If you didn’t tune in to the “A Night For Austin” livestream on Wednesday evening, you missed something really special. In fact, I’ll go ahead and say this event was the best thing I’ve seen since all this turbulence disrupted our lives. The event was an eclectic mix of talent coming together to support the live music capital of the world. Like most of us, Austin has had a less than ideal year. In particular, the city had to cancel the SXSW Festival. The combination, music and film conference and showcase not only celebrates diverse talent, but also creates an economic boom for the city’s restaurants, record stores, hotels venues and clubs and many more. The ensuing lockdown and social distancing requirements have continued to threaten the viability of many of these iconic establishments. In a town known for a music vibrant music scene, things have remained silenced for what seems an eternity.
With that in mind married couples Paul Simon, Edie Brickell, Willie and Annie Nelson conspired together along with Luck Reunion for “A Night For Austin”. Benefiting the Austin Community Foundation Fund, the two hour ‘concert’ featured an unbelievable line-up of artists with strong Texas ties and roots. Throughout the event, there was a virtual tip jar updating totals. With 100% of the proceeds going to Austin’s independent businesses and individuals in need, the event has raised an impressive $602.410.54 at time of this writing.
Things kicked off with Terry Allen performing “Sailing On Through” and the absolute legendary closing salutation of “Stay sound and sanitized.” The event continued with more than twenty additional performances from such revered talent as Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt. Occasionally, Renee Zellweger, Ethan Hawke, Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson would bridge a gap in the music to speak of the goal, while some of Austin’s studios, clubs and businesses flashed by on screen reinforcing the urgency of keeping these landmark sites viable and afloat.
Highlights were frequent and many. Gary Clark Jr.’s slide guitar for “The Governor” while seemingly alone in the one and only, Antone’s. When a smattering of applause sounded at the song’s conclusion, Clark seemed genuinely startled. He added a “thanks for the clapping”, saying “I’ve been playing alone.” “This feels good.” with a smile. Probably my favorite moment of the night. Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt-a-Whirl Band’s “Come Home”at C-Boys was great, as was Lukas Nelson’s outdoor rendition of “Just Outside of Austin” accompanied by songbirds. Other great performances included Alejandro Escovedo’s “Five Hearts Breaking,” Shawn Colvin’s stunning cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers In a Dangerous Time,” John Hiatt’s “No Wicked Grin” and Bonnie Raitt and Boz Scaggs teaming up for Sam and Dave’s “Something Is Wrong With My Baby.” Cover songs were a common thread, creating and almost, guitar pull-like environment. Of these, James Taylor covering Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” was likely my personal favorite.
Probably my favorite parts of the night were performances that introduced me to new artists and songs. Kalu and the Electric Joint absolutely blew me away. Can’t wait to really check them out. Same goes for Black Pumas. Others I’d heard of, but hadn’t really listened too before. Like, David Ramirez. Holy smokes, his performance of “Easy Does It” was insanely good. There was cuteness in Ethan Hawke and daughter Indiana’s duet. There were even informative moments. During Vince Gill’s beautiful, “Little Brother,” I learned that he has an absolutely incredible collection of guitars. I realized how distinctly differently, yet uniquely similarly “Texas cool” Lyle Lovett and Ryan Bingham are. I remembered that Doyle Bramhall II and Jerry Douglas are unquestionably masters of their respective instruments, and that Auggie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez are living and breathing Texas legends. Speaking of living breathing Texas legends, who else but Willie Nelson could close things out. What an ending with an appropriately perfect “On the Road Again.” With that one song, Willie summed up what all of us have felt since this plague-induced absence of the live music began.
“On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again, the life I love is making music with my friends, and I can’t wait to get onto the road again.”
We’ve got to be safe about it, but we kind of need the live experience to help us heal I think. At least some of us. Even if it’s only to help us relieve some stress, and feel that joy again among our tribe. The musicians feel it too. For sure. Gary Clark Jr.’s reaction to even a smattering of applause proves it. As we return to the clubs and other live music establishments, I think Terry Allen put it most profoundly, “Stay sound and sanitized”
The full line-up included:in order of appearance): Terry Allen, Britt Daniel and Alex Fischel of Spoon, Gary Clark Jr., Norah Jones, Kalu and the Electric Joint, Charlie Sexton and Doyle Bramhall II, Asleep At The Wheel, David Ramirez, Auggie Myers & Los Texmaniacs, Patty Griffin, Jimmie Vaughan and The Tilt-a-Whirl Band, Alejandro Escovedo, Black Pumas, Paul Simon and Edie Brickell, Jerry Douglas, Ethan and Indiana Hawke, Shawn Colvin, Flaco Jimenez and Los Texmaniacs, Bonnie Raitt and Boz Scaggs, John Hiatt, Ryan Bingham, Lucas Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Vince Gill, Edie Brickell, James Taylor, Paul Simon and Willie Nelson. Not bad huh?