Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Shamrock to Houston's Watercolor Art Society's 35th International Exhibition. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[March 16–March 22]
At the heart of the Texas Music Roadtrip exhibition is the holy grail of electric guitars: Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Number One Stratocaster. The guitar—the one with the SRV sticker on it—has not been in the public eye since Vaughan died in a helicopter crash in 1990. It joins more than two hundred other items in what is billed as the largest-ever exhibition on Texas music, including a notebook from a ten-year-old Willie Nelson that is filled with love songs, the accordion Flaco and Santiago Jimenez learned to play on, and old Scott Joplin piano rolls. “I’ll bet ninety percent of Texans don’t know Joplin’s from Texas,” said Gary Hartman, the author of The History of Texas Music, a nd the exhibition’s curator. “Yet here’s a guy who was a leading figure in ragtime, which laid the foundation for jazz.” Travel to five different regions—perhaps the east, with its melting pot of blues and Cajun, or the South, with its hybrid of conjunto and polka—and learn how Texas became an incubator for many of the genres that you now take for granted. “You can stand in the middle of Texas,” Hartman said, “and look around and see all these ethnic groups who have retained their culture through music.”
The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, March 17-October 14, various times. thestoryoftexas.com
Return of the Weary One
Ryan Bingham represents a new wave of country musicians who operate out of the Americana genre, purveying a twangy mix of folk, blues and rock ’n’ roll. Bingham, who rode bulls in Texas before winning an Oscar in 2010 for his song "The Weary Kind,” from the Crazy Heart soundtrack, now lives in Los Angeles, where he is working on a new album built on great expectations. To get him to drop what he is doing and trek to Texas for a one-off show, as The Dallas Observer has done for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Greenville Avenue, most certainly means he is itching to test some new material live. And what better place to shred his raspy voice than in front of people who will be in extraordinarily high spirits? The songs may be untested, but it’s easy to excuse Bingham’s rough drafts in return for a scorching take on, say, the song “Bread & Water,” during which audience participation is required in name-checking various Texas cities.
Energy Square Parking Lot, March 17, 12 p.m. binghammusic.com
Norm Wigington prefers watercolors because of their spontaneity. “There are accidents that happen that are much more exciting than what you could plan for,” he said. “A watery wet spot can be fractured like a piece of marble and a damp spot can be spread like a hairy tail.” While watercolors may seem like a medium for a Sunday afternoon artiste, their proper application on a canvas requires great skill. Wigington demonstrates this through his assemblage of the Watercolor Art Society-Houston’s 35th International Exhibition. The display of one hundred paintings selected out of almost four hundred submissions includes a score of landscapes, portraits and Oriental works. “Watercolors have always been considered the secondary format to oil,” Wigington said, “but everyone did watercolors to learn how to paint oil.”
Watercolor Art Society-Houston, March 16-April 20, 10 a.m. watercolorhouston.org
Shamrock, like Marfa in West Texas, is one of those far-out destinations that makes our state distinctive. The tiny town, located on old Route 66 in the Panhandle, has become a cultural touchstone: the movie Cars used the likeness of its art deco Tower Conoco Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe, left over from the oil boom in the 1920s and ’30s. And its Donegal Beard Contest inspired a documentary, Growin’ a Beard , with songs by the Gourds, the popular Austin junkyard band. Not surprisingly, however, Shamrock is best known for its St. Patrick’s Celebration (at the center of which is the beard contest). Since 1938, the weekend affair of music, a parade, and free golf has grown into an event where a leprechaun would feel at ease.
Various locations, March 16-18, various times. shamrocktexas.net
Potential Hat Trick
Jeb Bush, son of George Herbert Walker and brother of George Walker, may one day want to get back into politics to complete his family’s presidential hat trick, so use his talk “Leading in Climate of Change” to find out how he would do things differently if he were in charge.
Trinity University, March 22, 7:30 p.m. trinity.edu
The Keys to Peace
Van Cliburn won over the Russians during the Cold War with his piano stylings, birthing the Van Cliburn Foundation, whose fiftieth anniversary you can toast with the first show in the Cliburn Concerts series.
Bass Performance Hall, March 20, 7:30 p.m. cliburn.org