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Trans-Siberian Orchestra presents The Ghosts of Christmas Eve – the Best of TSO & More

Trans-Siberian Orchestra presents The Ghosts of Christmas Eve – the Best of TSO & More

Photo courtesy of Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Progressive rock group Trans-Siberian Orchestra comes to Austin as part of their 2022 winter tour, The Ghosts of Christmas Eve – the Best of TSO & More. They will present a completely updated presentation of the multi-generational holiday tradition.

The rock opera features enduring fan favorites like "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24," "O’ Come All Ye Faithful," "Good King Joy," "Christmas Canon," "Music Box Blues," "Promises To Keep," and "This Christmas Day." They'll also perform a second set containing more of TSO’s greatest hits and fan-pleasers, including “Wizards In Winter,” “A Mad Russian’s Christmas,” and more.

Photo Courtesy of Bullock Texas State History Museum

SXSW rolls out next round of music showcases for 2023, including 29 Austin artists

300 more

Obviously, 190 music showcases is not enough for South by Southwest. That’s 19 a day? Make it another 301. On December 7, SXSW announced the second round of 2023 showcasing artists, bringing the current total to almost 500 acts performing March 13-18, 2023, in Austin.

Of those newly announced artists, 29 are from Austin, and eight more are from Texas, keeping the local numbers relatively high compared to the whole world. This round contains almost 10 percent Austin bands, while the first round contained nearly 7 percent.

Some of the more widely recognizable Austin acts announced in the second round include:

  • Good Looks: Vocalist and guitarist Tyler Jordan cites an increasingly venerated Austin band, Spoon, as an influence. Good Looks is guitar riff-driven, wistful, and a little Southern in sound.
  • Graham Reynolds (solo), Graham Reynolds & The Golden Arm Trio: A prolific composer and bandleader, Reynolds’ name pops up all over Austin films and awards ceremonies. He appears solo and with an eclectic jazz trio.
  • Kalu & The Electric Joint: Frontman Kalu James arrived in Austin from Nigeria at 18 and has made a strong name for himself (and guitarist Jonathan “JT” Holt) through psychedelic, vaguely jazzy, and decidedly funky jams.
  • Pleasure Venom: One of the rawest acts in town, Pleasure Venom is well-known for punk hits (and honest takes) that don’t hold back. The band is consistently making news between lots of live shows and festival appearances.
  • Primo the Alien: Solo artist and producer Primo the Alien is bringing the 80s back with synthy electro-pop. She attaches it all to a double persona that’s both candid on social media and a delivery system for sensory overload onstage.
  • The Tiarras: A triple-threat band of sisters, The Tiarras are always thinking about family and stepping into their power. They’ve tackled topics like lesbian and Latina representation, and although they’re young, they’re seasoned pros.

The remaining Austin bands in the second round are: Andrea Magee, Big Wy's Brass Band, Billy King & The Bad Bad Bad, Caleb De Casper, Daiistar, Del Castillo, El Combo Oscuro, Font, JM Stevens, Johnny Chops, Marshall Hood, Otis Wilkins, Pink Nasty Meets El Cento, Rett Smith, Rod Gatort, Schatzi, Shooks, S.L. Houser, The Tender Things, Thor & Friends, Trouble in The Streets, and West Texas Exiles.

Showcases are the base unit of the SXSW music experience, so to speak. They may be solo or part of a multi-day affair, especially when sponsored by large entities like Rolling Stone. Attendees with music wristbands get priority, but all wristbands get access if space remains.

Even as the lineup seems to bulge at the seams, a press release states that there are more to come. A full schedule of showcasing artists, where users can select events for their customized schedule, is available at schedule.sxsw.com.

Rendering courtesy of Moody Center

Austin's Moody Center tops Billboard chart as highest-grossing venue of its size in the world

Arena Showdown

Austin's Moody Center has done big business in its first year, putting it at the top of the charts. According to Billboard magazine's 2022 year-end box score charts, the Moody Center swept the competition on concert ticket sales and cemented its status as the highest grossing venue of its size in the world.

