Texas®

In this coming week or two following the Turkey Day that’s just passed, there will be some notable bands and tours cutting through our state as a part of some really major tours. Wilco will make their way into Dallas on November 29th and into Austin on December 1st, for example. That’s pretty big, right?

Well, Wilco’s great, but things get even more epic and more arena-rocking in the week after Jeff Tweedy and roll through.

Perhaps the biggest, most anticipated concert tour of the year will hit our state once Jay-Z and Kanye West bring their Watch The Throne show to town. The album of the same name is already one of the better hip-hop releases of the year, but when you combine that album with the boat-load of hits the two MCs have in their arsenal already, it’s sure to be an insane night for all. Be sure to catch them in Houston (the Toyota Center) on December 5th, and then in Dallas (where I’ll be!) on December 6th. Reviews have been more than postivie so far, so it’ll be cool to see if the duo has stepped it up even further by the time they get to Texas.

To make next week even bigger, the Kentucky-bred, rough-hewn indie heroes turned arena-rock mammoths, My Morning Jacket will laser-shoot their way through the same two towns on the following two nights. Still basking in the glow of their latest, border-broadening (and excellent) release, Circuital, the Jim James-led outfit will show Texas why they can rightfully and successfully headline ACL and any other massive festival, regardless of whether they are the household name that many think they should be or not.

Next year will bring big shows: Radiohead has already announced a March tour, Roger Waters will bring the Wall back to Texas in May with giants like Foo Fighters and Coldplay sure to announce their Lone Star 2012 dates soon. But for now, for the end of 2011, the next week and a half is going to be a great time to bring the noise.

A few months ago, we discussed what exhibits were being showcased in some of our states best museums. We figured it would be a good time to see what new things were going on. You know, just so you have something to do and stuff.

Dallas Museum of Art: Mark Bradford ~ The DMA focuses on this emerging, modern artist. According to the museum’s website, Bradford “ is best known for his large-scale abstract paintings made from a variety of collaged materials.” For many North texans, this seems like an exhibit that would typically be found in Ft. Worth, so it’s pretty cool to have it land in Dallas’ Art District.

Museum of Fine Arts Houston ~ We could stop with two words: King Tut. But we wont. This gem of Houston’s stellar museum district has too many other great thigns going on right now. If the lines are too long for Tut, or tickets are sold-out, we suggest the The Spirit of Modernism exhibit. Thanks to a gift from a friend of the museum, John R. Eckel, MFAH has only built a stronger case as perhaps the prime must-visit museum in all of the state.

Harry Ransom Center (Austin): Banned, Burned, Siezed and Censored ~ On the heels of wonderful, literary exhibitions (see: Kerouac’s scrolls for On The Road and the recently concluded Tennessee Williams exhibit), this Austin treasure’s latest exhibit ”reveals the rarely seen ‘machinery’ of censorship in the United States between the two world wars. It’s also more than worthy to note that the permenet collection of the Ransom center has one of the only five Gutenburg Bibles in the US. In terms of literary history, it’s pretty hard to top that one.

Kimbell Art Museum (Ft. Worth): Caravaggio & His Followers in Rome ~ What can be said about this museum that hasn’t been said by legions of admirers already? Not much really. In fact, the jewel of Ft. Worth’s excellent arts district is worthy of one simply showing up without even knowing what’s currently travelring through, thanks to the museum’s high standards and historically-proven track record of being beter than so many others at what they do. So, with that said: Just go.

There’s a legit case to be made for why just about any season is great when it comes to seasonal brews. For this dude, however, Fall is about as good as it gets. The summer ales are great, and the winter warmers are perfect for those icy nights where the city seems to be shut down, but dang it if the ingredients that are fall staples don’t make a mean stein of lager.

For this north-Texas dweller, Fall beer season officially begins with the opening of Addison’s Oktoberfest. Even if I don’t actually go and partake of the admittedly limited marzen-flavored offerings, it’s just a good time-marker to leave the lighter pils and ales on the shelf and start spending some quality time with brews that get a tad darker and typically don’t require a lemon or lime to accompany it. Perhaps the various Oktoberfest brews and fall seasonals are the long-sleeve T-shirt that bridges the gap between summer tanks and swim trunks and the sweaters that enrobe us all in the winter months.

As you might’ve guessed by now; I haven’t exactly begun my Oktoberfest drinking season by hitting the Import section of the local beer depot. I’ve begun my seasonal celebration on the “Made in Texas” end of the aisle. Of course, we all know about Shiner Bock’s dependable ability to produce quality seasonal brews that often eclipse the greatness of the original style that made it’s name. While their Oktoberfest is surely a worthy one to grab, it’s not the best of the Texas lot, and by now, Shiner has become such a big deal in so many parts of the country, outside of the state, that it might be more of a stretch than any of us ever imagined to simply call Shiner a “Texas Beer”. Don’t get me wrong, of course it’s still an icon of Texas pop-culture and still very much a Texas creation, but it’s not just ours anymore, you know?

