The Theory of Evolution
The Austin musician Jonathan Meiburg is like the Charles Darwin of rock. By day he studies the natural world as an ornithologist with research in far-flung locales, and by night he fronts his band Shearwater, an outfit that is constantly evolving in its lineup and its sound. Meiburg calls Jet Plane and Oxbow, Shearwater’s critically acclaimed ninth album and second with the vaunted Seattle label Sub Pop, an attempt at making a protest record without sounding preachy. “My work often takes me outside the USA for a month or more at a stretch, and every time I come back there’s a period of a few days when the place I think of as home seems alien,” Meiburg said. “It’s an uncomfortable feeling but also really valuable. I see aspects of its beauty and ugliness that I normally ignore. I wanted Jet Plane and Oxbow to live in that in-between place.” Meiburg’s politics are perhaps most evident on “Quiet Americans,” a song that could be interpreted as commentary on privilege and apathy. It’s one of many songs that help define the album as thoroughly propulsive, pulsating with percussive elements like crotales, bullroarers, and a hammered dulcimer and singed with electric undercurrents. “One of the first sounds you hear is a wonderful little synth I bought for the album called a Korg Lambda, which dates from 1980,” Meiburg said. “I wanted to anchor the sound of the record around that time, when digital technology was new in the world of recording and full of possibility and menace.” Shearwater will commence its world tour next week with two Texas shows, first in Austin and then in Dallas. Meiburg is a big David Bowie fan, so expect some cover songs. “We’ve been playing Bowie’s entire Lodger album in rehearsals,” he said. “I’d been planning to cover it, in pieces, on this tour for months, and it’s been fascinating taking it apart and figuring out what makes it work.
The North Door, February 3, 8 p.m., shearwatermusic.com
Roses Are Red
Late-night romance is a sure thing this Valentine’s Day if you participate in the Briscoe Western Art Museum’s program “Pony Express Love Letters.” Between February 2 and 11, visit the museum and write a letter to your significant other using, get this, a pen and paper. (For those whose handwriting has become compromised by their reliance on a keyboard, there will also be vintage typewriters available.) Because texting heart and lips emoji is the most common form of communication, the recipient of your written adoration will appreciate you exponentially more with this old-world effort. Once your letter is done, the museum will hand-deliver it at no charge via bike messenger—a hat tip to the Pony Express, the short-lived, mid-nineteenth-century mail-delivery enterprise with horse-bound carriers. If the recipient lives outside San Antonio, the letter will be sent through regular mail. Not much of a wordsmith? The cadence of the nursery rhyme “Roses are red” is always a good place to start. C’mon, this will cost you nothing and it’s going to work wonders on your Valentine.
The Briscoe Western Art Museum, February 2–11, briscoemuseum.org
Bon Ton Roula
Umbrellas are a Mardi Gras staple. They’re as much a form of function, for keeping the sun at bay, as they are of style, for wielding fancifully during a second-line strut. Mardi Gras Galveston, entering its one-hundred-and-fifth incarnation as the biggest celebration of its kind in Texas, pops open the umbrellas right from the start: the Funky Uptown Umbrella Brigade will parade down the street with parasols and conclude with a group performance of the Hokey Pokey. With 350,000 people expected for the twelve-day celebration featuring 24 parades, 20 balcony parties, and more than 30 concerts, all in addition to the usual revelry downtown and on the new Pleasure Pier, Mardi Gras Galveston offers a more than respectable version of the New Orleans bacchanal. There is even a day designed for kids, Family Gras, where everyone can get a laugh watching the animals in the Krewe of Barkus & Meoux Parade.
Downtown, January 29 to February 9, mardigrasgalveston.com
The Collectivity Project gives new meaning to community building. This interactive exhibit, on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is made up of some 580,000 white Legos for the general public to utilize in the construction of various structures. The display has ebbed and swelled since opening on October 16, when students from the Rice University School of Architecture and Texas Southern University collaborated on erecting the initial buildings. Now it’s a full-blown skyline. The brain behind the Collectivity Project is the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, who has hosted the display in Tirana, Albania; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Oslo, Norway; as well as New York City, at the High Line. This is the last weekend to make sure the Houston iteration bears your mark.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, January 29–31, mfah.org
About a half a century after Dallas became the unwitting site of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination the city has turned its attention to another assassinated president, Abraham Lincoln. An auction of Lincoln memorabilia held there last week fetched more than $800,000, including $25,000 for a lock of Lincoln’s hair. Next week the theme continues when Dallas welcomes Stephen Harrigan, the historical author and Texas Monthly writer-at-large, who will present his new work of fiction, A Friend of Mr. Lincoln, about the influence of a poet on Lincoln during his early manhood.
Highland Park United Methodist Church, February 4, 7 p.m., hpumc.org
A stick, a string, and a box is all one needs to make a cigar-box guitar, according to Tomas Salas and W.T. Bryant, whose creations are on display in the “Cigar Box Guitar Exhibit,” open through this weekend. The instruments are available for sale, and while they might seem more like toys than the real thing, consider that cigar-box guitars have been played by the likes of Billy Gibbons, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and B.B. King.
Texas Folklife House Gallery, January 29–31, texasfolklife.org