THROW YOUR PLANS OUT the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from Patty Griffin and "her driver" in Austin to a painted church tour in the Hill Country. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
Patty Griffin’s Saturday night show at the Continental Club , billed as “Patty Griffin and Her Driver,” reportedly sold out in fifteen minutes. That was not necessarily because people are clamoring to see Griffin, whose last album came out three years ago, and probably not because it is a benefit for Michael Fracasso, the fellow Austin musician who was in a car accident. The gig quickly sold out because fans assume “Her Driver” is Robert Plant, the Led Zeppelin rock star. Plant has been living part time in Austin, “as quietly as possible” he told the Washington Post, and he has shown a strong interest in Griffin. (There were reports that they married recently.) Griffin sang on the 2010 album for Plant’s side project, Band of Joy, and after the couple performed together in Marfa in September, they are now making their hometown debut. A second show was added for Sunday, but it also sold out in a matter of minutes. Chances are, though, that some tickets will be pedaled out front for a pretty penny. If not, the Continental’s doors should stay open long enough for glimpses.
The Continental Club, December 15-16, 7:30 p.m., continentalclub.com
Brushstrokes to Heaven
Painting was like a religious experience for some of the Czechs and Germans who immigrated to the Schulenburg area in southeast Texas. Local artists created fanciful murals in four steepled, neo-gothic churches that were built there in the early 1900s—in Dubina, High Hill, Ammannsville and Praha. “This was a way of connecting to the old country,” said Donna Kacmar of Architecture Center Houston, the coordinator of a Saturday tour of the churches that includes lunch at Sengelmann Hall. “They stenciled and painted these patterns on the insides to replicate the atmosphere and color palette of those more traditional, older baroque churches.” Blush-colored ceilings and walls give St. John the Baptist Catholic Church the nickname the Pink Lady, while Biblical imagery electrifies rich-colored stained glass in St. Mary’s Catholic Church. The tour is part of Sacred Spaces of Texas , a larger exhibition by the Architecture Center featuring three-dozen places for channeling divinity, including a mission, a mosque and a megachurch.
Greater Schulenburg Chamber of Commerce, December 15, 10 a.m., aiahouston.org
First of Three
It is possible to see three icons of the cosmic-cowboy craze of the seventies before 2012 is over. Michael Martin Murphey and Willie Nelson have Christmas and New Year’s Eve shows, respectively. But before those, catch one or both of Jerry Jeff Walker ’s gigs at Gruene Hall. Walker is a Greenwich Village folkie whose ’68 song “Mr. Bojangles” was a precursor to the progressive country sound he would help forge upon his move to Austin. He was influential for his partying and his entrepreneurial spirit, and as with Nelson, he bucked the record-business system and did it his way. Perhaps his most popular album is ¡Viva Terlingua! , recorded live in ’73 with his Lost Gonzo Band. The setting was an old dancehall in Luckenbach, like the one he will play this weekend.
Gruene Hall, December 14-15, 9 p.m., jerryjeff.com
Sketches of Spain
The highlight of “ Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado ,” the two-city exhibition that debuted in Brisbane, Australia, before heading to Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts , is three sets of works by Francisco de Goya that foreshadowed the painter’s psychedelic-realism style. Goya painted them during a time when he was free of the strictures of commissioned work but had become stricken with a disease whose side effect was deafness. The first set of works, Los Caprichos, details comical and macabre accounts of prostitution, bad manners, maternal cruelty, stupidity and devilish creatures. The other sets—Los Desastres de la Guerra and Los Disparates—portend the arrival of Goya’s celebrated Black Paintings. And that is just the work of one master painter from the exhibition—art from El Greco, Diego Velázquez, Peter Paul Rubens, and Titian will also hang.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, December 16-March 31, mfah.org
Bird in the Hand
The diversity of avian life flitting about Texas makes it easy for birders to spot several species in a single outing, but they will most likely see more than 150 species at the Christmas Bird Count at Armand Bayou , which is part of a national and statewide effort to track and observe birds.
Armand Bayou Nature Center, December 15, 6:30 a.m., abnc.org
The unseasonably warm weather may have robbed some of the holiday spirit, so decorate your front yard with something other than lights: more than ninety varieties of plants available at the Winter Native Plant Sale .
Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, December 14-16, 9 a.m., houstonarboretum.org