Jordan’s Pick

The Grand Prix

IT’S IRONIC that the month’s speediest happening is in the city of perpetual gridlock. After a five-year hiatus, the Grand Prix of Houston is back—and no amount of bumper fatigue can detract from the coup. If you’re envisioning a carnivalesque affair with an outrageous mullet quota, stop right now: This is motor sports at its highest caliber. As the only event in the country to feature the very different, but equally elite, open-wheel Champ Car World Series and sexy Euro-inspired American Le Mans Series, the Grand Prix—which boasts 900 horsepower engines and a curvaceous street track—is more about brains than brawn. NASCAR it ain’t.

For one thing, there’s a right turn, for goodness’ sake. The Grand Prix’s 1.7-mile snake of a course, which winds through Reliant Park, has in fact nine treacherous turns—all the better to see those Champ Car bobble head drivers cornering like speed demons out of you-know-where in Saturday’s first-ever night race. Champ Car, for all you non-motorheads, is the longest-running open-wheel race series in the U.S., but this is its big Grand Prix debut in Texas. (Sort of, anyway. In its previous incarnation, the event lapped through downtown and featured only the CART series, which then died and came back to life as Champ Car; think of the Oilers’ rebirth as the Texans.) Upping the sophistication factor is Europe’s cache of young racers: Reigning points champ Sebastien Bourdais, of France, is the far-and-away favorite, and Champ Car rookie Brit Katherine Legge (a Danica Patrick with turbochargers) is another one to keep your eye on.

There’s also an awful lot at stake, of course, in the American Le Mans’ truly inaugural Lone Star Grand Prix, set to run beneath Friday night’s lights. Modeled after the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans, in France, this is the bite-size version, at two hours and 45 minutes—long enough to be legit, short enough to be interesting. Home court advantage goes to the Houston-based Risi Competizione team, whose Ferrari F430 GT is ready for a rematch after losing to Porsche and Panoz in the season’s first test, in Sebring, Florida (gotta hate it when your wheel nuts go awry). Here’s hoping that they’ll spend less time in the pit and more time giving the locals something to cheer about. As team member Don Pierce puts it, “When you’re racing for Texas, you want to look as good as possible.” (Besides, that gas isn’t cheap.)

Now let’s be honest: You can watch cars whiz by for only so long, right? You’re going to want to do other things at the Grand Prix. Like ogle those pretty chassis sitting “backstage” in the paddock or pretend to care deeply about the sport as you loiter in the beer garden and listen to live music. Actually, your level of devotion is a moot point: There’s no better opportunity to see such an impressive double bill, and it’s the only time this year the American Le Mans Series races in Texas. So yes, you’ll probably have to sit in a red river of brake lights to get to it, but what’s a little backup? You’ve inched along the highway for much less. May 11–13. Reliant Park, Loop 610 between Kirby & Fannin; 713-659-7223; JORDAN BREAL

Kiss the Sky

Hot-air balloons and hard-rock bands—an obvious pairing? No. But quite the one-two punch if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, which is old news to folks in Anthony, that two-state city on the western tip of Texas hosting the twenty-first annual KLAQ Balloon Fest. For three mornings, fifty or so buoyant fliers will take off with the sunrise at “o’dark thirty,” and a rainbow of favorites—the Flying Purple People Eater, the giant penguin, the cluster of red chiles—will upstage the Franklin Mountains in the background. Want to go up yourself? A few lucky crew volunteers (no experience necessary) get a free ride on Monday’s ascent. Or stay grounded to headbang with heavy- metal acts Trapt (Saturday), Shinedown (Sunday), and Thousand Foot Krutch (Monday). Either way, you’ll find out what the locals already know: Ballooning and rocking are the perfect high. May 27–29. Wet ‘N’ Wild Waterworld, 8804 S. Desert Blvd, 915-886-2222 or 915-544-9550, or

