Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from ringing in the New Year with Willie Nelson to eating a bowl of good luck in Fredericksburg. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[Dec 30–Jan 6]



Living the Life
The night life may not be a good life for some, but it seems to have served longtime buddies Willie Nelson, 78, and Ray Price, 85, just fine. Nelson wrote his song “Night Life,” a mix of blues and country with jazzy flourishes of guitar, fifty years ago, and Price recorded it two years later. Count on the classic being a focal point of Willie & Friends Family New Year, two nights of concerts at ACL Live, the home Nelson recently helped build on Willie Nelson Boulevard. Each legend will likely ring in 2012 with his own take, but it’s the possibility of an all-out jam on the song with their two supporting acts, the Gourds and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (fronted by Nelson’s son), that will have champagne corks popping.
ACL Live at the Moody Theater, Dec. 30-31, various times.


Girl Power
The writer and rancher Barney Nelson has made it abundantly clear that cowgirls hate to be called cowgirls. “It’s become a slur,” Nelson wrote in the August issue of TEXAS MONTHLY. “In the world of cattle and horses the preferred word is ‘cowboy.’ This is a verb.” Nelson does believe, however, in the potential of “cowgirl.” “It will take some effort to reclaim the word,” she wrote, “but it’s worth it. Like ‘cowboy’ on a good day, ‘cowgirl’ can be made to stand for something larger than a skill.” The Cowgirl Round-up and Showdeo helps reclaim the word by drawing horsewomen into Bandera, the Cowboy Capital of the World, for a day of competitive riding and a panoramic photograph to document the occasion. “It’s meant to inspire the old-time cowgirl attitude,” said Sable Golden of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, a supporter of the event. In the past, photographs have shown about seventy cowgirls on horseback. This year, the goal is 100. Surely there are 100 cowgirls out there.
Hill Country State Natural Area, Jan. 1, 10 a.m.


Luck of the Legume
Black-eyed peas are consumed in the South on New Year’s Day to ensure good luck in the coming year. Myths abound about the connection between black-eyed peas and prosperity, and there are multiple stories about the origin of the tradition. “I think what happened is, after the war between the states, when Sherman marched to the sea, the only thing the people had to eat after that was black-eyed peas,” said Ken Maxwell, organizer of the sixth annual Black Eyed Pea and Cornbread Cookoff, which is held at his vineyard, Torre di Pietra. Wine and black-eyed peas may seem like an odd pairing, but Maxwell insists they go well together (with a bit of cornbread, his family’s customary accompaniment). He also likes spicing up the peas with pico de gallo, but don’t get too wild for the cookoff competition: the rules state that the peas must be served unadulterated. No rice or hominy. Just the legume. In a new twist this year, festivalgoers will replace one of the three judges, which means more good luck for everyone.
Torre di Pietra Winery and Vineyards, Jan. 1, 10 a.m.


Sweet Emotion
It used to be that at Emo’s, Austin’s king of rock ’n’ roll clubs, you would have to put up with gross bathrooms, unauthorized cigarette smoke and the loss of any vestige of personal space in return for a set from the next big thing. But the club has literally moved on up to the east side, to a fancy new temple for decibel elevation. The establishment has been open for a couple of months, but it will be appropriately christened on New Year’s Eve, a day after the original Emo’s closes. Drink cheap PBR tallboys while the Black Angels and Ume, both rock specialists and local favorites, litter the atmosphere with piercing waves of noise. Resolutions always sound better when they are ricocheting off loud speakers.
Emo’s, Dec. 31, 8 p.m.


Season to Eat
Shopping is exhausting, so do it at the Shops at Park Lane on the last day of its Food Truck Friday series and re-energize yourself with haute sausage from the Butcher’s Son, gourmet Korean tacos from ssahmBBQ and cupcakes from Trailercakes.
The Shops at Park Lane, Dec. 30, 11 a.m.


Night on the Townes
Fifteen years to the day alcohol felled the singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt, admirers will gather for some hair of the dog to go with tales about Mr. Van Zandt from Brian T. Atkinson’s new book, “I’ll Be Here In the Morning: The Songwriting Legacy of Townes Van Zandt.”
Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe, Jan. 1, 7 p.m.