Blue Dog and Bush
It’s not everyone who has the gumption to tell a First Lady “no.” Yet that’s exactly what George Rodrigue, the Louisiana artist known for his Blue Dog paintings depicting the Cajun ghost dog known as “loup-garou,” said to Barbara Bush in the eighties, when he was commissioned to paint a portrait of George H.W. Bush surrounded by his ten grandchildren. (Rodrigue had already painted Ronald Reagan and would later paint Bill Clinton.) When the piece was finished, it appealed so much to Mrs. Bush that she requested Rodrigue add her, but he declined on the grounds that it would compromise the composition. Nonetheless, the painting hung in the White House during 41’s term and now has a permanent residence in his home office in Houston. It will make a special appearance during the last weekend of the “Rodrigue: Houston” retrospective. The show features 75 paintings capturing Louisiana landscapes, Cajun culture, and his famous dog, which Rodrigue, who died in 2013, modeled after his own deceased dog, Tiffany. The exhibition includes 20 paintings never before displayed in public—including the 9/11-inspired “God Bless America” and the Hurricane Katrina-inspired “We Will Rise Again”—from the personal collection of Houston businessman Don Sanders, former minority owner of the Astros. This reveal is commemorated with a book, Rodrigue: The Sanders Collection, featuring a foreword by Sanders’s and Rodrigue’s mutual friend, MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan. In addition to his Rolodex of famous Houston friends, Rodrigue has strong ties to the Bayou City. In the eighties, he used to sell his art out of the trunk of his car at places like Ray Hay’s Cajun Po-Boys, Bonnie’s Steak and Seafood, and the original Landry’s. Also, at a Houston flea market, Rodrigue found the “Kiss Me I’m Cajun” t-shirt worn by his son Andre in the painting of the same name, on view during this exhibition for the first time in Texas. “When I found that shirt in Houston,” Rodrigue once said, “I knew that the Cajun culture was finally becoming known outside of Louisiana.”
West Ave, July 17-19, georgerodrigue.com
Old Wives’ Tales
The folk rocker Sam Beam, who performs as Iron and Wine, has five kids. The birth of each was special in its own right, but the first, well, that was magical—at least for Beam’s wife, Kim. It inspired her to abandon her full-time pursuits as a sculptor and performance artist, and train to become a midwife. On Friday, Beam will return to Austin, where he lived for 8 years before recently relocating to Durham, North Carolina, for his annual Midwives Benefit concert. Proceeds go to Human Rights in Childbirth, Mercy in Action, and the Midwives Alliance of North America. According to a piece on Texas Public Radio earlier this week, 9 percent of American women choose to have a midwife-led birth—which is not uncommonly conducted in the home—but it’s suggested that those numbers are on the rise because of an increased number of midwives now working in hospitals and birthing centers. Expect Beam to run through his catalog, from whispered-word acoustic numbers to grandiose full-band jams. This will no doubt include tracks from the 2015 release, Iron and Wine: Archive Series, Volume No. 1 (with 16 home recordings and live songs predating his 2002 Sub Pop debut, The Creek Drank the Cradle) and perhaps even some music from Sing Into My Mouth, an album of covers sung with Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses, out Friday.
Paramount Theatre, July 17, 8 p.m., ironandwine.com
Get into the Groove
This is turning out to be the year of San Antonio Tex-Mex musician Doug Sahm. The documentary Sir Doug & The Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove premiered at South by Southwest, and last month a slew of personalities—including musicians T Bone Burnett, Steve Earle, and Billy Gibbons, and filmmakers Mike Judge, Richard Linklater, and Robert Rodriguez—banded together in a campaign to get Sahm inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Viva Big Bend Music Festival, the four-day Far West Texas happening, will also fall into the groove. On opening night there will be an All-Star Tribute to Doug Sahm featuring Sahm’s son Shawn Sahm, along with Joe King Carrasco, Terri Hendrix with Lloyd Maines, and Kevin Russell of Shinyribs. This is one of more than 60 live shows at 10 venues for the festival now in its fourth year, with other acts including Grupo Fantasma, Sarah Jaffe, and Butch Hancock of the Flatlanders.
Various locations, July 23-26, vivabigbend.com
In Praise of Skeeters
Perhaps because of their ability to carry diseases, mosquitos are one of the most dangerous insects known to man. But that hasn’t stopped the City of Clute from celebrating the bloodsuckers during its Great Texas Mosquito Festival, now in its thirty-fifth year. Believe it or not, there is a Mosquito Calling contest, in which participants woo mosquitoes with their voice, as well as a Mosquito Legs competition, which seems to award participants who either have spindly legs, like a mosquito, or legs that are ravaged by mosquito bites. But the main attraction that draws more than 13,000 to the festival grounds, presided over by Willie-Man-Chew, a 26-foot tall inflatable mosquito with cowboy hat and boots, is the live music, featuring pesky old-timers David Allan Coe and Ray Wylie Hubbard.
B.R. Hester Complex, July 23-25, mosquitofestival.com
Royales with Cheese
By order of a resolution passed by the Eightieth Legislature, Friona is the Cheeseburger Capital of Texas, thanks in no small part to the combination of nearby Cargill Meat Solutions, which processes about 2 million head of cattle per year, and more than a dozen dairies in Parmer County, making it one of the top milk producers in the state. Every July at the Cheeseburger Festival this distinction is put to the test, as 20 teams each cook 200 third-pound burgers for public consumption.
Downtown, July 18, 11:30 a.m., frionachamber.com
Up, Up, and Away
This is the fourth consecutive and final year that Longview’s Great Texas Balloon Race, a multi-day hot-air-balloon event around since 1978, will host the Balloon Federation of America’s U.S. National Championship. This allows for double the ballooning and opportunities to see the giant orbs day and night, with morning flights Tuesday through Sunday over Longview and Kilgore, and balloon “glows” Friday and Saturday evenings.
East Texas Regional Airport, July 21-26, greattexasballoonrace.com