Some of the nation's most beloved Americana performers raised their voices—along with more than half a million dollars—on Wednesday night in a livestreaming concert event to benefit Austin musicians and businesses devastated by the pandemic. Hosted by actors Ethan Hawke, Renee Zellweger, Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, "A Night for Austin" featured never-before-released segments and videos recorded for the event by more than two dozen stars performing in as many locations—home, studios, empty venues, the streets of Austin.


Each played one song, whether it was headliner Paul Simon playing "Homeward Bound" from his house, Norah Jones at her electric piano playing "Lone Star," Ray Benson rocking his session at the Broken Spoke, or Willie Nelson doing a jazzy rendition of "On the Road Again" to wind up the two-hour show. Lukas and Willie Nelson contributed a video showing signs on Antone's marquee ("We Love You, Austin") and boarded up Sixth Street bars painted with inspiring messages.

The performance was free to watch and audience was (and still is) invited to donate. The last reported total as the credits rolled was $531,785.30, now earmarked for the "A Night for Austin" fund managed by the local nonprofit Austin Community Foundation.

The fund, along with some matching donations from BMI Austin, Universal Music Publishing, and AT&T, will benefit: The Central Texas Food Bank, MusiCares, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, Six Square—Austin's Black Cultural District, People Fund, the Southern Smoke Foundation and the Red River Cultural District.

Organized by Simon and Edie Brickell and headlined by Willie, the show also featured songs by Patti Griffin, Britt Daniel of Spoon, Alejandro Escovedo, Shawn Colvin, David Ramirez, Lyle Lovett, James Taylor, Charlie Sexton (also the project's music director) and more, along with duets like Bonnie Raitt with Boz Scaggs.

Several performers professed their love for Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, and their sorrow at the devastation in the city and what the closing of live venues has done to the estimated 8,000 local musicians and other industry workers.

"Austin had a big, big impact on my life," said country star Vince Gill during his segment. "One of the very first bands I was in, we did Jerry Jeff Walker songs, and Gary P. Nunn songs, and Guy Clark songs, Rodney Crowell songs, Willie and Waylon, and the great Bob Wills. An awful lot of good has come from Texas, and I'm glad to be a part of singing a song trying to encourage you to give, if you can—if your heart leads you to that. I know all of these musicians will be grateful."

(Photo courtesy of Marisela Maddox)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz Tito's Handmade Vodka
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 1 1/2 oz tonic water
  • 1 lime, squeezed
  • 5 grapes, muddled

Directions: Muddle grapes in a shaker. Add Tito's Handmade Vodka, simple syrup, lime, and ice, then shake vigorously. Strain over fresh ice and top with tonic water.

(Eva Rinaldi/Creative Commons)

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