48 Best Things We Saw at SXSW 2014From crystal-encrusted tour vans to nutbar protests to big stars on tiny stages
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BEST MAKESHIFT VENUE (WHISKEY RIVER EDITION): The Heartbreaker Banquet at Willie Nelson’s Ranch
In the mid-Eighties, a fake old-West town went up on Willie Nelson’s ranch outside Austin, to be used as the set for the film Red Headed Stranger. The town was called Luck, Texas, and it came complete with a jailhouse, chapel, bank, dance hall, a water tower and saloon. The film crew moved on, but Willie kept Luck, Texas standing. (He likes to plays poker at Luck World Headquarters.) Starting two years ago, it became the site of the Heartbreaker Banquet, a day-long festival. This year’s Banquet featured free moonshine cocktails, two stages (one inside the chapel), several food trucks, and sets from bands like the Felice Brothers, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Shovels & Rope, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and Brooklyn indie-pop band Lucius, who didn’t fit the rootsy vibe but killed anyway. And, making the least surprising "surprise" appearance of SXSW, Willie came out from his house to romp through "Whiskey River," "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die," "Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" and other assorted classics. The vibe was so down-home friendly we practically expected Willie to end his set with a "Y’all come back now, ya hear?"