While I’m certainly leaving some out, there are three Texas-brewed Oktoberfests that are pretty available for just about any Lone Star resident that can help any beer lover ring in the season of Baseball playoffs, NFL regular season and raking leaves off of the lawn, once they’ve fallen from their trees.

St. Arnold Oktoberfest (Houston) – Perhaps the richest in flavor of the ones we’ll discuss, it’s a full bodied brew that has a heavier mouth feel than the others as well. I wouldn’t call it refreshing, but I would call it a great beer to sit and enjoy casually when you have the time to actually give some thought to what’s in your stein during that first slight, sub-75 degree “chill” in the air.

Rahr & Sons Oktoberfest (Ft. Worth) – The resilient brewer has certainly made a major comeback from the winter storm that collapsed their roof and crippled their operation during the icy weather of last winter. While not as rich as St. Arnold’s, it has a cleaner finish with every bit of flavor in it’s Marzen-styled, deep amber glory as its counterpart from Houston.

Real Ale Brewing Oktoberfest (Blanco) – With the cleanest finish of these three choices, it also might be the one that casual beer drinkers might prefer, thanks to a less aggressive overall flavor. It’s a good beer, and will still rank higher than your Sam Adam’s Oktoberfest’s and other larger breweries versions, but it isn’t likely to pass the test when pitted against the brewers who want to really make a strong point with perhaps the most famous of all seasonal styles. But, hey, it’s still good.

For those (like me) who also like to give a number of brews a try, give this list from the recently-defunct D/FW QUICK a try. It’s from last year, but it gave me a wonderful tour of beers that fit perfectly into the season.

There’s really not much to say or add to what you see below. If you’re not famililar with the site Daytrotter.Com, then you’ve been missing out n some serious (and free) music by some of the biggest names (Death Cab for Cutie, Social D, Bon Iver) and brightest up and comers (Yuck, Portugal the Man, Dawes) that the musical universe has to offer. Big time. But, there’s good news: It doesn’t really matter if you havent clicked onto the site ever before, as there is gold beyond measure awaiting you from years of not visiting it before.

What’s even better is that many Texas-based acts have visited the Daytrotter studios in Rock Island, Ill and laid down tracks to be listened to and downloaded from the site. There’s always a great write-up and whimsical artwork to go along with the 4-5 songs as well.

Well, let’s get to it. Below are but a sampling of Texans that have Daytrotted before. You’d be crazy to not dig deeper, OK??

Matt the Electrician | Fresh Millions | Dale Watson | Dignan | Doug Burr | Old 97′s | Ben Kweller | Black Angels | Centro-matic | Jesse Dayton | Meat Puppets | Asleep at the Wheel | Monahans | Seryn | Robert Ellis

Robert Ellis is a Texas country artist that isn’t like many so-called Texas country artists thesae days. In fact, he’s really just a straight-up stone-cold country twanger with a sensitive soul and a deft touch with a tune that focuses more on the writing than it does a thunderous, frat boy-approved backbeat. What’s refreshing is that we’re in a time where folk-artists with serious contry leanings that focus on soulful writing such as Justin Tones Earle, Josh Ritter and Joe Pug can become successful touring artists and critical darlings. In such a setting, there’s no wondering whether the 22 year old, long-haired Ellis will be a success. Signed to New West Records, the Houston native is label-mates with The Old 97′s, and John Hiatt, among others. Lately, he has regularly been stealing the show from the likes of Lucero and Dawes with his understated, folksy approach to country story-telling.

Ellis’ debut full-length album, Photographs, rarely rises above a whisper. It doesn’t need to really. The sparse production isn’t terribly unlike that of a classic Texas album, Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. Ol’ Willie didn’t need his amps cranked up to 11 to wow the masses, now did he? Indeed, there are some nods to laid-back 1970′s singer-songwriter stylings – whether it be James Taylor or even Jackson Browne.

Really, this is an album best enjoyed on a porch, after dark as the only light available barely flickers as you sit alone with only a warm glass of high-octane brown liquid to accompany you and the thoughts that are conjured up by Ellis’ rich, yet plain spoken imagery. It’s not like other’s arent noticing, mind you. The always excellent site Daytrotter.Com recently featured Ellis and had him in to record a few songs for their site (which you can download for free), and even Spin magazine had some nice things to say recently about the latest export of the Texas folk-country factory that now belongs to the entire country.

