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.
Photograph by Steve Lowry
It seems Willie Nelson is playing some corner of Texas nearly every other week. To the lost souls who think that’s overkill, consider the number of musicians who’ve benefited from these opening slots; without Nelson, a lot of careers might have never materialized, among them Charley Pride’s and Johnny Bush’s. Willie Nelson’s Country Throwdown, a nationwide touring festival featuring performers who run the genre’s gamut, epitomizes Nelson’s knack for scouting talent. The nine main acts (Nelson included) will play full sets, unlike at most music festivals, where performers are constrained to an hour-long set infringed upon by sound-checking. The extra time will suit Jamey Johnson, who late last year released a 25-song double album, The Guitar Song, to critical acclaim. It’s also good for Nelson’s son’s band, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, who like to kick out their Jimi Hendrix- and Neil Young-influenced jams. Don’t you want to witness the next coming of the Nelson clan before his shows are as common as his father’s?
Las Palmas Race Park, June 30, 2:30 p.m.
Problem Child 2
There were a lot of dropped jaws—and koozies—at last year’s Showdown in San Angelo, the annual drag-boat racing series. Speed Sport’s rudder had just broken off, causing the top-fuel hydro boat to abruptly cut in front of its competitor, Problem Child. The last thing Daryl Ehrlich, Problem Child’s driver, remembers is meeting Speed Sport’s “rooster tail,” the geyser of water sprayed from the back end of a boat pushing 260 mph in four seconds, and boom. Ehrlich didn’t gain consciousness until he was in the ambulance. The good news: He won. The bad news: He had some crushed vertebrae. It was an accident to end a career, but Ehrlich has a new boat and will return this year to again get lit like a firecracker off of the starting line. It will be interesting to see how he responds to revisiting the site where he nearly died—and how the 10,000 onlookers embrace him.
Lake Nasworthy, June 25 & 26, 7 a.m.
Will Bike for Beer
New Belgium is a beer built on bikes. There’s a bike in its logo, people ride in its commercials, and it hosts cycling events as a way to grow its community. Austin is a town built on bikes. There are bike lanes everywhere, Lance Armstrong and his loyalists train in the hills, and pedicab drivers are as integral to the downtown scene as taxis. It’s no surprise, then, that the New Belgium Urban Assault Ride, a scavenger hunt-meets-obstacle course on bikes with beer at the finish line, got its start in Austin, in 2003, before expanding to nine other cities. There are up to 1,500 competitors eyeing the top prizes—though everyone celebrates crossing the finish line with freshly tapped Fat Tire, 1554, Ranger IPA, and Somersault. But finishing first isn’t really the point, according to event organizer Daniel Coppola: “At the end of a hot day of racing, what’s better than sharing a beer with 1,500 of your newest friends?”
Fiesta Gardens, June 26, 8 a.m.
Photograph by John Dodd
From Audience to Stage
Kilgore, a rural community in northeast Texas, isn’t the first place you’d think to travel to for some good theater, but the Texas Shakespeare Festival offers appealing drama by default of the famous playwright’s stories. The Taming of the Shrew and an abridged version of The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark are the two pieces by Shakespeare that will be portrayed as part of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the month-long dramarama. Festival-goers who make the pilgrimage will be rewarded with many behind-the-scenes opportunities. For example, Pre-Show Introductions explain the history and premise of the selected play; Curtain Call Talk-Backs let you grill actors on their performances; and Backstage Tours are primers on how to run a production. By the time the fest is over, you will have channeled your inner thespian, and the next casting call at your hometown community theater will be all yours.
Kilgore College, June 30–July 31, various times.
Photograph by Tom Athey
Off the Wall
The much-maligned Broadway production of Spider Man could have taken cues from Blue Lapis Light, a troupe of aerial dancers whose new site-specific performance piece, Devotion, finds its members literally bouncing off the outside walls of buildings in something not unlike ballet for mountain climbers.
Seaholm Power Plant, June 24–26, 9 p.m.
Photograph by Michael Wilson
There are many Lyle Lovett fans who know him only for playing with his “large” band, which means his acoustic duet tour with John Hiatt, the underappreciated singer-songwriter’s singer-songwriter, will be full of shows where he reinvents himself by going small.
Majestic Theatre, June 26, 7 p.m.
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