“Turn Out for Texas” Rally with Willie & Beto O’Rourke
Auditorium Shores, Austin, Texas – September 29, 2018
Written by Stacey Lovett, Photogaphy by Danny Matson
Auditorium Shores turned into its own amphitheater for “Turn Out for Texas” – a rally and concert to support the election of Beto O’Rourke as Texas senator in the upcoming November election. The night was all about comradery and Texas led by none other than the state’s own outspoken outlaw, Willie Nelson, who brought along a few of his friends and family to take part in this historical political and musical moment in Austin.
As the sun set over Lady Bird Lake, the downtown skyline embraced the united front of tens of thousands of supporters who showed up rallying in the only way Texas knows how to – Big.
The stage was set against the city’s skyline – setting also the scope of this event: one that a major musical legend held for free bringing an undivided, non-discriminatory platform and experience to attendees to come out and advocate and be united in their cause. And that cause being one that is simplistic and humanistic in thought yet a revolutionary stance in today’s world. A live Facebook feed of the concert and rally connected even more who could not physically attend, increasing the monumental reach of this occasion.
The artists, crowd and political supporters came together to back Beto with music as the universal language unifying the conversation, one that he brought up is not in opposition of anyone or any ideal but FOR each other, our country, and our future. 250 voter registrars were on site as well to sign up any person not already registered to vote in the upcoming elections. If any event were one to fully promote change, this one was it.
Austin mayor, Steve Adler, came out to address the crowd to hold on to the spirit and the soul of both the city and country and to put politics aside for a moment and do what’s right, to fight, to vote and “bring it home for Beto.” Attorney General democratic nominee, Justin Nelson, voiced Texas values as well asking the crowd to stand with him for justice, fairness, and integrity. The air of the gathering wasn’t one of constituency, but of humanity, and with that Kirk Watson stressed the simple point to have a fun night, hear Willie, and be together – the unity we need to be able to elect change as a whole, and the theme of the night. Congressman Lloyd Doggett spoke more in depth of voters – people – adopting the spirit of unity over that of fear, as democracy is in peril and we must make an extra effort to make a difference as our fate can and should change within the next 40 days.
The artist lineup represented a diverse scope of Texas-based musicians who all laid their own tune of support for the cause. Joe Ely – an Austinite via Lubbock – opened up the show bringing a peaceful yet powerful vibe in his all-acoustic set. His resurrected the Flatlander’s hit “Borderless Love” and brought a roar of cheers setting the bar for the artists throwing in their personal lyrical commentary to their respective sets. Austin’s own Carrie Rodriguez greeted the masses in Spanish and continued her Latin infusion with an emotional ballad on violin before bringing it in heavy tangoing with her diverse musical repertoire. The fierce howl of her violin and strong female vocals resonated as she sang the lyrics, “if I fall I get up,” escalating the passion of the rally as the night went on. Signs in support of specific policies and propositions in addition to ones for Beto himself circulated the crowd, amplifying the message of why they were there and a visual reminder of what to continue to fight for up until they reach the polls. All came together ultimately for the idea of overall change and were united by many of the faces and voices representative of Texas music and its diverse talent and message. The rally concert’s location intensified the magic of a city still hanging on to its voice; the crowd filled from the shoreline to the balcony of the Long Center, banners hung from high rise balconies and many even kayaked up to the shore to listen in on the message, all making that historical Austin moment in time that much more of the beautiful ‘wierdness’ the Capitol city embraces. The Queen of Austin soul, Tamica Jones, lent just that to the stage bringing a soulful groove to the listeners advocating for a new leadership. Speaking and performing as another ‘Texan for Texas’ she declared how much of an honor it was to be there. Following her own public service announcement to recruit all of your friends to get out and vote, Jones covered “With a Little Help from my Friends” and up to that point, the event was just that – an amicable gathering of mindfulness for the state of our country and of like minds advocating change. A fall breeze of potential change blew through in a hopeful air as the overcast night sky cleared. Leon Bridges took the stage crooning soul and unity, thickening the feeling of the atmosphere and filling in the space as people danced their way closer to the stage.
Austin city councilmember, Greg Casar, took a moment to speak prior to introducing the man of the hour. He stressed the importance of the stakes being so high, that it’s up to Texas to resist and fight back harder and that leadership should come from the people with politicians following that for us to reclaim power. With that, he brought Beto up ‘Texas style’ with a chant of his name – the mantra of potential change.
Beto O’Rourke stands for Texas as being the front door to the rest of the world and stated that it’s up to us to define change and lead the way. He stressed a non-bipartisan view point for his campaign, asking that all people come together and do what is right for humanity – bridge the gap of our exceptionally polarized country – and not let fear define us. Chanting Beto out after he thanked his supporters, there was no introduction needed for the other man of the hour, just the familiar first notes of “Whiskey River” as Willie and family closed out the night. Sons Lukas & Micah joined him as well as his sister (and recent Texas music hall of fame inductee) Bobbie on the keys. Alongside the statue of another revered Texas musician, Lukas kicked off the cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood” before Willie broke out more of his signature half-spoken Nelson-prose, the crowd singing along every word as they themselves have become Texas songbook standards. Willie Nelson indeed did spread the love and message that night bringing all of this friends together to make music under the Texas sky. Bobbie brought her flair once more to the anthem of the night as Nelson brought Beto up and closed out with a spirited “If you don’t like who’s in there vote ‘em out!”
The stars that night were undoubtedly big and bright singing the tune of change deep in the heart of Austin, Texas – and change can, and will, happen if you turn out at the polls. Vote.