Earlier this year Jester King, the internationally known Austin brewery, announced the purchase of 58 acres of ranchland surrounding its property off U.S. 290. Its intentions were twofold: to protect the rugged, natural terrain from greedy developers, and to create a working farm that supplies not only the ingredients for its beers but also, as the enterprise diversifies, for various foods, plus wine and spirits. One component of the farm is to cultivate a brewer’s garden, rich with herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, and even grains. “Our philosophy is to create beer that’s tied to a time and place,” said Jeffrey Stuffings, Jester King’s founder and owner. “These days, through modern technology and global transportation, it’s possible to replicate the same flavors and aromas in beer virtually anywhere on earth. Our garden at Jester King has helped us make beer that’s connected to the land around the brewery.” This Saturday homebrewers can learn from Stuffings, brewer Sean Spiller, and engineer Ian Steigmeyer about how to grow their own ingredients for farmhouse ales at “The Homebrewers Garden,” a hands-on workshop hosted in partnership with Farmshare Austin. The first half of the day Farmshare Austin will teach homebrewers how to create a garden, and in the afternoon the Jester King guys will show how to integrate its offerings into the beer-making process. The experience could provide just the edge a homebrewer needs to take his or her beer to a commercial level. “These days, almost all beer makers are using the same manipulated water profiles; malt and hops from the same few suppliers; yeast from the same labs; and brew kits from the same manufacturers,” Stuffings said. “Beer tastes remarkably uniform around the world. I have a desire to add something original to the beer world, and working with native microorganisms and ingredients from the land around us has been critical to this end.”
Farmshare Austin, May 28, 9 a.m., farmshareaustin.org
Dancing With Alligators
There is no doubt that the Neon Desert Music Festival, entering its sixth year, is coming into its own. Attendance at last year’s two-day affair swelled close to 20,000 per day. That number should inch upward this year for a couple of reasons. Not only have festival organizers booked one of the hottest rappers in the game, Future, but they’ve slotted arguably the world’s most popular deejay, Tiësto. It’s all part of the plan to offer musical acts in two genres largely underrepresented at other major music festivals in Texas: hip-hop and dance. Among the former, Ludacris and Tyler, the Creator are slated to perform, and of the latter, Daddy Yankee and Carnage will appear. But fest-goers shouldn’t sweat the prospect of increased crowds. This year the festival—with local bands making up around half of its fifty-act lineup—will get to take advantage of San Jacinto Plaza. This focal point of downtown reopened in April after three years of renovation. It has enhanced green space with trees, benches, and both chess and Ping-Pong tables, in addition to the restored sculpture “Los Lagartos,” symbolizing the alligators that once hung out in the park. The addition of the plaza will expand the overall blueprint of Neon Desert to fifteen freewheeling city blocks.
Downtown, May 28–29, neondesertmusicfestival.com
Arc at Stark
Stark Naked Theatre Company, a perennial contender in the Houston Theater Awards, was built on the idea of nurturing the careers of local stage actors and creating opportunity for them in their hometown. Yet for the final production of their 2015–16 season, Stark Naked will temporarily abandon that mission by importing the Off Broadway company Bedlam for an interpretation of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan, about the life and trial of Joan of Arc. (New York actors? Get a rope.) With glowing reviews from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal—“No theater troupe in America is doing more creative classical revivals,” wrote Terry Treachout in the Journal—Bedlam seems to be a legitimate exception to the Houston-to-the-core rule set forth by Stark Naked’s executive directors, the husband-and-wife duo Philip and Kim Lehl. Both were actors in New York and Los Angeles prior to meeting in Houston and forming Stark Naked in 2011. Bedlam first produced Saint Joan in 2012 and immediately garnered attention for its novel retelling in which one female actress plays Joan of Arc and three male actors play more than twenty other characters, with audience members rearranged between acts as a way to integrate them into the story.
Spring Street Studios, June 2–18, starknakedtheatre.com
Harmony has to be one of the most beautiful aspects of music. It’s like when two amazing dancers become one; they exhibit technical mastery but make it seem effortlessly natural. A great example of this is the collaboration between Sam Beam, the former Dripping Springs folkie who usually plays as Iron & Wine, and Jesca Hoop, a California native who parlayed being a nanny for Tom Waits’s children into a successful solo career. Together they’ve released the album Love Letter for Fire, a batch of duets in the style of tender conversations between the likes of Kenny and Dolly, and George and Tammy. The album follows Sing Into My Mouth, an album of cover songs that Beam, as Iron & Wine, recorded with Ben Bridwell of the guitar-rock group Band of Horses. Beam, who had long been searching for the right voice for a duets album, discovered Hoop, whose album Kismet he was particularly fond of, and knew she was the right one to share in not just singing, but also writing, which was a first for him. Saturday’s show at the Kessler is their only Texas date.
Kessler Theater, May 28, 8 p.m., subpop.com
I’ll Drink to That
Adult-beverage enthusiasts might not want to attend any of the performances of This Side of the Dirt, Tito Beveridge’s dramedy—yes, that Tito Beveridge, Austin proprietor of Tito’s Handmade Vodka—about a giant ranching family coming apart at the seams, simply because they want Beveridge to stick with his day job. But missing the play would deprive them of genuine laughs—and not the kind artificially prompted by pre-curtain cocktails.
Dougherty Arts Center, June 2–4, 9–11, 16–18, facebook.com/thissideofthedirt
Robert Ellis left Houston for Nashville to record his self-titled third album, a step away from country and a step toward what he likens to the pop of Paul Simon and Randy Newman, but there appears to be no hard feelings between city and son: Ellis will commence his tour in his hometown with two free shows, first indoors at Cactus Music on Wednesday and then outdoors at Discovery Green on Thursday.
Cactus Music, June 1, 5:30 p.m. and Discovery Green, June 2, 7 p.m., robertellismusic.com