Football in January
The Houston Texans, winner of the middling AFC South, are the long shot of the playoff teams to win the Super Bowl. But the Texans still have a lot going for them, at least in the first round when they face off against the Kansas City Chiefs during Wild Card Weekend. For one thing, the game is in Houston, and while the Texans have had a spotty record at NRG Stadium, home field is always a major advantage in the playoffs. Another thing the Texans have in their favor is their opponents’ record. This may seem contrary to the facts considering the Chiefs have won ten games in a row. But winning ten straight in the NFL is tough sledding, and winning eleven straight is even tougher. Besides, the Texans have won seven of their last nine, which isn’t shabby, and they have a number 3 defense salivating over the Chiefs’ number 27 offense. Simply put, the Chiefs have to lose eventually, and the Texans, who lost at home to the Chiefs in the first game of the season, are primed to end that streak. Though the Texans could conceivably win a second playoff game on the road against the Denver Broncos to host the AFC Championship at NRG—assuming the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cincinnati Bengals and the New England Patriots—this is likely the last time J.J. Watt will get to run out onto the home field this season and go gangbusters.
NRG Stadium, January 9, 3:35 p.m., houstontexans.com
He’s Your Man
The rock musician Alejandro Escovedo, one of Austin’s musical forefathers, quietly emigrated from his stomping grounds about six months ago and resettled in Dallas, where he gigs here and there and where he’s apparently cooking up some sort of a side project with Bucks Burnett, former proprietor of the recently closed Eight Track Museum, former manager to Tiny Tim, and noted music groupie. But for now Escovedo is focused on his pursuits with his band the Alejandro Escovedo Experience. Escovedo hasn’t played in Austin since September and when he returns on Saturday for his fourth annual Leonard Cohen show, “The Leonard Cohen Influence: A Thousand Kisses Deep,” there will be cause to celebrate: the next day will be Escovedo’s sixty-fifth birthday. Indeed, Escovedo and Cohen could very well be brothers from another mother. They are both dapper dressers and seem to improve with age, both have an affinity for New York’s famed Chelsea Hotel, and both like to plumb the depths of their sorrows, triumphs, and desires for the sake of the song. Two Cohen collaborators—Julie Christensen, a backup singer and onetime resident of Austin, and Mitch Watkins, a guitarist and native of McAllen—will join other musicians in accompanying Escovedo. The performance will include songs inspired by Cohen as well as Cohen originals, one of which will likely be the classic “Suzanne,” considering Escovedo recently posted to his Facebook page a photo of Cohen and Judy Collins, who has recorded the song separately and has also performed it with him as a duet.
Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater, January 9, 8 p.m., alejandroescovedo.com
The San Antonio Cocktail Conference, which celebrates its fifth year with a four-day bingefest starting Thursday, would seem like a straightforward industry affair where mixologists with tattooed sleeves and waxed mustaches try to one-up one another with their latest concoction. And it probably is—but people on the other side of the bar can benefit too. In fact, with 174 featured beverages expected this year, and with Uber on the scene in San Antonio, this is a drinker’s dream. About four dozen presenters—including bartenders, brewers, distillers, and adult-beverage aficionados, all mostly from Texas—will preside over a number of individually ticketed workshops and seminars, with 100 percent of proceeds benefiting children’s charities. In 2013 Fodor’s Travel included the conference on its list of Best Cocktail Festivals in America, so chances are you can’t go wrong with any of the programs, but for a certifiably tasty mix of scholarship and pop culture, check out talks such as “The Cocktails of Ian Fleming and James Bond” and “Everything I Need to Know About Running a Bar I Learned from Road House.”
Various locations, January 14–17, sanantoniococktailconference.com
Black lives don’t simply matter in Brooklyn artist Kehinde Wiley’s exhibition “A New Republic,” open through this weekend at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. The show, featuring around sixty paintings and sculptures, veritably glorifies black lives. Taking cues from works by the European masters of portraiture with the bulk of his painterly pieces, Wiley portrays a hip-hop nation as powerful, with men astride horses bearing swords and women holding beheaded noggins. These paintings are particularly magnetic, cast in vibrant colors on oversized canvases with psychedelic backgrounds. Viewers will all but forget about the skin color of the persons depicted and instead see their beauty, strength, and dignity.
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, January 8–10, themodern.org
The Need for Speed
Driving a Ferrari or a Lamborghini is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people among the 99 percent. But Fittipaldi Exotic Driving is making that dream come true this weekend in Houston, with subsequent events in Fort Worth and Austin, where those eighteen and older with a valid driver’s license can burn through six laps in a Ferrari 430 Scuderia or a Lamborghini Superleggera for $419 (or a Porsche 911 Carrera S or a Nissan GT-R for a little less). There will, of course, be a “Right Seat Instructor,” to prevent damaging the goods.
MSR Houston, January 8 and 9, drivefittipaldi.com
The Great Unshaven
It would seem that beards are on the verge of being passé but for those who are diehard loyalists in the unshaven populace—in all fairness, it can be quite a commitment to grow a beard, and shaving pretty much sucks—there is the publication party for the coffee-table book Best Beards in Dallas by local photographer Brent Baxter, featuring the city’s best facial hair and the 23 men who grow it.
Sundown at Granada, January 9, 9 p.m., brentbaxterphotography.com