Moody Center’s category was 10,001 to 15,000-person capacity arenas, and the Austin venue is at the top of that range, seating “15,000-plus,” according to its website.

In 2022, the Moody Center generated $62,695,539 in ticket sales of just 36 shows measured by the Billboard stats.

Since opening in April, Moody Center has put on more than 90 total events (not all ticketed concerts), about half of which sold out. Highly publicized concerts with international superstars like Andrea Bocelli and Harry Styles’ six-night residency helped boost the venue’s performance (the latter selling more than 100,000 tickets), but other artists were no small fish. The arena has hosted country legend George Strait, classic rockers The Eagles, rapper Kendrick Lamar, rare-to-see indie greats Gorillaz, and many more across many genres.

“The high caliber of events brought to Moody Center allows us to achieve this significant recognition as the highest grossing venue worldwide” said senior vice president and general manager Jeff Nickler in a press release. “The credit truly belongs to the fans who have embraced this new arena in an unprecedented way through the purchase of tickets in record numbers."

As UT fans know, the venue is home to many other events. Texas Men’s and Women’s Basketball both play at Moody Center, and comedians and family shows pass through from time to time. Coming up in February of 2023, Cirque Du Soleil brings back an old favorite, Corteo, for a five-show residency.

“It’s no secret, Austin is well-known for its iconic live music scene, but what it didn’t have was a modern, premium venue to host the world’s biggest artists. That all changed with Moody Center,” said chairman and CEO of the Oak View Group (Moody Center’s parent group), Tim Leiweke. “On behalf of our partners, Live Nation, C3 Presents, Matthew McConaughey, and The University of Texas, we’re honored Moody Center is quickly leaving its mark on Austin and the industry, and all within seven months of opening.”

Continuing the big-name concert streak, Moody Center will soon welcome Bruce Springsteen, Journey, Blink-182, MUSE, and more. More information and tickets are available at moodycenteratx.com.

Photo by Tijs van Leur on Unsplash

Austin-based live event subscription service is your ticket to festivals and shows all year

That's the ticket

With all these streaming subscriptions, it’d be nice to get out into the real world now and then. But taking initiative can be challenging, especially when weighing a $20 door cover against a band that just isn’t that high on your list. FestivalPass, an Austin-based service launched earlier this year, simplifies that decision and is positioning itself during the holidays as the perfect gift for active lovers of music, comedy, and more.

FestivalPass calls itself the “world’s first live events subscription service,” and a Google search using the phrase proves how rare the concept is. The cutting-edge idea provides access to more than 80,000 events and 600,000 hotels across the globe via a points system. Points must be budgeted, but the platform provides the nudge to get out there for those who want to commit, plus deals and no added fees. (There’s no gift like freedom from Ticketmaster.)

Events stretch from the Capital City to New York City, Las Vegas, and abroad. They are divided into music, theater, comedy, film, sports, and “other,” covering everything from routine games to poetry readings. And these are not bargain bin events — one of the service’s biggest pulls is Austin City Limits Music Festival day and weekend passes.

Members might see music by Modest Mouse or Herb Alpert, storytelling by The Moth or Rupi Kaur, comedy by Kevin Hart, and classic annual events like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Just one Friday in Austin this December shows nine separate events, including classical bluegrass virtuosos Bela Fleck and Punch Brothers at the Paramount Theatre, and Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker at the Long Center for Performing Arts.

In addition to discounts, the monthly credits system makes for great discovery opportunities. It's analogous to platforms like ClassPass that encourage members to try new gyms and sports at no risk simply to clear credits, except that FestivalPass points don’t expire. The system makes recommendations — which are trustworthy, if the above lineup is any indication — and sometimes provides early access to partner events.

“This is a unique opportunity to gift your special someone (or yourself) a year of unforgettable live event experiences,” says founder Ed Vincent in a release. “Your loved one gets to choose what events they want to go to and will think of you while they are creating unforgettable memories.”

Annual passes come in three tiers, from the $210 Gold Pass to the $1,080 Founders Pass, and subscribers get up to 1,080 credits to redeem for tickets on the platform, according to a release. Memberships can be purchased online at festivalpass.com.

