The Drop Everything List
The Texas Beer Fest, Lucinda Williams and Erika Wennerstrom, the Battle of Port Jefferson, and Railfest . . .
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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.
[May 6–May 12]
Too many Texans waste their beer intake on Miller Lite or Lone Star. It’s not entirely their fault, though. The restrictions imposed on the increasing number of craft-brewers in the state make it hard for hops alchemists to spread the word about their sophisticated refreshments. “This state is somewhat dominated by foreign-owned macrobreweries that tout their product as American and have the funds to lobby the state government to suppress the growth of Texas’s independent breweries and brewpubs,” said Clif Wigington, organizer of the inaugural Texas Beer Fest, a beer bonanza featuring about two dozen Texas craft breweries and the finest domestics and imports. A proposal in the Texas House that would allow breweries to sell their product onsite, as is common with vineyards in Napa Valley, will hopefully change that. Another game-changer will be the fest’s Beer Dinners. These pairings of beer and food, hosted at fine restaurants around Houston, will enlighten the foodie community to a whole new set of options.
Humble Convention Center Arena, May 7, 1 p.m.
Photograph by Danny Clinch
Songs of Love and Hate
Lucinda Williams and Erika Wennerstrom (frontwoman for the rock band Heartless Bastards) took opposite paths to get to the same destination. Williams left Austin to get known. Wennerstrom moved to Austin for the same reason. But both singer-songwriters weave into their songs the same ups and downs of real-life relationships. Williams has done it over an eleven-album career, topped by her latest, Blessed. Meanwhile, The Mountain, the most recent album by Wennerstrom’s band, was essentially a break-up record. These women—the alt-country queen and the blues-rock princess—are role models for females and rock-and-roll fantasies for males. What’s even rarer than Wennerstrom performing solo, as Williams’s opener, is the inevitable duet that will be reason to save your ticket stub.
Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, May 7, 7 p.m.
The movie Top Gun convinced legions of teenagers to become fighter pilots. But most of these would-be Mavericks and Icemen changed their minds before they even got into flight school. The Central Texas Air Show, an exhibition of war crafts and stunt planes, is a way for them to relive their dreams—whether through the performers or the giveaway copies of the Top Gun DVD available to cross-promote the air show and movie’s joint twenty-fifth anniversary. While there aren’t any F-14 Tomcats in the show—the jets flown in Top Gun—there are F-16 Fighting Falcons. These stealthy, highly maneuverable jets have flown thousands of sorties in the Global War on Terrorism. Watching them execute stomach-churning drops and turns against the azure dome above Temple will no doubt inspire a new generation to want to get into a cockpit and patrol the skies for bad guys.
Draughon-Miller Central Texas Regional Airport, May 6–8, various times.
Photograph courtesy of Marion County Chamber of Commerce
The Imaginary Battle
The Battle of Port Jefferson never happened. Yet one of the most celebrated Civil War reenactments in Texas is the Battle of Port Jefferson Re-enactment. Even Charles Chitwood, the event organizer, asked himself, when he was considering taking the job, what the point was of imagining the fight that would have happened, in 1864, had the Yanks not been sacked en route to pillaging the Confederate port. “Homage is really being paid to the men and women of that turbulent period in American history,” Chitwood said. “You will find among the reenactors many ardent—if often amateur—historians who also proudly trace their lineage to men who served their respective countries during the conflict.” The Port Jefferson reenactment is an anomaly in that many reenactors set up camp not in pastures on the outskirts of the hosting town, near the battlefield, but instead smack dab in the middle of downtown. This allows for even unsuspecting visitors to the brick-lined historic area an immersion into living history.
Various locations, May 6–8, various times.
Photograph courtesy of Texas State Railroad
Now that planes have been reduced to Greyhounds with wings, the airline industry doesn’t want passengers getting enamored with trains, which is what generally happens at Railfest, a weekend of railroading pride that uses a steam-locomotive tour of East Texas as bait to win converts to this old-school form of travel.
Rusk Depot, May 7 & 8, various times.
Photograph courtesy of VIVA! Cinco de Mayo
If the measure of a successful Cinco de Mayo celebration is its ability to keep the party going, then VIVA! Cinco de Mayo is tops by virtue of an annual contest it holds to see who makes the best menudo, which many enthusiasts insist can relieve even the grisliest hangover.
Hays County Civic Center, May 6–8, various times.
• • • • •
Seven more gotta-see, gotta-do events that you can’t afford to miss.
By Olivia LaVecchia
The Old Pecan Street Festival
Threes abound at this year’s festival: Music on three stages, more than three hundred juried artists and artisans, and approximately 300,000 attendees are expected to enjoy the fun.
6th Street, from Brazos to I-35; May 7 & 8, 11 a.m.
The comedian returns to stand-up.
Winspear Opera House, May 6 & 7, various times.
Luis Bravo’s Forever Tango
Twelve dancers, one vocalist, and an eight-piece orchestra tell the story of the birth of tango.
Abraham Chavez Theatre, May 8, 4 p.m.
A family-friendly festival with all the usual trappings (arts, crafts, seven stages of live music and entertainment) and quirks like duck races, stiltwalkers, and an extreme trampoline show.
Trinity Park, May 5–8, various times.
The Grammy award–winning, Emmy award–nominated Texas native performs his solo cabaret.
The Grand, May 7, 8 p.m.
Highlights of Houston Ballet
Three short works from the Houston Ballet, performed outdoors and for free.
Miller Outdoor Theatre, May 6–8, 8 p.m.
Explore the city’s diverse ecosystems via hiking, birding, and star-gazing activities.
Various locations, May 6–8, various times.