Arts & Culture
2006 Readers Poll
2006 Critics Picks
Best Excuse to Be a Band Geek Again

One time, at band camp, we heard about this great group of musicians in A-town: As Austin's oldest community band, the Austin Civic Wind Ensemble has been charming Central Texas audiences since 1975. Besides treating our town to the best in-concert band performances, this ensemble also provides an outlet for Austin area musicians, amateur and professional, to get out there and play. So, whether you are looking to rekindle fond memories of your band-geek glory days or you wish to simply revel in that sound that takes you to another time and place, check them out. Their Web site is loaded with information on how to get involved.

Austin Civic Wind Ensemble
PO Box 9893
www.onr.com/acwe

Best Funny, Funny Man

You may know Matt Bearden as E. Murray McKinley, the, uh, charming host of GameShow! at the Flamingo Cantina. Or maybe you've seen him at the Velveeta Room's open-mic night. No? What about on Comedy Central's Premium Blend? Are you serious? You really haven't seen this guy? Do yourself a favor and go to his next gig. Smart and snarky Matt Bearden needn't rely on his Austin Stories glory days to draw a crowd. The comedian's sense of timing intersects precisely with his sense of what's absurd in our fucked-up modern world, providing buckets of chuckles for TV viewers and live audiences alike.

Best Gala Event in a Doomed Structure

On a breezy night in October, the heavens were lit up with the lighting magic of Jason Amato, and the air was filled with the haunting sounds of Graham Reynolds and the Golden Arm Trio. It was the Opening Night Gala for Sally Jacques' encore of Requiem, a site-specific dance composition designed for the Intel shell, which would be torn down two weeks after the run of the show ended in early November. It was the first gala event held for the dance company with Honorary Chair Anne Elizabeth Wynn, and engineered by development director Deborah Hamilton-Lynne (also a playwright and author). Music by Pamela Hart filled the air before the performance, which took place on the concrete columns and over the edges of the floors of the five-story structure. Sitting under the stars and watching the heavenly action, all was right with the world, and Blue Lapis Light entered a new era.

Blue Lapis Light Studios
10331 Old Manchaca Rd, Unit B
512/280-6688
bluelapislight.org

Best It's a Gallery as Well?

While AMOA and ArtHouse are the undisputed art heavyweights on Congress, the Hideout gives coffeehouse wall space to rising Austin-based talents. Selected by the management, there's an incredible diversity of styles on display: Recent shows have included CS Jennings' monkey pirates, high school whiz kid Justin Schueleter's brand of pop-art collage, Amy Hughes' globe-trotting photos, Lydia Heckendorf's charcoals of musical icons, and the manga-inspired portraits of David de Lara. Most of the work is for sale, so if you see a piece you like, do your bit for some starving artist. But move fast: Exhibitions only last a couple of weeks, giving the next artist a shot at recognition.

Hideout Theatre & Coffeehouse
617 Congress
512/476-1313
www.hideouttheatre.com

Best Keepers of the Biscuit Flame

Randy "Biscuit" Turner gave a young Dotty Farrell a ride home on his motorcycle from an early-Eighties Thanksgiving "orphan" party, and a fast friendship was forged. The pair took their shared affinity for bruising punk rock and flamboyant costumery to its zenith in Swine King but were just as simpatico offstage. Turner's passing last year hit the whole city hard, Farrell most of all, but every time she struts onstage with the Punkaroos - who just headlined last weekend's two-day Biscuitfest memorial - or smiles knowingly at the shenanigans she sees most every night working the door at Emo's, a little bit of Biscuit is with her.

Dotty Farrell
Biscuitfest
409 W. 38th #206
www.biscuitfest.org

Best Tribute to the Fleeting

Whither the orphaned technology of yesteryear, the detritus of culture obscured by shrouds of time, the quirky whatsits created by divinely inspired kooks or by the eccentric machinations of nature itself? Scott Webel and Jen Hirt, who run Austin's delightful Museum of Natural and Artificial Ephemera, know whither. In fact, they devote much of their time and their own home collecting and displaying such arcane miscellanea for the amusement and edification of us, the wonder-hungry public; and we, in turn, are devoted right back.

Museum of Natural & Artificial Ephemerata
1808 Singleton
512/289-9517
www.mnae.org

Shelley Hiam

Best Vanishing Art in the Neighborhood

Her castle was weird Austin a century before the first bumper sticker was printed. In 1892, the German sculptor went from sculpting Europe's kings to sleeping in a tent in Hyde Park. Today, her gallery/legacy is more than just a bunch of stone heads. Ney designed this mock-castle as her home and studio, and it feels like she just stepped out to sharpen her chisels. Alongside the statues, there are curios, like the bookshelf she bought with cereal-box tokens. If you think art in Austin began with Armadillo World Headquarters, you need to visit this transplanted corner of the Old World.

Elisabet Ney Museum
304 E. 44th
512/458-2255
www.austintexas.gov/elisabetney

Finest Paradise for Poets

Poetry at Round Top is the best kept secret on the American poetry scene. It's new, small, powerfully charged and incredibly intimate. In early May, a handful of the nation's poetic luminary descend from their desks for a weekend outside of Austin. For $100 (or around $250 if you want to bunk on site and eat like a queen) you can join in. Seventy-two packed hours of reading poetry, writing workshops, panels on craft, and basking in pastoral beauty await. Grab a picnic lunch and sit down next to a Pulitzer Prize winner in the sunshine. Discuss the nuances of birdsong. Carolyn Forche, Claudia Rankine, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Barbara Ras read in 2006. Expect Li-Young Lee, Chase Twichell, Rosemary Catacalos, Cyrus Cassells, and more in 2007. With lakes, herb gardens, hidden fountains, chapels, and a sense that time is suspended for us to cherish its details, the Poetry at Round Top Festival is paradise – for poets and poetry lovers alike.

Round Top
248 Jester, PO Box 89
Round Top
979/249-3129
www.festivalhill.org

Most Celebrities per Square Inch

Cyd Charisse, Robert Rodriguez, Matthew McConaughey, Sissy Spacek, Woody Harrelson, Cybill Shepherd, Billy Bob Thornton, Dan Rather, Marcia Gay Harden, Lauren Bacall, Dennis Hopper, Kris Kristofferson, Ethan Hawke, Robert Duvall, Liz Smith, Rip Torn, Quentin Tarantino, Treat Williams, Jack Valenti, Peter Bogdanovich, Willie Nelson, Billy Gibbons, Lyle Lovett, Farrah Fawcett, Dabney Coleman, Dennis Quaid, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Anna Deavere Smith, Peter Fonda, Richard Linklater, Judith Ivey, Forest Whitaker, Ali McGraw, Joe Pantoliano, JoBeth Williams, our beloved Ann Richards, and so many others. Need we say more?

Texas Film Hall of Fame
1901 E. 51st St.
512/322-0145
www.austinfilm.org/Studios.php

 
Critics: Architecture & Lodging
Critics: Entertainment

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