Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and the Sex Pistols tribute in San Antonio to the Dallas Safari Club’s Convention & Sporting Expo. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
The Texas A&M football team was not supposed to do diddly this season. Many experts expected the Aggies to lie down and roll over for the new competition in the Southeastern Conference. Then along came Johnny Manziel, a.k.a. Johnny Football, who shredded the Alabama Crimson Tide—then ranked number one—on the Tide’s home field. The Aggies finished 10-2, earning a number nine BCS ranking. And Manziel became the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy—and the second Texas quarterback in a row, following Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. But the Aggies must defeat one final team to complete their season of rebirth: the eleventh-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, in the Cotton Bowl. The two teams were regular opponents when they were both in the Big 12 Conference, and in eleven of their last thirteen games, the Sooners have owned the Aggies. Haggling with ticket brokers and sellers on Craigslist might be the only way to see this sold-out showdown, but the effort (and money) should be worth seeing the Aggies potentially win the game that could propel them to next year’s preseason number-one ranking.
Cotton Bowl, January 4, 7 p.m., attcottonbowl.com
It may sound far-fetched, but the Sex Pistols heavily influenced the Austin music scene. In the late seventies, the English punk band was banned from playing Britain because of its anarchic album Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. So they embarked on a seven-date tour of America, playing at Randy’s Rodeo in San Antonio on January 8, 1978. A number of Austin’s music cognoscenti in attendance—including the record producer Bill Bentley, the South by Southwest co-founder Louis Black, and the author and musician Jesse Sublett—called it a revelation. “The show was a blast furnace of fresh air,” Sublett said. He said it felt like revenge for everything they had to put up with in the seventies—“All the overload of Eagles and Beatles, prog rock, progressive country and disco.” That teen spirit will be resurrected on Saturday with the Filth and the Flautas, a ten-band bill commemorating the thirty-fifth anniversary of the seminal show, with performances by the Nervebreakers, who opened for the Pistols at the Dallas show on that 1978 tour, and the Hickoids, who will play the Pistols’ San Antonio set.
Backstage Live, January 5, 6 p.m., backstagelivesa.com
The Final Frontier
It may seem that William Shatner is increasingly random, but he has long marched to his own beat. In 1956, Shatner was Christopher Plummer’s understudy for Shakespeare’s Henry V. When Plummer became ill, Shatner was asked to go on despite never having rehearsed. “Not only did he know the part backwards, he did things that I hadn’t done,” Plummer said at a conference earlier this year. “He stood up when I sat down. He sat down when I stood up. He was extraordinary.” Shatner will reimagine this moment for, “Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It,” his one-man show that includes a four-date tour of Texas starting in Galveston. Get a little of Denny Crane and a lot of Captain Kirk, but also get the man behind the comedy and tragedy masks.
The Grand 1894 Opera House, January 6, 7 p.m., shatnersworld.com
The Gourds, Austin’s ultimate junkyard-rock band, are the subjects of All the Labor, a documentary by some of the filmmakers behind the Wilco documentary Ashes of American Flags. It will offer a behind-the-scenes look at the band when it premieres in Austin this spring. But that view of the Gourds can’t replace seeing them onstage. “While all of the Gourds’ critically acclaimed records deserve the praise they have received,” Doug Hawes-Davis, the director of the documentary, wrote on the film’s Kickstarter page, “fans know that a full understanding of the band can only be achieved through experiencing them live.” That occasion will present itself Saturday. It will feel kind of like a Grateful Dead show. No, there won’t be excessive noodling over extended jams, but there will be rabid fans responding to each and every song from a vast canon of many styles as if it is the perfect song for that very moment.
Gruene Hall, January 5, 9 p.m., thegourds.com
In the Hunt
The wild-hog epidemic combined with the DIY field-to-table ethos has turned many people into hunters, and at the Dallas Safari Club’s Convention & Sporting Expo, they can learn about advanced gaming opportunities around the world.
Dallas Convention Center, Jan. 4-6, 10 a.m., biggame.org
Fun and Games
Put down the controller and listen to the soundtracks of popular video games like Zelda and Mario at Video Games Live, a multimedia celebration of America’s new pastime, with symphony orchestras, laser-light shows, and, of course, audience interaction.
The Long Center, January 5, 7:30 p.m., thelongcenter.org