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.
A Tale of Two Cities
Twenty years have passed since Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater more or less invented the “indie” genre with Slacker, a stream-of-consciousness movie about the eclectic bohemians—a U.F.O. fanatic, a TV addict, and a Madonna pap-smear peddler, among others—who populated Austin when it was still a secret. Slacker has no plot, no climax, and no Hollywood three-act structure—yet it will suck you in completely. “I think Slacker was a first-of-its-kind film,” said Tim League, founder of Alamo Drafthouse, the movie theater chain that is hosting an anniversary screening of Slacker with the Austin Film Society. “The casual, conversational, vérité dialogue and the focus on a hip, erudite, young, beer-swilling urban subculture was very fresh and has since been aped by countless films.” A lot has changed in Austin since the halcyon Slacker days. Compare and contrast with the help of a post-screening conversation with the film’s creator. “Rick always has insightful answers and has an incredible knowledge of film and film history,” League said. “I imagine the Q&A will be very engaging.”
Austin Studios, June 22, 8 p.m.
Courtesy of Luling Watermelon Thump
In Luling, spitting isn’t frowned upon; it’s encouraged. The Seed Spitting contest is the focal point of the annual Watermelon Thump, a festival dedicated to what was once one of the area’s major crops. The rules are simple. Stand behind the line at the end of a 15-foot-wide by 75-foot-long playing field known as the “spitway” and spit a watermelon seed as far as you can. You have two tries. Bounces count. “We have an emcee that visits with each spitter, encouraging, assisting, and finding humor if at all possible,” said Jamie Nickells, event director and Luling councilmember. “We give helpful hints and sing seed-spitting songs.” The record—68 feet and 9 1/8 inches, set in 1989 by Lee Wheelis, a Luling resident—occurred on an asphalt spitway. Now there is a painted-concrete spitway. There’s a conspiracy theory going around that this new surface hampers spits to ensure the title stays in town. What tobacco chewer or chronic whistler out there sees that as a challenge?
Watermelon Thump Pavilion, June 23–26, various times.
Courtesy of Farmersville Main Street
The Greatest American Hero
You want Audie Murphy in the foxhole with you. He is the greatest of the Greatest Generation. Born near Farmersville to hardscrabble sharecroppers, he rose to become the most decorated soldier of World War II. Even Muhammad Ali, the Greatest of All Time, would be impressed by this statline: Murphy has scored every honor of valor offered by the U.S. (some multiple times) in part for killing an astounding 240 enemies. Murphy was also a prolific Hollywood screen actor following his service (he starred in his own biopic, To Hell and Back), and he was pivotal in advancing mental-health treatment for veterans. For those who missed out on displays of patriotism on Memorial Day, Audie Murphy Day, a celebration that includes a parade of local vets riding in historical vehicles, is the chance to double-up on national and state exhibitions of pride.
Downtown Farmersville, June 18, 10 a.m.
Friday Night Fireworks
Read almost any article about the four-piece instrumental-rock band Explosions in the Sky and you will find mention of the movie-turned- TV series Friday Night Lights. (There you have it!) The reason for this is two-fold. First, Explosions’ music creates the sublime ambience of the Texas high-school football drama; second, most critics have a hard time writing about rock music, like Explosions’, that has no lyrics. Thus, few writers are willing to give up the bone-crushing tackles miraculously eluded for a game-winning touchdown as a convenient analogy for the wistful ebb and flow drawn by the band’s three-guitar front. Explosions will play a hometown show in anticipation of a headlining tour for their new album, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. It will be a perfect time to catch the band, which has just finished a tour opening for Arcade Fire and is looking to push the limits of its new material on a local crowd before another road test.
ACL Live, June 17, 8 p.m.
Courtesy of the Health Museum
Learning about the robotics behind R2-D2 and C- P3O, and experiencing the illusion of lightspeed in the cockpit of a replica of the Millennium Falcon—both interactive elements of the Lucasfilm-curated Star Wars Exhibit—are second only to discovering there is a lost movie sequel (or prequel).
The Health Museum, June 18–September 18, various times.
Photograph by Hal Sample
Tim DeLaughter, the anti–James Jones of the cheer-pop choir Polyphonic Spree, is obligated to a new band, Preteen Zenith, which means a one-off performance by the Spree at the Dallas