What to see, hear, read, and watch this month to achieve maximum Texas cultural literacy.
Early Morning Shakes, Whiskey Myers (Wiggy Thump/Thirty Tigers, February 4)
If this rising band’s music sounds different from the country rock that Texas is best known for, that’s probably because the five members hail from Tyler, which is a stone’s throw from the Deep South. There’s more Skynyrd than Old 97’s here, more drawl than twang, and plenty of long-form, twin-guitar heroics.
The Parallel Apartments, Bill Cotter (McSweeney’s, February 11)
Fever Chart, the first novel by Cotter, an Austin antiquarian bookdealer, was a cult and critical hit a few years back. The follow-up, set mostly in the author’s adopted hometown, is funny and profane and more than slightly unhinged—evidence, if you’re desperate for it, that the Austin literary scene hasn’t lost its anarchic edge, at least not yet.
Bound (Houston Grand Opera, February 15 and 16)
The final year of the HGO’s Song of Houston: East + West series—which has previously examined the city’s Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Cambodian, Iranian, and Azerbaijanian communities—kicks off with this operatic portrait of Diane, “a Vietnamese high-school truant.” The libretto is by local poet Bao-Long Chu, a graduate of U of H’s prestigious creative writing program.
“Alexandre Hogue: The Erosion Series” (Dallas Museum of Art, February 16)
Unlike many thirties-era painters, this Denton- and Dallas-raised artist was never employed by the federal government’s Works Progress Administration, perhaps because he had no use for populist uplift. His portrayals of Dust Bowl devastation, all too apt for our drought-stricken times, point a finger not at Mother Nature but at Texas’s farming class.
Las Marthas (PBS, February 17)
Three quarters of a century ago, a handful of prominent, and predominantly Anglo, citizens of Laredo founded the Society of Martha Washington Colonial Pageant and Ball to assert a sense of Americanness in a place dominated by Mexican culture. But as this documentary reveals, over the years the storied debutante ball has come to reflect the border’s complex melding of identities rather than reject it.
Make Out King and Other Stories of Love, The Tontons (self-released, February 18)
If you want a sense of what Houston sounds like in 2014 but rap isn’t your style, this rock band—featuring a black front woman, a Vietnamese Mexican American bassist, and two Hispanic brothers on guitar and drums—will take you there, skillfully pivoting from bubbly to psychedelic to soulful as if they were all the same thing.