I drove out to Luckenbach for the first time around 2003, shortly after acquiring my first camera. The old song performed by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson among others, was enough to inspire a thirty minute drive to get there. I was quite surprised to see a hundred people sitting around picnic tables drinking beer and listening to Texas roots music. I’m not sure what I expected to find but it turned out to be pure Americana with a Texas accent. Since that day I’ve made dozens of visits to Luckenbach and enjoyed every one.
Similar old venues dot the back roads in Central Texas with Austin acting as a hub. Some of the best musicians in the world live or work in Austin. Good music just overflows out into the country as players get together more or less informally.
The great thing about Luckenbach from a photographer’s perspective is having pretty much unlimited access to roam around and take pictures. It is a target rich environment you might say. During the warm months of the year free music is performed on the outdoor stage. If you want to take a picture of the band all you have to do is walk up to the stage and click. The only requirement is that you don’t become a pest for the audience or the performers.
Photographing the crowd is just as easy. Luckenbach attracts an eclectic mix of people. Tourists, well heeled bikers and Texas characters are regulars. I’ve never seen a group of people more laidback. There is never a serious argument to be heard. You can work the crowd with a camera as long as you follow a few simple rules. Most importantly everyone is there to relax and get away from the cares of the world. Don’t be too serious.
In some ways I feel as though just talking about Luckenbach causes it to change. Eventually it will be discovered in a major way and succumb to the pressures of commerce. At least more than it has so far. In the end kitsch may be the ultimate fate for Luckenbach but we can still hope for the best.