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Live music review: Willie Nelson rocked Heartbreaker Banquet at SXSW 2014

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Heartbreaker Banquet 2014

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The third annual Heartbreaker Banquet sponsored by Electric Lady Studios and Robot Fondue at Willie Nelson's Luck, Texas ranch Thursday during SXSW featured a surprise appearance by the red-headed stranger himself. The event held during South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival has featured Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Gary Clark Jr., Father John Misty and Shovels and Rope in the last couple of years. This year's lineup was possibly Heartbreaker Banquet's finest as The Wild Feathers, Lucius, Shakey Graves and Lucas Nelson and the Promise of the Real performed in front of approximately 1,000 fans at the intimate venue. The evening ended with Nelson performing an hour long set filled with old standards the crowd lustily sang along to. Craft beer and Moonshine liquor flowed all day at the event. Tattos were offered free of charge in the "jail" and intimate, fantastic sets took place in the Chapel. The bucolic setting along with a thoughtfully produced event gave Heartbreaker Banquet the feel of an Americana Music wonderland you never want to leave.

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Willie hit the stage around nine rolling out a host of hit tunes like "Whiskey River", Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" a trio of Hank Williams covers and a rollicking "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die" with his son (and co-writer) alongside him playing guitar. The Braided One was in front of his people, on his gorgeous ranch in Texas Hill Country playing songs he loves to an adoring audience. It could not have been more perfect. By the time the hour long set concluded it seemed as though every soul in the venue was grinning ear to ear, eyes shining in awe of the performance they just witnessed.

We grabbed a clip of the crowd singing along to "Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys on instagram for you. You can tell how much fun folks were having in the video.

Before Willie held court to close the evening, his son Lucas delivered a dynamic, energy-filled set that featured a killer cover of the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil." Lucas Nelson and the Promise of the Real really are the real deal. Nelson showed off his exceptional guitar chops. At one point the younger Nelson played his six-string with his teeth a la Hendrix. Lucas is a leaper too. He often climbed atop the drum riser and launch himself into the air during his incendiary six song set.

Besides Willie, the standout act of the day was Lucius from New York City. The indie-popsters play a blend of silky harmonies by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig in front of a three excellent musicians. Lucius have a hard to define sound that does not fit into a particular genre. The group played beautifully really rocking out on a couple of tracks which got the languid audience hyped up a bit. We certainly took notice. So have other music fans who have begun to propel Lucius past buzz band status. It was easy to see why with the ladies dressed alike in red dresses and sunglasses floated luscious harmonies over the crowd while the rest of the band rocked behind them.

Check out their song, "Doreen" and you will see why Lucius' shimmery pop made such an impression. The group hits Europe next month for a 12 city tour that begins with an already sold-out show in Paris. Frankly we are already looking forward to seeing Lucius again.

In the chapel earlier in the afternoon we caught Austin folk artist Shakey Graves play a great set that included a full band for the opening song. The players left the stage after that leaving Graves to continue as the one-man-show the singer has become famous for. Playing an acoustic while working a kick drum imbedded in a suitcase, Graves shared his Texas folk sounds to a tiny audience of 50 inside the chapel while many more listened from outside. So many fans wanted to see Graves' set that people could be seen trying to climb into the capacity building through the low open-frame windows. Organizers politely put a stop to that before Graves hit the stage.

Be sure to check out the amazing photos by Suzanne Cordeiro from Heartbreaker Banquet in the slideshow.

Other highlights:

Seeing a a young couple get engaged under a giant live oak in the VIP area

Willie Watson playing banjo and covering Dylan and the Dead in the chapel

The cute bulldog in the VIP area

Freshly shucked oysters

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