THROUGH THE LENS: Willie Nelson and Friends Celebrate 10th Anniversary of Luck Reunion
Willie Nelson - Luck Reunion 2022 - Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff
Located on a dusty repurposed Western film set originally built for the 1986 film Red Headed Stranger in Spicewood, Texas, on property owned by Willie Nelson, Luck Reunion returned last week after a two-year pandemic hiatus. Positioned somewhere between an intimate festival and the mother of all SXSW day parties, Luck presented 40 artists across five stages, including a surprise set by Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, who was booked to play at the Luck Ranch the following night.
We were fortunate to have veteran ND photographer Jacob Blickenstaff there to cover the Reunion’s 10th anniversary. You may recall that two years ago the Through the Lens column covered Jacob’s effort to support roots artists, or the critical organizations they support, through the sale of his photographs early in the pandemic.
Here is Jacob’s write-up of his time at Luck Reunion, followed, of course, by a gallery of his photos.
2022 Luck Reunion
In his first performance since the passing of his sister Bobbie Nelson barely a week before, Willie Nelson, of course, headlined the event, trading songs with his sons Micah and Lukas. Throughout the day, the tributes to Bobbie were subtle, with a moment of silence requested from The Lost Gonzo Band, featuring veteran singer-songwriter Michael Martin Murphey. There was also a projection hovering above Nelson and Family’s performance that read, “In Loving Memory of Bobbie Nelson 1931-2022.”
I tried to catch as much as I could, moving between the large main stage where, among others, Japanese Breakfast brought their experimental indie pop into the day’s mix of music to an excited audience; the smaller Revival Stage; and the often at-capacity indoor Saloon and Chapel stages. There was much soulful music to be heard at the Revival Tent, including performances from Danielle Ponder, Abraham Alexander, an emotionally cathartic set from Allison Russell, and supercharged piano funk from Neal Francis.
The Chapel featured several intimate solo performances from artists such as Tré Burt and Weyes Blood, although they also cranked up the juice in the tiny space with full-band sets from 49 Winchester and Adia Victoria.
The Saloon stage hosted singer-songwriters like Jim Keller and Leslie Mendelson, and later a string of indie rock bands including Night Moves, Black Lips, Seratones, and Sunflower Bean.
On the main stage, the Lost Gonzo Band with Michael Martin Murphey were the sole contemporaries to Willie Nelson on the day’s lineup. But the bright and endearing traditionalist Charley Crockett kept the Texas and Louisiana sounds front and center.
Canadian-born, New Zealand-based Tami Neilson was joined by Willie himself to perform a duet. Neilson, a longtime adherent to Willie’s music, afterwards said on social media, “I will never forget this moment for as long as live. So much to say, but words are not enough right now. I will try to be more eloquent soon but right now I am still trying to believe this actually happened. Thank you Willie Nelson and Luck Reunion for giving this girl a day beyond her wildest dreams.”
Jason Isbell played his unannounced set just before Willie and Family took the stage to close out the day’s festivities. It was a fitting end to a day that was awash with cowboy hats, Willie Nelson T-shirts, and complimentary sponsored booze, with everyone dutifully following Willie’s only rule: “Don’t be an asshole.”
Click on any photo below to view the gallery as a full-size slideshow.