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Lubbock’s Music Crossroads of Texas guarantees that our memories of Buddy Holly will not fade away. Plus: A saintly exhibit in Abilene; the Dallas Theater Center turns forty with a season worth a standing ovation; Bedford sings the blues; and revolutionary art in Houston.
THE MAIN EVENT
Because of some not-so-buddy-buddy disagreements between the City of Lubbock and Buddy Holly’s widow, Maria Elena Holly, the annual Buddy Holly Festival will now be called—ahem—the Music Crossroads of Texas. Now, we’re not complaining that the celebration had to disassociate itself from its black-rim-bespectacled hometown celebrity (though it’s a shame). We’re just happy the show will go on so that it can coincide with this year’s main attraction: the opening of the Buddy Holly Center on September 2, complete with a reception, ribbon-cutting ceremony, and West Texas music symposium. The new building will house a fine-arts center, a Texas Musicians Hall of Fame, and a permanent exhibit dedicated to Holly’s life and music. You can get a peek at his personal collection of 45’s, black loose-leaf binder with handwritten lyrics and notes, signature glasses, fan letters, clothes, and other memorabilia. The weekend also boasts a performance by the Crickets (with Nanci Griffith and the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra), free concerts with oldies acts like the Coasters and the Crew-Cuts, and the symposium, which will present panels with authors and musicologists to discuss Holly’s life and the cultural milieu of Lubbock in the fifties. Maybe they can explain what’s in the water up there that generates such a musical stir and why this town—and its most famous son—could never fade away. Katy Vine
While Hispanic art and culture are as common in the Southwest as the prickly pear, it’s the rare Texan who can differentiate between a bulto and a retablo. If you’re among the unenlightened, count your blessings: A truly divine exhibit is now on display at Abilene’s Grace Museum. “Our Saints Among Us: Four Hundred Years of New Mexican Devotional Art” marks four centuries of Spanish influence in New Mexico and contains hundreds of works that exalt this religious folk-art tradition. Novices can atone for their lack of knowledge with a propitiatory pilgrimage to the showing, which will display retablos (holy images depicted on a flat surface), bultos (three-dimensional holy figures), and other examples of santos (painted and carved images of saints or holy scenes) by gifted santeros (artists who create the santos). Other definitions and traditions are entwined among the pieces, but the main object is not to enhance your vocabulary. The emphasis, according to Barbe Awalt, one of the exhibit’s curators, is not on “art for art’s sake but on the art as an extension of devotion.” The works provide “a window to the way people lived,” she says. “If you don’t understand the history, you can’t really understand the culture.” And so, may the saints preserve us, and vice versa. Eileen Schwartz
Stages and Phases
This month the Dallas Theater Center marks forty years of solid performances, and it is doing so with characteristic style. The celebration lasts all season, with a potpourri of classic drama, musicals, avant-garde comedy, and an American and a world premiere thrown in for good measure. The curtain goes up September 8 with Dinah Was, a musical based on the career of the fifties-era queen of the blues, Dinah Washington. Told through a series of flashbacks, the story of her tempestuous relationships is peppered with Washington’s unforgettable tunes, including “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes” and “Come Rain or Come Shine,” all accompanied onstage by a five-piece band. In October the DTC will stage Anton Chekhov’s classic The Sea Gull, a nostalgic nod to one of the theater’s early successes under founder Paul Baker. A range of other shows rounds out the lineup through May: The Mystery of Irma Vep, a product of New Yorker Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company, promises to take the audience into the next millennium laughing; Inexpressible Island is a sobering account of Antarctic exploration by Canadian David Young; Guys and Dolls musically revives the Damon Runyon short stories; and Dreamlandia, a work by Texas native Octavio Solis, depicts the interplay between dream and reality along the Texas-Mexico border. Who could ask for anything more? Chester Rosson
Before Motown fully integrated the pop music charts, two schools of romantic crooners developed as separately and unequally as drinking fountains and classrooms. Sam Cooke aside, the well-known style was decidedly white. But in the Texas of the early sixties, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Duke Records’ Joe Scott invented the blues ballad, a sound as smooth as Sinatra’s but with a distinct soulfulness that simmered against its brass backdrop like the heat rising from a Houston sidewalk in August. The Bland orchestra charted only three singles in pop’s top thirty, but it played as many as three hundred nights a year on the South’s chitlin circuit. And it weathered the various shifts in musical taste until the lounge craze and CD box-set market rescued traditional American pop balladry from the bargain bins. Today, as more-familiar names from the better-selling vein are crooning off into the sunset, Bland and his nine-piece band carry on, as cool and as elegant as ever. Over Labor Day weekend they will headline the fifth annual Bedford Blues Festival and Art Fair, highlighting an event that includes John Mayall’s storied Bluesbreakers and Johnny Copeland’s daughter, singer Shemekia Copeland. While Bedford may not yet be synonymous with “the blues,” this lineup may put the city on a par with the Tellurides and the Newports of the world. And to think: It doesn’t even have a House of Blues. John Spong
The Art of Revolution
The art of Diego Rivera glorified insurrection and innovation, but what makes it truly revolutionary is its appeal to both the privileged and the peasantry. On September 19 more than eighty of his works will go on display in “Diego Rivera: Art and Revolution,” a grande exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston that salutes the many phases and faces of Mexico’s most beloved painter. As a young man Rivera traveled extensively in Spain and Italy, studying the great masters and rustic charms of those countries; during his bohemian days in Paris, he experimented with cubism and befriended its chief proponent, Pablo Picasso. By 1921 he had returned to his homeland, and mexicanidad—”Mexicanness”—permeated his work from then on; his subjects included rebel leader Emiliano Zapata, tortilla makers, flower sellers, and cruel conquistadores. His love of the common people also led him to embrace communism, and many of his colorful canvases and vast murals venerate Lenin, the workers of the world, and the rise of technology. In turn, Rivera himself is venerated today. Anne Dingus