Professional Movers

Whether or not you know a plié from a pas de deux, the Houston Ballet’s three-pronged program Moby in Motion will replay in your head long after the curtain drops. Expect an urge to download eight of the techno hero’s blues-tinged electronica tracks after seeing the headlining piece, “Play,” artistic director Stanton Welch’s very relevant ode to urban life (the dancers are dressed in street clothes as they mimic everyday tasks). Also hooking your attention will be the U.S. premiere of “Velocity,” a ballet danced fast and furiously by eight men and eight women—the latter in razor-thin white tutus—and then the slowdown “Gloria,” the company’s signature work and choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s neoclassical tribute to the young men lost in World War I. The Houston Masterworks Chorus, a force of fifty voices, performs live while the “soldiers” fall into a trenchlike grave. Unforgettable indeed. May 25–Jun 4. Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Ave; 800-828-2787;

Collector’s Items

Art is so inextricably linked with history that you’ll be schooled in both creative technique and our country’s past when you peruse “Villa America: American Moderns, 1900–1950,” now in its last full month at the McNay Art Museum. Minnesota businessman Myron Kunin is the private collector behind the exhibit of around 75 paintings, and though you’ll recognize many of the artists—Georgia O’Keeffe, John Steuart Curry, Andrew Wyeth—you’ll be less familiar with the works themselves. But that’s part of the draw. Look for three groupings: an overview of American Modernism pre- and post-Depression, figurative works of both the male and female forms, and portraits. As a whole, the works aren’t exactly cheerful—it’s clear Kunin prefers his art complex and emotionally battering—but they do ooze honesty, bringing early-twentieth-century life into sharp detail. If you’re a fan of art and a student of history, you’re advised not to dawdle: The McNay is the only venue in the Southwest to showcase this revealing collection. Through Jun 4. 6000 N. New Braunfels, 210-824-5368,

All the Art That’s Fit to Print

One of the most interesting art exhibits traveling through Texas right now is also one of the most unexpected. “Dafatir: Contemporary Iraqi Book Art” is a focused collection of handmade dafatirs, or notebooks, from seventeen mostly exiled Iraqi artists. The colorful accordion-like works take on topics from modern poetry to Islamic history and present the current social and political events in a way that no American medium could. Through Jun 10. Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, 500 W. University Ave, 915-747-6151

He Cleans Up Well

As a young man, Paul Manes worked as a lowly preparator (“Basically I was the janitor,” he jokes) at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas. Now his former employer welcomes him back with “Paul Manes: The Big Big Picture Show,” an intimate exhibit of breathtakingly simple paintings—and his first hometown solo show in more than a decade (he’s since moved his studio to the closer-to-New-York climes of New Jersey). Manes’s works are mural-size, with unpretentious subjects like rocks and logs and, his signature motif, stacks of empty bowls. The artist admits that he paints what interests him, so look closely for that East Texas influence. Through Jul 16. 500 Main, 409-832-3432,

Embarrassment of Riches

Having more coveted artworks than you have space for might seem a happy burden, but at the Kimbell Art Museum, its potent permanent collection often gets short shrift in favor of traveling exhibits. An executive decision has been made: The museum’s own vaunted jewels will be brought out in “Masterpiece: A New Look at the Kimbell Collection.” Headlining the show are the curators’ newest babies, like The Borromeo Madonna, a circa-1450 terra-cotta relief by Donatello, and a prized tomb statue of Egyptian official Ka-nefer. The best news: Fort Worth—and the art world—is now abuzz with the Kimbell’s talk of plans to build a second building to display the permanent collection, well, permanently. Asian art through Jul 16, antiquities and European art through Jul 23, Pre-Columbian and African art through Oct 22. 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-332-8451,

Still Cruisin’

Never mind that you’re in an opera house: It would be rude not to sing (and groove) along with the Beach Boys—with original member Mike Love and longtime bassist and keyboardist Bruce Johnston—during their only Texas tour stop. May 5 & 6. The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice, 800-821-1894,

We Can’t Quit Them

As far as cinematic get-togethers go, the inaugural Palo Duro Western Film Festival won’t be as fancy as Cannes’ or as celeb-choked as Sundance’s. But by God, will there be cowboys. And not of Brokeback Mountain ilk either. Think classic, think devil-may-care, think John Wayne—who’ll happen to be featured in this three-day movie marathon. Author and University of Texas professor (and texas monthly writer-at-large) Don Graham will be on hand in the well-worn Varsity Theatre to lead discussions about the evolution of silver-screen cowboys. From Tom Mix to Roy Rogers to Jimmy Stewart, there’s just something about those wind-chapped fellows that makes it hard to walk away. May 5–7. 2302 4th Ave, 806-651-2233,

