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By Kathy Blackwell | December 19, 2016 | Culture
Five reasons (besides the obvious) why you can't miss the Annual New Year's Celebration with Austin's favorite resident at ACL Live.
In what’s become an Austin tradition, Willie Nelson is once again playing his annual New Year’s shows, bringing three nights of music and only-in-Austin revelry to ACL Live. But if that’s not enough to persuade you to snap up tickets, here are five other reasons—in no particular order—to belt out “Auld Lang Syne” along with Austin’s favorite son. (Not in town over the holiday? You can watch Willie ring in the new year with legends including Bonnie Raitt and Kris Kristofferson on a special episode of the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame, which KLRU and other PBS stations will broadcast across the country New Year’s Eve.)
Recalling the New Year’s Eve shows by the Grateful Dead in which legendary promoter Bill Graham played Father Time, Tim Fischer (husband to Colleen Fischer, ACL Live’s general manager and director of booking) has taken on the Father Time role for every Willie NYE show. Inspired by Graham’s midnight entrances—he once came in on a giant joint—Fischer has descended on the stage on everything from a longhorn skull to an armadillo. How will he enter this year? “I can’t reveal how I’m arriving…but it will be death-defying,” Fischer promises.
January 1 is the birthday of one Bobbie Nelson, Willie’s beloved piano-playing sister. To celebrate, her brother goes right from “Auld Lang Syne” into “Happy Birthday” as they bring out a cake, says Austin media personality Andy Langer, who emcees the show every year.
On New Year's Eve, Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman host the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame special on PBS stations.
You never know who will show up on stage to perform (or play Baby New Year), although ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons is a regular. Says Langer: “Willie on New Year’s, home in Austin, with a Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer—and one of the most immediately identifiable Texas musicians ever—sitting in on guitar? That’s special, even if it happens almost every year.”
There is no better song to start a new year with than “Whiskey River,” which is the traditional first song of every Willie show, complete with the giant Texas state flag as the backdrop.
Did we mention that the Oscar-and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham will be Nelson’s special guest each night? Bingham will perform, as will Willie’s son, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. December 29-31, tickets $99-$157, ACL Live, 310 Willie Nelson Blvd., 877-435-9849
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GARY MILLER/GETTY IMAGES (NELSON); BY STEFAN HOEDERATH/REDFERNS (BINGHAM); GARY MILLER/GETTY IMAGES (OFFERMAN); LEIGH VOGEL/GETTY IMAGES (GUITAR)