Photo by Luana Azevedo on Unsplash

Favorite Austin burger chain joins local music nonprofit for $50,000 grant campaign

Musical Tastes

In Austin, the bell of the ball is the rockstar. Black Fret, a nonprofit that creates gigs and organizes funding for local musicians, makes sure these rock stars get their spotlight at the annual Black Fret Ball, now in its ninth year, and this time with some unexpected help from a burger bar.

Staff at Hopdoddy Burger Bar (a local favorite for lovers of toppings) got to nominate their favorite artists from across the country for a total of $50,000 in grants, an initiative called “Tuned In.” The restaurant asked guests to vote on favorites and landed on a group of nine final artists, including one from Austin.

Bonnie Whitmore, an Austinite, a singer, and a bassist, makes nostalgic country and Americana with bold, feminist themes. Although her candid tone matches that of the pop stars taking over the industry from their bedrooms, she’s been an active member of the music industry for more than 20 years.

Other Texas musicians made the final nine: Gold Fighter, from Dallas, leans back into the good old days of pop punk; Piñata Protest, from San Antonio, also plays pop punk while moving the needle more into Tejano traditions; and Will Van Horn, from Houston, makes the pedal steel languidly cool and a little psychedelic. (Listeners may recognize Van Horn’s work in records by the unique and popular Houston trio Khruangbin.)

The Black Fret Ball is returning for its first in-person year since 2019, on Saturday, December 3 at ACL Live at the Moody Theater. The fundraiser will distribute grants totaling $250,000 to 20 local artists, with performances from all but two. The 2022 class of musicians includes Whitmore, rap duo Blackillac, blues guitarist Buffalo Nichols, R&B singer Mélat, and one of Austin’s most frequently booked and buzzed about bands, Quentin and the Past Lives.

Black Fret members ($750 annually) are invited to join the ball at 6 pm. See the local lineup at hopdoddy.com.

Austin Unconducted presents Ecotones - What happens at the intersection of space, sound, and us?

Austin Unconducted's string orchestra will present their second concert, complete with complimentary drinks and time to meet the musicians.

Curated by local theater director Khristián Mendéz Aguirre, the concert's selections were inspired by the natural world - the intersections within it, its varied textures & ecosystems, and the way we interact with it.

Selections will include Jessie Montgomery's Voodoo Dolls, Aftab Darvishi's Daughters of Sol, Hildegard von Bingen's Antiphons, and Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings Orchestra (selections)

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2 trailblazing Texans to be honored with history-making award at Austin museum

local history ripples

There are many conceptions of Texas around the world, but most can agree that Texans do have a knack for making history. An annual acknowledgement by the Texas State History Museum Foundation (TSHMF) will celebrate the contributions of two very different Texans who used their leadership skills to coordinate huge wins for their respective teams.

Retired Navy Admiral and former University of Texas System Chancellor William H. McRaven and former NFL quarterback Roger Staubach will be honored with the History-Making Texan Award at the 19th Annual Texas Independence Day Dinner, taking place March 2, 2023, at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.

Photo courtesy of Bullock Museum

The History-Making Texan Award winners will be celebrated at the Bullock on March 2.

McRaven’s contributions and Staubach’s are similar by nature of leading teams — one commanded troops and the other played an integral part in the Dallas Cowboys into a wave of undeniable success — but the similarities mostly stop there.

McRaven led troops to rescue the ransomed Captain Richard Phillips, search for Osama Bin Laden, and ultimately capture Iraqi politician Saddam Hussein. The Four-Star admiral has advised U.S. presidents in his retirement and written several books, mostly imparting wisdom around changing one’s own life, and hopefully the world around them.

Staubach took a more entertainment-based path to greatness, rising to fame as a star player while lifting the rest of the Cowboys with him. The team had nine consecutive winning seasons with Staubach, of 20 total. Aside from giving Texans yet another point of state pride, Staubach spent his retirement and influence on real estate and philanthropy.

