Siesta? No, Fiesta!
In 1891, 55 years after the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto, Ellen Slayden, the wife of San Antonio Congressman James Slayden, decided to honor those who had died fighting for the Republic of Texas. To pay respect to the fallen soldiers, she coordinated the first Battle of Flowers Parade, a procession of women who gathered near the Alamo and rode along in decorated horse-drawn carriages while they threw flower blossoms at each other and at the gathered crowds.
That single event has transformed into the eleven-day, city-wide party now called Fiesta San Antonio, or simply Fiesta. Think Mardi Gras but with bajo sextos and folk art instead of tubas and beads. Modern-day Fiesta, which starts Thursday and is celebrating its 125th anniversary—making it only a couple of years the State Fair of Texas’s junior—has grown to become an inclusive affair celebrating the region’s booming ethnic diversity.
While the Battle of Flowers Parade remains a huge draw, with more than a quarter-million onlookers, there’s so much more to do. In fact, the breadth of Fiesta’s offerings can be positively disorienting. It’s okay to ask for help. Just look for the people in yellow hats and dresses—the all-female, all-volunteer group that produces the event. They’re a fount of information on the many free and paid events, and are full of historical anecdotes. If you’re anxious to get the party started, on Sunday, four days before the official open, a Fiesta-sanctioned Mariachi Mass is scheduled at the San Fernando Cathedral.
Various locations, April 14-24, www.fiesta-sa.org
Holland for Guv
The Emmy-winning actress Holland Taylor met former Texas governor Ann Richards only once, in 2004 during a lunch at Le Cirque in Manhattan with gossip columnist Liz Smith. And yet Taylor, inspired by Richards’s spunky personality, relentless drive, and unapologetic nature, has committed herself deeply to the state’s forty–fifth governor. Taylor’s portrayal of Richards in the one-woman play Ann—big, white, beehive hair and all—has become the defining role in an already memorable career that includes roles on Bosom Buddies, Two and a Half Men, and The Practice.
Taylor wrote the play, which explores Richards’s rise as an organizer and downfall as an alcoholic, with lots of zingers uttered by Taylor throughout. In 2013, Taylor took the show to Broadway and earned a Tony nomination for Best Actress. After a hiatus, she is bringing the production back to the governor’s old stomping grounds, Austin, where she is bound to get an enthusiastic, inspiring response from an audience who experienced the greatness of Richards when she was still alive.
Zach Theatre, April 8 to May 15, zachtheatre.org
Last year, Billy Gibbons, ZZ Top’s lead singer and ace guitarist, took a break from the band to put out his own record, Perfectamundo, and tour on its behalf. Yet even though it was a solo effort, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to the Houston boogie-rock band at this advanced stage in their career, which is nearing its fifth decade. A hiatus from the grind can be rejuvenating for all. The threesome should feel refreshed and stoked about being back together for their current run. Thursday’s Lubbock show is part of the Hell Raisers Tour, which harkens to the song “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” from the classic 1973 album Tres Hombres. The presumption would then be that ZZ Top wants you to have an especially good time and is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that happens. If anything, Gibbons will want to reclaim the ZZ Top song “Tush,” which Miranda Lambert stole when she fabulously covered it live at the Country Music Awards.
Lonestar Events Center, April 14, 7 p.m., zztop.com
Guided by Voices
“Remote Houston” is an audience-participation theater piece masked as a city tour. For each “performance,” fifty people gather in a Houston cemetery, put on headphones, and listen to a recorded robot voice direct them on a ninety-minute trek. Designer Stefan Kaegi described the experience as “an artificial identity that seems to know everything about you. There is something very seducing in the voice explaining and telling you what to do, where.” Venture forth and you will see previously unseen things and be asked to perform random commands. You may be a little apprehensive along the way, but it’s good to occasionally lose control.
Evergreen Cemetery, April 12 to May 13, alleytheatre.org
Music junkies looking for a festival fix after SXSW and before the one-two punch of ACL and Fun Fun Fun, will have a hard time doing better than the Old Settler’s Music Festival. The ages-old event usually gets the best weather, has arguably the best location—in the woods near a creek by the Salt Lick—and, this year, will feature Wimberley and Austin musicians Sarah Jarosz and Hayes Carll, who are promoting their new albums, along with Jay Farrar, who will play songs from his old album Trace, by his old band Son Volt.
Salt Lick Pavilion and Camp Ben McCulloch, April 14-17, oldsettlersmusicfest.org
The five residences on the 15th Annual Turtle Creek Tour of Homes are fabulous and expensive—four in tall buildings, one a single-family home, all with significant art collections—and might inspire just a bit of envy. But mostly, they’ll prime you for the lifestyles of The Real Housewives of Dallas, debuting the following night.
Various locations, April 10, 1 p.m., turtlecreekassociation.org