Kind of Blue
In a state that claims an astoundingly long list of marquee bluesmen, among them Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, T-Bone Walker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Johnny Winter, the Vaughan brothers, and Gary Clark Jr., Mance Lipscomb can seem like a no-name. Yet the Navasota native, who would have celebrated his one-hundred-and-twentieth birthday this year, is the only one of the batch who seems to have his own festival. The Navasota Blues Fest, held in remembrance of Lipscomb, who died in 1976, enters its twentieth year this weekend with two days of live music and a workshop on how to make cigar-box guitars. Lipscomb’s 1960 album Texas Sharecropper and Songster was the very first LP pressed by Arhoolie Records, the noted California label of vernacular music. Chris Strachwitz, Arhoolie’s founder, went to Texas to record Lipscomb, an arrangement facilitated by noted Houston ethnomusicologist Mack McCormick, who provided liner notes for the album. Although Lipscomb is considered by most to be a blues musician, regarded for playing the acoustic guitar with a monotonic bass style of fingerpicking, he considered himself a “songster,” meaning he wasn’t relegated exclusively to playing the blues but instead the blues were a subset of an oeuvre that included all kinds of traditional and popular numbers. This opens up the doors for the fest’s featured performers, who aren’t hardcore blues musicians like the aforementioned forefathers. Nor are they topped by a bluesman but rather a blueswoman, who also happens to play folk, soul, and gospel: Ruthie Foster, the Grammy-nominated Gause native.
Grimes County Expo Center, August 14 & 15, navasotabluesfest.org
Crack of Dawn
James Lipton, the intense host of the TV show Inside the Actors Studio, would likely get off on watching The Director’s Chair, a monthly, hour-long talk show hosted by the Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez on his very own El Rey Network. That’s because Rodriguez delves into the craft as deeply and with as much precision as his character Machete does his victims. The two-part August 2014 episode featuring Rodriguez in conversation with longtime buddy and collaborator Quentin Tarantino is like two Buddhas rapping atop Film Mountain. During the program they discuss one of their earliest projects together: the 1996 movie From Dusk Till Dawn, directed by Rodriguez and starring George Clooney alongside Tarantino, who also wrote the script. “The way you frame is very . . .” Rodriguez begins. “I remember actually trying to do Quentin framing when we did Dusk Till Dawn. There’s a scene in the hotel room, when—” Tarantino cuts him off, “Shot through the doors, frames inside of frames and everything.” Rodriguez replies, “And you came over and said, ‘That’s a really interesting shot.’ And I go, ‘Well, I’m trying to shoot like you. I would never have thought to ever shoot this way.’ But I’m realizing this is probably how Quentin would shoot it cause it’s kind of written to be very voyeuristic.” Tarantino quips, “The more Quentin-esque sequences in the film.” “Yeah, very much,” Rodriguez concedes. On Saturday From Dusk Till Dawn will enjoy a free screening at the Paramount Theatre, sponsored by the Austin Film Society, followed by a Q&A with Rodriguez. It might be a good time to ask if the movie, which lives on in a different form, as a TV series on EL Rey, did in fact enable Rodriguez to come up with two firsts of his own: Clooney’s first Hollywood film role, which he scored after Tarantino directed him in an episode of ER, and Tarantino’s first paid writing gig, earning him a cool $1,500.
Paramount Theatre, August 15, 7 p.m., austinfilm.org
The Devil’s Music
Robert Johnson, the bluesman who is said to have sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads, was an itinerant musician from Mississippi who in 1937 recorded almost half of his 29-song output in Dallas, for Brunswick Records and Vocalion Records. The location of the session was 508 Park Avenue, from which sprang forth songs including “Love in Vain,” covered by the Rolling Stones, and “Traveling Riverside Blues,” covered by Led Zeppelin. The Art Deco building all but turned into a crack den until the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas purchased it, in 2011. Now it exists as Encore Park, a new multifunctional space with an amphitheater and future plans for an art gallery, a museum, and cultural programs for the homeless and at-risk population served by the church’s outreach unit, the Stewpot. At a VIP show on Friday and a Saturday show for the general public, the present will bridge the past when the 508 Amphitheater hosts the Robert Johnson Blues Revue, fronted by Robert Johnson’s grandson, Steven Johnson. They will be preceded by an opening act, the Dallas Street Choir, comprised of more than forty homeless singers.
Encore Park, August 15, 7:30 p.m., 508park.org
Aspiring actors shouldn’t simply sit in the audience for the 2015–16 season at the Tony Award–winning Alley Theatre, feeling envious or allowing their talents to be frittered away while watching productions like 2014 Tony winner All the Way, about President Lyndon Johnson’s efforts to pass the Civil Rights Act during the Vietnam War; Travesties, a comedy about interactions with the Irish writer James Joyce, the Dada artist Tristan Tzara, and the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, by four-time Tony-winning playwright Tom Stoppard; and The Night of the Iguana, a Tennessee Williams short story turned Tony-nominated play about love gone wrong south of the border. Instead, would-be thespians should be brave and bold and summon the nerve to update their headshots and résumés. They should go about perfecting a one-to-three-minute monologue. After that, they should attend the Alley Theatre’s Seasonal Auditions (by appointment only), held on Tuesday, August 18. Only then will they have a chance to make their dreams a reality, by earning the right to take the stage as a character, or even an understudy, during the company’s inaugural season in its freshly renovated facility.
Alley Theatre, August 18, alleytheatre.org
The White Knight
To the establishment, Emiliano Zapata was an outlaw and a traitor, but to the artists in the exhibit “Viva Zapata!” open through this weekend, he was a hero of the Mexican Revolution. To wit, in one of the show’s featured prints, Agrarian Leader Zapata, Mexican modernist master Diego Rivera depicts him as almost godlike, decked in all white, leading into battle a white horse and a flock of peasants also dressed in white.
McNay Art Museum, August 14–16, mcnayart.org
Stand-up paddleboarders commonly exhibit utter coolness as they glide atop bodies of water, but at the third annual Sup Cup, the paddleboard will transform from a vessel of tranquility into one of almost wild abandon, as paddlers of various skill levels take to the Colorado River, in between enjoying food and live music, for competitions that test speed, endurance, and skill, all in pursuit of $2,500 in prize money.
Old Iron Bridge, August 14 & 15, bastropsupcup.com