Sail Away, Sail Away, Sail Away

Extreme athletes who pray to the wind gods will do their share of worshipping along the Texas coast this month. With steady breezes that average 18 miles per hour, South Padre Island is not just for bacchanalian spring breakers: The Windsurfing Blowout, one of the largest amateur events in the country, has been drawing intense competitors for 26 years now. The airborne battles feature racers of all skill levels in both slalom and long-distance rounds, not to mention the South Texas Kiteboarding Rodeo. (Yeehaw.) Up the coast, at Corpus Christi’s Velocity Games, expect to see aspiring summer Olympians among the 300 windsurfing and kiteboarding contenders—and 40,000 oglers—who’ll be taking advantage of the bay’s constant breezes. For the best views, commandeer a spot on McGee Beach, near Memorial Coliseum. With any luck, you’ll be converted. Windsurfing Blowout, May 5–7: The Flats at Andy Bowie Park, South Padre Island; 800-343-2368; spiwind Velocity Games, May 25–28: McGee Beach, Corpus Christi; 361-866-7732;

Greener Pastures

If you hear “golf tournament” and think “social occasion,” you’re in luck: This month boasts a links-lover’s favorite fortnight. First up is the swanky Byron Nelson Championship, at Irving’s newly expanded Four Seasons Resort at Las Colinas, with its gawker-friendly spectator course and bounty of beauties clustered around the last four holes. Perhaps Masters master Phil Mickelson will have the good fortune to win in his thirteenth appearance (exactly a decade, in fact, since he last won here), though not if Jim Furyk or Luke Donald has his way. The more stately Colonial Golf Tournament, in Fort Worth, is turning sixty this year, so the tree-lined fairways will be chockablock with former champs eager to help the new winner into his plaid jacket. A note to Southlake’s Rory Sabbatini, who’s high among the PGA money leaders: No amount of cash will buy you one of those tartans. Plus, Chad Campbell, Justin Leonard, and veteran Ben Crenshaw (all Texans) will be aiming for the winner’s share of the $6 million purse too. Of course, with back-to-back parties—ahem, tourneys—the real winners are the fans. Nineteenth hole, anyone? Byron Nelson Championship, May 7–14: Four Seasons Resort and Club Las Colinas, 4150 N. MacArthur Blvd, Irving; 972-717-0700; Colonial Golf Tournament, May 15–21: Colonial Country Club, 3735 Country Club Circle, Fort Worth; 817-927-4280;

Of Music and Men

If you could listen to only three musicians for the rest of your life, James Brown, George Strait, and B. B. King wouldn’t make for a bad lineup. The giants of their genres—funk, country, and blues, respectively—descend on our humble state this month in separate performances. King George has already sold out his San Antonio date, and seats are going fast in Frisco; Brown is courting yet another generation in Houston with his throwback dance moves and inimitable soul sound; and the eighty-year-old King visits Fort Worth on what may be his last tour. You might think these masters sound smooth enough on your iPod, but there’s no substitute for the real thing. James Brown, May 9: Verizon Wireless Theater, 520 Texas Ave, Houston; 713-230-1600; George Strait, May 26: Pizza Hut Park, 6000 Main, Frisco; 214-979-0303; May 27: AT&T Center, AT&T Center Pkwy & E. Houston, San Antonio; 210-444-5000; attcen B.B. King, May 31: Bass Performance Hall, 4th & Calhoun, Fort Worth; 877-212-4280;

My Oh Maya

Author and poet Maya Angelou will indulge you with anecdotes from her life as part of the Houston Downtown Alliance’s Unique Lives and Experiences lecture series. May 15. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 877-875-8124,

Thespians Without Borders

The state’s only Latino theater festival may be young—it’s merely in its second year—but Teatro Fest already knows how to hold the attention of a diverse audience. Case in point: Performances include an autobiographical account of an Iranian-Guatemalan boy as spun by deejays in “self: the remix”; a collective of Rio Grande Valley playwrights’ tales written entirely via e-mail in “Border Stories”; and five-minute plays based on brief scripts jotted down on bar napkins in “Ice House.” May 26–Jul 2. Various locations, 210-271-3151,