney and Courtney Marie Andrews stood out in a pre-noon song-swap on the Revival Stage. Poking my head through the window of the chapel, I heard just enough of Lilly Hiatt to be quite impressed. Austin singer-songwriter David Ramirez drew an overflow crowd to the Source stage a little later and might have been the day’s big winner at Luck, likely winning over a lot of fans who’d not previously heard him. Aaron Lee Tasjan played tuneful rockers on the main stage, and brought the day full-circle when he brought his former bandmate Kinney onstage for a set-closing jam.

Willie’s sons Micah, with Particle Kid, and Lukas, with Promise of the Real, played as daylight faded over now-cloudy skies, with their dad’s closing set still to come after dark (along with a last unbilled special guest in the chapel who was rumored to have been Margo Price). We had obligations back in town and thus didn’t stay till the end, but we’d already had an ultimate Willie experience: a special invite to board one of his historic buses for a sneak-preview of “Last Man Standing,” his new record due out next month on Sony Legacy.

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And yes, the boarding time was 4:20. Willie’s also launching a new “Last Man Standing” line of his Willie’s Reserve marijuana brand in California to coincide with the album’s release. Your humble Statesman scribe was on the job and thus refrained from any free samples that may or may not have been passed around. Let’s just say that when an assistant opened the bus door to come aboard at one point, I’m pretty sure the view from outside of billowing smoke pouring from the bus approximated that classic Jeff Spicoli VW van scene from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Welcome to the Luck Reunion, aka the Sun Tangled Angel Revival. You can go everywhere, you can do everything, in the world.

RELATED: Photos from Willie Nelson at private Farm Aid event the night before Luck Reunion

you can go everywhere,

you can see everything,

in the world