Robert Ellis – What’s In It For Me by NewWestRecords

I know that the thought of running in the current heat isn’t exactly up the alley of many folks. Thankfully, most decent 5-10k’s, half and full marathons and other assorted races (see last week’s post about the Tough Mudder) take place in either the spring or the fall.

DFW RUNS seems to be a pretty unique marketing organization that hosts all sorts of really cool races throughout not only our state, but throughout the country.  Don’t let the D/FW in their name fool you. Races in Colorado, Minnesota and Utah, among other locales are on the group’s agenda for the next few weeks.

Not only does the group have a flair for variety in terms of race locations, but in the actual type of race as well. Whether it’s you seemingly typical 5k for charity, a Brewery sponsored race where everyone gets a commemorative pint glass to go with the standard t-shirt or an 6 mile, obstacle-filled “Mud Run,” DFW RUNS has a full agenda that should make choosing something for runners of any skill level easy to manage.

Below are some upcoming Texas events, hosted by DFW RUNS:

Along with KRLD Restaurant week, another (almost) culinary tradition that Texas holds dear will be taking place throughout our great state tonight.

The Flying Saucer’s Annual Elvis Glass Night!

It’s been going on for years. The Flying Saucer wants to salute the King and his catalog and what better way to do that than with a toast of a special brew in a specially designed glass that you get to take home with you?

Each Flying Saucer locale will offer the glasses at 7:00 pm and each bar assures that the goods will be gone quick, so be there early or be there empty handed. Even better, The Flying Saucer seems to still be celebrating National IPA Day (which took place last week, unbeknownst to us, sadly), as the special brew in Ft. Worth will be Harpoon IPA, and Maui Big Swell IPA will be served up all special-like in Addison. A New Belgium Brewing offering will be a poured into the Elvis glasses in San Antonio, too.

Raise a glass to the man who taught us all that “we can’t go on together with suspicious minds.” Genius.

OK, you’re right. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are so not from Texas. There might be some sort of ties to the Lone Star state, but I’m not familiar with them if there are any, to be truthful.

But, on August 30th, they’ll be all over the state. I mean all over it. In fact, they’ll soon invade our state’s (along with other states) movie theaters. To celebrate the release of their upcoming and hotly anticipated album, I’m With You, the band will debut the album in its entirety, live in concert and beam it to movie screens everywhere. Pretty sweet, right?

Check out the trailer for the film above and also give a look to see which theater the show will run near you. Regardless of where you live in Texas, you shouldn’t be too far from a Red Hot Chili Screen.

While Europe has long been considered the home of “Major League Football” and South America has often hosted teams that were nothing short of Futbol dynasties, The Great 48 has been picking up steam when up it comes to not only the quality of play we can display here, but in the enthusiasm of the supporters (aka “fans” for the uninitiated) that loyally follow the clubs they often will to victory.

In recent years, Texas has been the home to two of the MLS’s best teams. The Dynamo of Houstonhave been perennial contenders that took home the MLS Cup as the league’s champion in both 2006 and 2007 (after entering the league in 2005, which makes the back-to-back titles even more impressive). As for the Frisco-based FC Dallas (formerly the Dallas Burn), they were a sad, “own-goal” away from being crowned champions this past season when they lost a heart-breaker to the Colorado Rapids.

Perhaps even more impressive than the on-field credentials that each team has built is the devotion and organization of the folks that support each team for each home-game (not to mention many road-games). Whether it’s the Texian Army in support of The Dynamo, or The Inferno in support of FC Dallas, each group makes clear their intentions to any who may wonder: To fully and vocally encourage their team at all times throughout the 90 minutes of each game.

By organizing pre-game tailgate parties that often end with a coordinated group “march to the match,” these fans are showing all others what it’s like to really be a supporter in far more than name only.

Chants? Check. Group Songs? Check. Coordinated color clothing? Check.

Such details are common-place in Europe and other soccer hotbeds, but here in the states, outside of a few college football-crazy spots, such obvious fanaticism has withered away from our professional sports landscape as many of the prices to attend events have made it so that the average fan is unable to attend regularly. With both Houston and Dallas, strides are made to include fans of all tax-brackets. Cheap to free parking, regular ticket-discounting programs and even drink specials make it easier for people to come equipped and ready to support their favorite squad.

For information on both the teams and the official supporter groups, see below:

Houston Dynamo:

FC Dallas:

The Von Ehrics A New Texas Dynasty: MyFoxHOUSTON.com

A few weeks ago, I gushed over the new album from Dallas-based country punks, The Von Ehrics. The guys are getting great press from all over the country as they tour all over and are coming back to Texas for some shows. Here’s an interview and sripped-down performance from a recent Houston TV appearance.