Elliott Smith, the Dallas-raised lo-fi singer-songwriter, died tragically in his prime. In 2003, scarcely five years after his song “Miss Misery” from the movie Good Will Hunting was nominated for an Oscar, the 34-year-old was the victim of two deadly knife wounds to the chest. To this day, it’s not known whether the cause of death was murder or suicide. The truth may never be known, but Smith’s legacy will live on regardless, through his music and through the new documentary, Heaven Adores You, which enjoys its only Texas pre-release screening on Friday, at the Texas Theatre. Nickolas Rossi, the film’s director, hatched the movie out of a short video he shot in the wake of Smith’s death, focusing on the red, white, and blue wall outside of the Solutions electronics store in Los Angeles that appeared on the cover of Smith’s 2000 album Figure 8—it had been transformed into a memorial. Rossi documents Smith’s childhood in Dallas through interviews with friends and music that Smith made at an early age. But Rossi eschewed forcing any connections between the abusive relationship Smith had with his stepdad in Dallas and the well-documented drug abuse Smith suffered from later in life. “We establish the relationship between Elliott, his mom, Bunny, his half-sister, Ashley, and his step-dad, Charlie, including the subsequent closure between Elliott and Charlie shortly before his death, but we chose to really focus on Elliott’s music,” Rossi said. After the screening, Kevin Moyer, the movie’s music supervisor and one of its producers, will give a talk, and then a tribute concert will follow, featuring Smith’s tender, evocative songs.
The Texas Theatre, March 13, 8 p.m., thetexastheatre.com
Nowadays, a concert poster is usually a jpeg file, created on a computer and distributed through social media. But back in the sixties, seventies, and eighties artists used to actually apply ink to paper by hand, produce copies without the convenience of laser printers, and, using little more than shoe leather, tack them up around town. Some of the best concert poster artists of the era are featured in “Homegrown: Austin Music Posters, 1967 to 1982,” the exhibit ongoing at the Wittliff Collections since January. See more than 140 authentic posters and handbills, rivaling those made in San Francisco during the counterculture. There are visions by Kerry Awn, Jim Franklin, Danny Garrett, and Micael Priest, who promoted iconic acts like Willie Nelson, Doug Sahm, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the 13th Floor Elevators when gigging at classic joints like Antone’s, Armadillo World Headquarters, Soap Creek Saloon, and Vulcan Gas Company. This exhibit is paired with a second exhibit, “Armadillo Rising: Austin’s Music Scene in the 1970’s,” which puts the posters into historical context with items from the TV show “Austin City Limits” and the newly acquired collection of Jerry Retzloff, the marketing man known for keeping musicians fully supplied with his Lone Star brand beer to keep the party going. Together, the exhibits are a great primer on how Austin came to be the so-called live music capital of the world and home to SXSW.
The Wittliff Collections, March 13 to July 3, thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu
Though it has grown three times its original size in only its second year, the Marfa Myths Festival, a three-day lollapalooza of music, film, and art in far West Texas, is still a mere fraction of a fraction of the size of SXSW. And that’s a good thing, because it means that more than a few select people who started standing in line twelve hours in advance for a particular show or program can also partake. Let Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, the ambient and drone multi-instrumentalist, cleanse your synapses with a ninety-minute “sound bath” at a holistic wellness center. Learn how not to be indoctrinated into a cult at the screening of the three-hour epic Holy Cow Swami, about Swami Bhaktipada, the wayward Hare Krishna leader who pleaded guilty to racketeering in order to avoid much more sinister charges. Or perhaps glean home-landscaping tips from Ballroom Marfa’s exhibition of works by the artist Sam Falls, drawn from his 2014 residency in Marfa during which he was inspired to convert a pick-up truck into a hirsute bed of succulents and other vegetation. The weekend event, produced by the New York music label Mexican Summer, is probably weirder than Austin could be, especially in its increasingly cosmopolitan condition.
Various locations, March 13-15, ballroommarfa.org
Live Music Capital of North Texas
For proof that day parties at SXSW aren’t all full of lame crowds angling for party favor freebies, look to the 2005 event “NX35: The Afternoon Party of the Other, Smaller Music Town in Texas.” It was staged on the east side of Austin far before gentrification was a reality there—at that point, a totally off-the-map venture. But nobody lost their mind on free beer, and consequently, careers the likes of Denton acts Midlake and Sarah Jaffe were allowed to blossom. More importantly, the shindig gave way in 2009 to Denton 35, the three-day music festival with more than 250 acts from across the spectrum, another iteration of which will take place this weekend. Customer satisfaction can be predicated on music goers’ penchant for imbibing (perhaps too much) while listening to live rock and roll, so certain things were taken into consideration, like the walkability between venues and $20 vouchers for a certain ride-sharing app.
Various locations, March 13-15, 35denton.com
The Piano Man
Young people still play classical music because of mentors like James Dick, the internationally lauded concert pianist and founder of the Round Top Festival Institute, where the best student musicians from around the world convene each summer to learn the finer points of their craft. Join Dick for dinner Saturday night and ask him about his inspiration, or concentrate on his Saturday afternoon solo performance of Menotti, Beethoven, Poulenc, and Ginastera, and allow the music to speak for itself.
Round Top Festival Institute, March 14, 3 p.m., festivalhill.org
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s hit musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, like its prequel, Jesus Christ Superstar, succeeds by passing on Biblical wisdom through song rather than preaching, and Houston—whose top tourism attraction is apparently Joel and Victoria Osteen’s Lakewood Church, according to the Houston Chronicle—is the only Texas stop on the production’s national tour.
Theatre Under the Stars, March 17-29, tuts.com