“Our recipients reached the pinnacle of accomplishments and eminence in their fields. Importantly, they were selected as honorees based on their personal character and commitment to improving the lives of others,” said dinner chair and TSHMF trustee Lisa Cooley in a press release. “They stand as role models to emulate, and we look forward to sharing their dramatic and inspiring stories with our guests.”

The dinner supports the Bullock Texas State History Museum with ticket sales and underwriting from nearly 500 attendees annually. Austin’s Jan Felts Bullock, wife of Bob Bullock and museum trustee, joins Dallas’ Cooley as honorary chair. In 2022, the award went to pianist James Dick and philanthropist Lyda Hill.

More information about the foundation and the History-Making Texan Award is available at tshmf.org.

Austin's Central Library announces open call for artists for future gallery exhibits

Beyond Books

People can learn a lot at the library. Besides all the books, magazines, online resources, and in-person programming, Austinites enjoy a buffet of rotating art exhibits that populate the gallery at the Central Library downtown, publicizing local artists and teaching visitors about the culture around them.

Now the ever-changing Austin Public Library is looking for another new exhibit sometime in 2024 between January and September, and inviting artists to apply through February 28.

Good news for artists who crave freedom, and frustrating news for artists who love something to bounce off of: This engagement offers few to no parameters. There is no explicit theme, but the library does claim a mission in a press release about the call for artists.

“The mission of the Central Library Gallery is to support local artists and art communities, raise awareness of contemporary and diverse forms of art, and to provide exhibitions in which a wide variety of identities and interests are represented,” said the release.

The Central Library website lists four current exhibitions: Hannah Hannah lends some expressionist portraits, Release the Puppets tells stories in a classic and playful medium, the Austin American-Statesman explores Austin communities of color through photographs, and a traveling exhibition documents Pride parades of the past.

The call is addressed to “artists, collectives, curators and beyond,” further widening the possibilities, but still restricting them to applicants residing in Texas. Applicants should consider the size of the gallery (2,700 square feet) and a few logistical stipulations, including that pieces may not be hung from the ceiling, and that walls may be painted.

When the jury — made up of local artists and others in the industry — announces a winning proposal in March 2023, the artist will be offered a stipend to complete the work. All project costs are the exhibitor’s responsibility, so this stipend is not unlike an advance, except that the project will not continue to generate revenue at the library.

Applications are open now through 11:59 pm on February 28, 2023. Applicants may make their proposals via submittable.com.

Texas entrepreneur's SPAC announces merger with tech company in deal valued at $100 million

spac-tacular move

A Houston SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, has announced the company it plans to merge with in the new year.

Beaumont-based Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc., a provider of thermal imaging platforms, and Houston-based SportsMap Tech Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: SMAP), a publicly traded SPAC with $117 million held in trust, announced their agreement for ICI to IPO via SPAC.

Originally announced in the fall of last year, the blank-check company is led by David Gow, CEO and chairman. Gow is also chairman and CEO of Gow Media, which owns digital media outlets CultureMap, InnovationMap, and SportsMap, as well as the SportsMap Radio Network, ESPN 97.5 and 92.5.

The deal will close in the first half of 2023, according to a news release, and the combined company will be renamed Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc. and will be listed on NASDAQ under a new ticker symbol.

“ICI is extremely excited to partner with David Gow and SportsMap as we continue to deliver our innovative software and hardware solutions," says Gary Strahan, founder and CEO of ICI, in the release. "We believe our software and sensor technology can change the way companies across industries perform predictive maintenance to ensure reliability, environmental integrity, and safety through AI and machine learning.”

Strahan will continue to serve as CEO of the combined company, and Gow will become chairman of the board. The transaction values the combined company at a pre-money equity valuation of $100 million, according to the release, and existing ICI shareholders will roll 100 percent of their equity into the combined company as part of the transaction.

“We believe ICI is poised for strong growth," Gow says in the release. "The company has a strong value proposition, detecting the overheating of equipment in industrial settings. ICI also has assembled a strong management team to execute on the opportunity. We are delighted to combine our SPAC with ICI.”

Founded in 1995, ICI provides infrared and imaging technology — as well as service, training, and equipment repairs — to various businesses and individuals across industries.

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This article originally appeared on our sister site InnovationMap.