Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from the opera in Houston and Friday night lights in Odessa to surfing along the coast and hiking in the mountains. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[Feb 18–Feb 24]
AP Photo/Charles Sykes
One hundred and thirty-five years ago, Robert Duvall was a former Texas Ranger turned loquacious slacker on a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Of course Duvall was just role-playing, as Augustus “Gus” McCrae in Lonesome Dove, the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel by Larry McMurtry that was made into a television miniseries. “Wherever I go, people will come up to me and say, ‘Augustus McCrae in Lonesome Dove,’” Duvall says in a promotional video for the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. “And I will say, ‘That is my favorite part ever. My Shakespeare is Lonesome Dove.’” Join Duvall and journalist (and Austin native) Bob Schieffer for “An Evening With Legend Robert Duvall,” an Inside the Actors Studio—type discussion for Dove-heads looking to take their knowledge to a higher level. And for fans of Duvall who have yet to experience Lonesome Dove, well, you have five days to read 850 pages or watch a six-hour movie.
Hilton Americas-Houston, Feb 23, 6:15 p.m.
To the Limits
It’s common practice for television shows with live audiences to ply said audience with free beer to ensure enthusiastic reactions. That’s how Austin City Limits, the preeminent chronicler of Austin’s ascendance to live music mecca, did it when tapings occurred on the University of Texas campus. But now, after 36 years, the show has moved on up to a state-of-the-art studio attached to the new W Hotel—and the beer is no longer complimentary. Good thing Steve Miller—the joker, smoker, and midnight toker who grew up in Dallas—is performing the first taping of the new season. The lyrics to his hit songs—“The Joker,” yeah, plus “Take the Money and Run,” “Jet Airliner,” and “Abracadabra”—are permanently etched in our brains, and not even sobriety can keep them from being sung when heard. Besides, don’t you want to see the new version of the iconic Austin skyline backdrop before it’s broadcast to millions?
ACL Live at the Moody Theater, Feb 24, 8 p.m.
A grito is the Mexican version of a yee-haw. The beginning of the Charro Days Fiesta, a weeklong celebration of the Mexican cowboy, features a “group grito” projected from Brownsville, the southernmost city in the state, across the border and into Matamoros, the fiesta’s sister city. Let’s practice: Ayyyyyyyeeeee yay ya yay. Arriba! Now, doesn’t that feel good? Lifting spirits is what Charro Days is all about—from its inception during the Great Depression to its opening rallying cry of independence. As the week progresses, the identity of the charro—a descendant of the vaquero, who whispers to horses and shows no fear in rodeos—unfolds through a flour tortilla taco-eating contest, dances, and a parade. But it’s the tuxedo-like uniforms of the charro that are most captivating.
Various locations, Feb 20–24, various times.
There are only about four hundred whooping cranes in the wild, and nearly three-quarters are in greater Port Aransas. They’re out in droves these days, showing off their seven-foot wingspans, flirtatious necks, and beady yellow eyes, as part of the annual Whooping Crane Festival. The gathering includes boat tours, photography workshops, and a speaker series. But what makes a “whooper” so special that it’s had its own festival for fifteen years? “It is the tallest bird in North America, it has a trumpeting call that can be heard two miles away, and it has a mating dance that stirs the hearts of many,” said Tom Stehn, whooping crane coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and speaker at the fest. “And it symbolizes conservation in North America since it was once right on the brink of extinction.”
Port Aransas Civic Center, Feb 24, various times.
The Papers Chase
Thomas F. Staley, director of the Harry Ransom Center, has scored a lot of booty in 23 years—the papers of Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller, and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, etc.—and for his presentation “The Thrill of the Chase,” Staley will reveal how he got so lucky.
Harry Ransom Center, Feb 24, 7 p.m.
Hobo the Sound
Not much has changed about the Shiner Hobo Band in the 75 years since forming as the house act for Spoetzl Brewery—a toilet plunger is still waved like a baton to incite the audience—except now the group is up to about thirty members, which makes for quite a polka and waltz jam session.
Sengelmann Hall, Feb 20, 2 p.m.
• • • • •
Seven more gotta-see, gotta-do events that you can’t afford to miss.
By Annie Samuelson
Austin Marathon and Half-Marathon
On your mark, get set, go! The race is sold out, but come support brave runners as they trek across Austin.
Race starts at Congress Ave between 7th & 8th, Feb 20, 7 a.m.
Music of Billy Joel With Michael Cavanaugh
Make up your mi-i-ind to come listen to the Piano Man’s hits brought to you by Michael Cavanaugh, star of the Broadway success Movin Out.
Meyerson Symphony Center, Feb 17 & 20, 8 p.m.
From Steve Miller Band to solo success, Scaggs has had a long and illustrious career.
Plaza Theatre, Feb 20, 7:30 p.m.
Don’t let the blonde hair fool you. Lambert can definitely keep up with the boys, and her music is as unique and gritty as she is.
Billy Bob’s Texas, Feb 18 & 19, 10:30 p.m.
Sacred Places Tour
Galveston Island has a long history—and the buildings to prove it.
St. Joseph’s Church, Feb 19, 10 a.m.