X Marks the Spot
When people think the Summer X Games, it’s hard not to think Tony Hawk. The golden god of skateboarding was part of the huge swell of alternative-sport athletes who made the annual X Games happen in the first place, twenty years ago, in the summer of 1995. Hawk has been a fixture ever since, either as a competitor or an ambassador. In 1999, at the X Games in San Francisco, he landed the first ever 900 during a competition—an unimaginable vertical ramp maneuver during which he spun 900 degrees in the air—and then immediately retired from competitive skating. Last year, at the first of four consecutive X Games slated to be held in Austin, he wowed spectators during opening day exhibition activities by catching major air and pulling off nifty tricks on a vert ramp stationed in front of the Capitol. At this year’s X Games, 47-year-old Hawk will be relegated to holding a microphone, as an X Games commentator. (See videos on the website of Hawk interviewing members of Metallica, who, along with Nicki Minaj, are the music headliners for this year’s affair.) There will, however, be another Hawk playing the field: Chase Hawk, a BMX freestyle biker from Austin, who medaled on his home turf last year for the first time in eight X Games, winning gold in BMX Park. Hawk Number Two is one of seven Texans competing. They will join about two hundred other athletes, in sports involving skateboarding, BMX, motorbikes, off-road trucks, and rally cars. The age range is extreme, just like the games: the youngest athlete is Alana Smith, a 14-year-old skater who started competing two years ago, and the oldest is Rusty Wallace, a 58-year-old retired NASCAR driver competing in off-road truck racing.
Downtown and Circuit of the Americas, June 4-7, xgames.espn.go.com/xgames/
Love at First Listen
After nearly four decades, Robert Earl Keen’s musical career has come full circle. While a student at Texas A&M, in the mid-seventies, he got turned on to bluegrass master Bill Monroe and promptly started his own bluegrass band, the Front Porch Boys, named after the house he was living in at 302 Church Street, where he also jammed with his buddy Lyle Lovett. Fast forward to February of this year, when Keen, cut from the Texas singer-songwriter mold, returned to his first love with his twelfth studio album, Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions. Lloyd Maines, father to Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, produced the album, and it includes Natalie on the folk song “Wayfaring Stranger,” a piece Monroe had played, and Lovett on the Jimmie Rodgers’ tune “T for Texas,” plus covers of songs by other bluegrass icons like the Carter Family, Flatt and Scruggs, and the Stanley Brothers. For Keen’s current tour, which passes through Forth Worth on Friday and Graham on Saturday, he’ll play 45 minutes of bluegrass, take an intermission, and then drop a bucket into the well of his oeuvre. It’s as much a chance for REK diehards to see their man as it is to learn about an endangered genre of music.
Billy Bob’s Texas on June 5 and Graham Drive-In Theatre on June 6, robertearlkeen.com
Free at Last
President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect January 1, 1863, calling for an end to slavery in the U.S. But Texas didn’t get the memo until two and a half years later, when, on June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, a slave-trade port, and implemented the president’s executive order. There are a few theories for the prolonged delay: some think the original messenger of freedom was murdered en route, yet others believe the news was purposely withheld to eke out labor for one last cotton harvest. Either way, or neither at all, it was a bittersweet moment and will be celebrated in two ways during Galveston’s 21-day span of commemorative activities: first, as the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, which is celebrated nationwide, and second, as the thirty-fifth anniversary of Juneteenth becoming a Texas state holiday. Barbecues, church services, and parades will anchor singular events that tie in local characters of cultural importance, such as the 104th annual Juneteenth Family Day at Stringfellow Orchards, the historical garden property of Henry Martyn Stringfellow, an internationally recognized horticulturalist and progressive employer of African American workers; and Juneteenth at Jack Johnson Park, so named in honor of the Galveston-born boxer, who was the first African American heavyweight champion.
Various locations, June 7-27, galveston.com/juneteenth/
After the Flood
The Free Press Summer Festival is Houston’s answer to the Austin City Limits Music Festival. A few days of excellent live music after a few downer days of flooding is just what H-Town could use right about now. In its seventh year, the FPSF strikes a remarkable balance of talent between Texas acts and national acts. The former showcase the breadth and diversity of the state’s offerings, with Austin blues guitar virtuoso Gary Clark Jr., Dallas avant-rock multi-instrumentalist St. Vincent, Denton electro-pop upstart Sarah Jaffe, Austin psych-rockers Bright Light Social Hour, Austin heavy metal act the Sword, and Houston singer-songwriter Robert Ellis. Meanwhile, the rest of the lineup includes some of today’s biggest draws among those in the know, like outlaw-country singer Sturgill Simpson, garage-rock guitarist Benjamin Booker, synth-pop group Future Islands, stadium rockers Band of Horses, and Skrillex, the DJ who likes to let the beat . . . drop.
NRG Park, June 6-7, 11 a.m., fpsf.com
Next week’s fourth annual Oak Cliff Film Festival is screening movies that embrace No Wave Cinema, the DIY-style flicks born in New York in the seventies that concentrate less on narrative and more on vibe. This niche genre will come into sharp focus with approximately 25 features and 50 short films that cover the spectrum, from Tangerine, director Sean Baker’s 2015 Sundance entry on alternative life in Los Angeles, which he shot using an iPhone, to a 35mm screening of Permanent Vacation, director Jim Jarmusch’s first feature film, an ode to New York City hipsters that was released in 1980.
Various locations, June 11-14, oakclifffilmfestival.com
The Final Sermon
The noise is coming to an end 35 years after the great American hellraiser Al Jourgensen founded Ministry, the industrial metal band whose Grammy-nominated, anti–Gulf War, George H.W. Bush–bashing song “N.W.O.” earned it a spot in the second Lollapalooza. The group’s tour in support of its final album, From Beer to Eternity, has already stopped in Houston and will next hit Pharr, Austin, and, lastly, El Paso, where Jourgensen recently lived—and kicked heroin.
Tricky Falls, June 8, 8 p.m., alfuckingjourgensen.com