Musicians might hole up in a remote cabin to focus on their art. Hal Ketchum, a longtime Central Texas resident, retreated to a cabin in Wimberley to get away from his. The singer-songwriter had moved back to Texas after a twenty-year run in Nashville, with country hits like “Small Town Saturday Night,” because he was burned out and suffering from multiple sclerosis. “I found pleasure in watching the stars at night and watching the sun during the afternoon,” he says in the biography on his website. “I also put out a lot of bird feeders and basically talked to myself all day long.” But Ketchum exudes music—he is still a member of the Grand Ole Opry—so eventually the songs began to flow. The result is the album I’m the Troubadour, a mix of folk, blues and soul, which he will perform on Friday to a hometown audience.
Brauntex Performing Arts Theatre, Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m., halketchum.com
A Family Affair
James McMurtry, the son of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Larry McMurtry, and Jon Dee Graham, a member of the venerable Austin rock bands the Skunks and the True Believers, make a great pair. For a long time, their double bill at the Continental Club was the highlight of every Wednesday night in Austin. (A young Gary Clark Jr. used to round out the lineup as the happy hour opener). On Saturday, McMurtry and Graham will team up again, though the location, the Strange Brew coffeehouse, will be different. And the openers will be their sons: Curtis McMurtry, who studied the banjo at Sarah Lawrence College and just released his debut album, Respectable Enemy, and William Harries Graham, a budding music writer for the Austin Chronicle and the front man for the Painted Redstarts, a band with an EP, The Living Room Project. The show is billed as Legends and Legacies and will include Sara Hickman and her daughter, Lili, plus members of the Mastersons and the Whitmores. Expect collaboration among the McMurtry and Graham men, plus new songs from Jon Dee Graham’s latest album, Do Not Forget, and James McMurtry’s much-anticipated album, Complicated Game, scheduled for release in February.
Strange Brew, Dec. 20, 8 p.m., strangebrewaustin.com
The itch usually starts around midafternoon on Christmas Day, after the presents have been opened and the holiday starts devolving into a nap or a marathon of televised sports or Turner Classics. (If you’re Jewish, this unrest begins on December 24, the final day of Hanukkah.) The need to break free from the weight of the festivities becomes overwhelming. Usually the only place to abscond to is a bar, but the Ice at Discovery Green, a 7,716-square-foot skating rink on the model-boat section of Kinder Lake, allows for stress relief without the threat of a hangover. The guilt perhaps felt from temporarily abandoning the family and that one strange uncle will be tempered by the fact that you are having environmentally conscious fun: The ice is recycled water from the surrounding lake; the power used to freeze the surface is 100 percent renewable energy; and the rink’s border is made from recycled plastic materials.
Discovery Green, Dec. 19 to Feb. 8, discoverygreen.com
A Lot of Brass
The honking sounds emitted by a tuba aren’t exactly what one might call pleasing to the ear. But at Tuba Christmas, a nationwide gathering of tuba (and euphonium and sousaphone) players jamming to holiday songs, the sound is less important than the spectacle of some 175 horns blowing in largely unrehearsed unison. Of the state’s two dozen Tuba Christmas events—a tradition that began on December 22, 1974, at the Rink at Rockefeller Plaza in New York—the one at Thanks-Giving Square in Dallas is the last of the year, on Christmas Eve. It may just be the most bombastic performance of “Silent Night” you’ll ever hear.
Thanks-Giving Square, Dec. 24, 12 p.m., tubachristmas.com
At the annual Luminaria Lighting and Posadas Celebration, hosted by the San Elizario Genealogy and Historical Society, a display of five thousand paper bags with lit candles inside will underscore a re-enactment of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter in Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus, which to many in attendance might serve as a metaphor for the immigrants who come to the United States in search of a better life.
Veterans Memorial Plaza, Dec. 20, 5 p.m., sanelizariohistoricdistrict.org
For those who refuse to let the zombie trend die, there is Zombie Apocalypse Live: Santa’s Slay, a haunted house in which participants, equipped with infrared-laser firearms, must kill off the walking dead.
13th Floor Haunted House, Dec. 19-20, 7 p.m., 13thfloorsanantonio.com