Friday was a wild day for SXSW goers everywhere. The afternoon came and went without issue, but when the evening started rolling in, a nasty storm came along with it. All outdoor showcases were postponed and later shut down due to the weather. I myself was nowhere near Austin at the time, instead an hour west at Willie Nelson‘s ranch for their annual Luck Reunion, itself delayed by the inclement weather. Check out the recap of Friday, which features performances from Willie Nelson, Jenny Lewis, CHVRCHES, Deftones, and Lucius.
After getting my recap of Thursday written, I headed out to Stubb’s for the annual SPIN Magazine party at SXSW. Last year I only got to catch the tail-end of Run the Jewels‘ headline set. This time I made it in early enough to enjoy some tasty and complimentary Tito’s Vodka and lemonade and take in a few acts I’d been wanting to see.
First up was Los Angeles-based rockers Bleached. They drop their second album Welcome the Worms on April 1 and they played a bunch of cuts from the record that sounded tasty. My favorite was “Sleepwalkin’,” which has a rocking chorus. Singer Jennifer Clavin made a comment about how they were prepared for the rain and it never came, which would prove to be ominous for later in the day.
After Bleached, Vince Staples came on. He was his usual hilarious and controversial self. After opening his set with the banger “Lift Me Up,” Staples made a remark to the VIP crowd atop the balcony that hung over the stage that had the crowd gasping. “Sup, y’all. I feel like I’m at a slave auction,” Staples said to the nearly unanimously-white VIP crowd.
Earlier this week Staples tore Spotify apart while performing at their own party. Towards the end of his set, Staples walked those comments back a bit, though it could have been sarcastic. “These last two songs are the ones with the most plays on Spotify. If you don’t have Spotify, you should get it, it’s only eight dollars a month,” I’m paraphrasing Staples but that was the meat of what he said.
BAIO came on next and was very affable and entertaining. His dance moves had people smiling and his brand of synth-pop was a good fit for the overcast weather.
Deftones were up next. It was surprising to me when Chino Moreno remarked it was their first time ever at SXSW given the longevity they’ve enjoyed. They had the largest contingency in the audience and people rocked out hard during their set. Geto Boys rapper Bushwick Bill came out as a surprise and rapped a verse, which was awesome.
Hearing them do “Change” brought me back to riding in my grandma’s car with my older brothers listening to Bay Area radio station LIVE 105. The new stuff sounded good too, making me excited for their upcoming album Gore, their first new offering in four years. New track “Doomed User” showed this band has a lot left in the tent.
Closing up the SPIN party was Scottish synth-pop megapowers CHVRCHES. Singer Lauren Mayberry was quick to assert that the Deftones set was going to be really hard to follow up, but they matched Chino Moreno and his band’s level of intensity.
Their set equated the level of what they brought the previous day at Spotify House, and though the previous day someone threw an uneaten taco on stage, this time it was a doll of Ilana from the TV smash Broad City. Mayberry and her band were on their A-game and are definitely a must-see at a festival stop near you.
After that, it was a ride out to Spicewood, Texas and Willie Nelson‘s ranch for his annual Luck Reunion. As soon as we got there, we were turned back by the police, saying it was going to be at least a few hours due to the lightning, which was lighting up the sky with insane regularity. We posted up at a BBQ joint a few blocks away and waited for updates, which the @LuckReunion Twitter account provided semi-regularly. There were others that were in limbo awaiting the news along with us.
A lot of people called it a day and headed home when an hour and a half passed without any positive movement. Around 8:45 PM, finally the word came down that they were going to proceed and to head back up. After parking, we made it inside in time to hear Lucius wrap up a set inside of a tiny chapel. I couldn’t get inside but could hear the music from outside the window.
Next, Jenny Lewis performed a handful of songs acoustically with Lucius on backup vocals. The title track from her most recent album The Voyager took on special life with the Lucius girls singing backup. Later, an acoustic rendition of the usually-piano driven “Head Underwater” was followed by the disarmingly powerful “Acid Tongue.”
The main stage had been closed down for good, leaving just the chapel and a tiny tent as the only places where music could be played. Jack Ingram had the chapel in stunned silence with his awesome set.
Over at the tent, I heard Venice, California band Insects vs Robots rock out before making way for Lukas Nelson, Willie’s son. I had no idea how talented he was until I heard him slaying the entire crowd with his epic guitar work.
As Lukas played, a truck pulled up to the tent that had Willie in it. The crowd lost their minds as Willie made his way on stage. He played everybody’s favorites, mine being “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies” and “Move It On Over.” Jenny Lewis even joined Willie on stage at one point, this time wearing a marijuana-leaf emblazoned pantsuit.
Overall, though things were a little disorganized, Luck Reunion ultimately gave paying customers a worthwhile event and they did everything in their power to pull it off when it looked like it was going to fall apart. Props to them for keeping things together.
By the time I got back to Austin, the party was ending. But I heard Sylvan Esso was the special 1 AM headliner at Mohawk, which had me really upset for missing their performance. That’s the thing about SXSW, you just can’t be everywhere at once and you can’t let what you missed bum you out, you gotta appreciate the awesomeness you got to experience.
Words: Mark E. Ortega
Photos: Maggie Boyd