Fired up

Hot Luck founders dish details on Austin's can't-miss food and music festival

Hot Luck founders dish on Austin's can't-miss food and music festival

Hot Luck
Bite into Hot Luck Memorial Day weekend. Photo by Alison Narro

When the powerhouse trio of Aaron Franklin, Guerilla Suit founder James Moody, and Feast Portland's Mike Thelin introduced Hot Luck in 2017, even the most jaded locals had to admit they were on to something special. Now the party is back May 24-27 to help cure Austin’s festival fatigue.

For the second year, the team has shaken things up a bit, keeping favorites like live-fire cooking event Al Fuego and introducing a variety of new programming, including a beefed-up music series.

“People loved the music portion so much last year, and they wanted more of it,” says Moody, “so we responded with improved options this year.” Kicking off with a May 23 set from post-punk legend Peter Hook with his band The Light at the Mohawk, the festival spreads 14 shows over the course of four days.

The musical acts span a wide variety of genres, from Americana to funk. Highlights include indie duo Girlpool; former Austinites Okkervil River; backpack rap impresario Peanut Butter Wolf; Copenhagen noise rockers Iceage; and The Roots drummer Questlove, spinning a DJ set.

Moody describes the eclectic offerings as “the old Fun Fun Fun Fest meets the old South by Southwest,” noting the bookings were also inspired by “whatever records we have at the house.”

Unlike those two Austin festivals, however, Hot Luck offers individual tickets to individual shows, opening the experience to most budgets.

“Ticket prices that make everyone feel super welcome and excited to hang out together” is one of the event’s primary drivers, says Moody. “Having events at every price point was in the beginning, and remains now, one of the most important elements to the Hot Luck Team,” adds Thelin.

That extends to the food events, which feature some very famous culinary names, all priced at around $100.

Al Fuego on May 26 at Wild Onion Ranch is the marquee event, bringing in big names like Billy Durney (Brooklyn’s Hometown Bar-B-Que); Ashley Christensen (Poole’s in Raleigh, North Carolina); Renee Erickson (Seattle’s The Walrus & the Carpenter); Matt Rudofker (New York’s Momofuku); and Iron Chef Gauntlet star Jason Dady to cook alongside hometown favorites like The Brewer’s Table’s Zach Hunter, Dai Due’s Jesse Griffiths, and Holy Roller’s Callie Speer.

“[It’s] a place where live fire, pulled pork, Freddy Fender, cold beer, longhorns, and barrel-aged rum all make sense together,” jokes Moody.

Several of the food events are new this year. First up is Night Court, a tongue-in-cheek nod to 1980s mall food courts, held at Fair Market on May 25. That lineup includes Justin Yu of Houston’s lauded Theodore Rex, Ivan Orkin of New York’s Ivan Ramen, Andy Ricker from Portland’s Pok Pok, and John Tesar from Dallas’ Knife.

That same evening, Alejandro Escalante from Mexico City’s La Casa de los Tacos and Alex Stupak from New York’s trendy Empellón will take over Cisco’s on East Sixth Street while Conjunto Los Pinkys entertain the late-night crowd.

The inclusion of the Austin classic was important to the team, which often held Hot Luck meetings in the back room of the restaurant. 

“As Austin grows, we realize that many folks still want to honor our roots, personality, and values,” says Moody. “Places like Cisco's do that for us. So bringing Stupak and Escalante's styles to those hallowed Tex-Mex halls is like a dream come true.”

Finishing the weekend is Coupe de Grille on May 27 at Austin Speed Shop. The brunch party features bites from five of the chefs who wound up on the Best Chef: Southwest shortlist for this year’s James Beard Awards: Emmer & Rye’s Kevin Fink, Olamaie’s Micheal Fojtasek, Cured’s Steve McHugh, and Mixtli’s Diego Galicia and Rico Torres. They will be joined by the 2014 winner in the same category, Chris Shepherd of Houston.

Thelin calls it Hot Luck's “sleeper event, but you won't want to sleep through it.”

Although the festival’s coveted Whole Enchilada passes are all sold out, most events still have a few tickets available, including the evening shows. For the full lineup and schedules, go here.