Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from Cryptopalooza in spooky Jefferson to Norah Jones performing in Austin. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
A lot of creatures lurk in the swamps and piney woods surrounding Jefferson. Snakes, alligators, spiders—even Bigfoot. Indeed, this town of a mere couple of thousand located near the Louisiana border is the spot of multiple accounts of disturbing encounters with the tall and hairy mythic creature. Attend Cryptopalooza, a two-day conference focusing on those curious animals whose existence has yet to be proven, like the Loch Ness Monster, and decide for yourself if these phenomena are real. “I know a lot of these sightings are hoaxes,” said Michael Esordi, a Cryptopalooza organizer, “but I’ve talked to too many people who have looked me straight in the eye and told me about their sightings. And I believe them.” The cast of experts who will try to make you a true believer will include Ken Gerhard, the go-to guy on the chupacabra, the “goat sucker” thought to be found in certain parts of Texas. If you’re not too scared after watching drive-in screenings of The Legend of Boggy Creek and Southern Fried Bigfoot, head deep into the dark woods of Big Cypress Bayou aboard the 11:30 p.m. Bigfoot Train.
Jefferson Visitor Center, October 19-21, various times, cryptopalooza.com
Paean to Rothko
In the early eighties, the poet John Taggart traveled from his home in Pennsylvania to Houston to sit for a week in the Rothko Chapel, the nondenominational temple named after the painter Mark Rothko. Taggart took obsessive notes about Rothko’s giant black canvases, whose subtle but deep variations reveal a rich color palette. The result is “The Rothko Chapel Poem,” a long-form mood poem whose tongue-twister repetitions (“Red deepened by black red made deep by black”) mimic the many layers of the paintings: “Careful and serious/Twenty-three coats of pink is serious.” “The paintings have very thin layers,” Taggart said. “That’s how they have this sort of strange soft light quality. The paintings seem to be light-bearing—there is light coming towards you from them.” Taggart will return to the Rothko Chapel on Thursday to recite this epic poem. It will be an opportunity to gain insight into Rothko’s deceptively complex art while also experiencing Taggart’s lyrical art the proper way. “One of the things my poems do is force you to read them aloud,” Taggart said. “If you don’t, you’ll get lost.”
Rothko Chapel, October 25, 7 p.m., rothkochapel.org
Norah Jones has always had a beautiful voice—her debut album, Come Away With Me earned her eight Grammys as a 23-year-old—but for some, her youth undercut her adult lyrics. With her new album, Little Broken Hearts, we have a 33-year-old woman responding to a grown-up break-up through songs teeming with emotional intelligence. It’s a dark collection about manufacturing happiness that was produced by Danger Mouse, one half of the band Gnarls Barkley, and finds Jones opening up in more ways that one: she has traded in long dresses and piano for miniskirts, keyboard and electric guitar. Don’t expect all of the songs to be sad, though, when Jones, a graduate of the jazz program at the University of North Texas, returns to Texas for the conclusion of the American leg of her tour. It will be just the occasion to play some songs from her side band, the Little Willies, named after Willie Nelson.
ACL Live, October 19, 7 p.m., norahjones.com
Health and Happiness
The experts say wine is good for you. A glass or two a day can raise your good cholesterol and thin your blood, measures that improve your cardiovascular health. The experts also say chocolate is good or you. One dark-chocolate candy bar per week can decrease your chance for heart disease and reduce your risk of a stroke. The key here, in both cases, is moderation. Good luck with that at the Chocolate & Wine Festival of Texas, a daylong indulgence where good health is measured only by the fleeting euphoria of sampling everything in sight.
Kendall County Fairgrounds, October 20, noon, chocolatefestivaloftexas.com
Ray of Hope
Construction has already compromised some of the murals done earlier this year in West Dallas by Shepard Fairey, the Los Angeles street artist who designed the controversial Obama “Hope” image, but you can still see his work in all of its glory at the final weekend of the exhibition “Printed Matters.”
The Public Trust, Oct. 19-20, noon, trustthepublic.com
Beam Me Up
It has been a decade since The X-Files reminded us that the truth is out there, so take a refresher course in extraterrestrials at the Border Zone International UFO Festival, featuring paranormal experts whose devotion to alien life form makes it hard not to believe.
Presidio Activity Center, Oct. 19-20, 8 a.m., ufoborderzone.com