Photo courtesy of the Red River Cultural District

Not sure anyone wants to hear about hot summer yet, but Hot Summer Nights will make it all worth it with the return of free festivals across the Red River Cultural District (RRCD) from July 20-23. The multi-genre festival offers something for everyone at 11 venues in the area, all within walking distance.

This is the sixth year for the decentralized festival, which the RRCD mirrors in the winter for Free Week. Hot Summer Nights was the originator, as the nonprofit’s first official district-wide event, which was planned to keep the gigs flowing during less busy months.

“Block out your calendars on July 20 through 23 as we all reunite for a summer celebration that not only offers festival-goers free access to some of Austin’s best bands and most popular venues, but also helps provide greater support for local venue workers and musicians,” said interim executive director Nicole Klepadlo.

Shows are booked courtesy of the RRCD in cooperation with each venue, meaning the performers get paid by corporate sponsorships and individual donations. Visitors can add to that pool by making a donation to keep the fun going.

Both an industry boon and a fun chance to get to know local bands from Austin and Central Texas, this festival keeps the Red River pocket of Austin at its best. Proceeds this year will go back to the RRCD for ongoing programs in “creative, service, hospitality, and production” sectors. The nonprofit has distributed $250,000 via more than 3,000 grants, and has paid for 300 gigs so far.

Participating venues from south to north, about half a mile apart, are:

  • Flamingo Cantina
  • Mala Vida
  • Swan Dive
  • Chess Club
  • Empire Control Room & Garage
  • Elysium
  • The 13th Floor
  • Valhalla
  • Stubb’s Bar-B-Q
  • Cheer Up Charlies
  • Mohawk

So far, this announcement only includes dates and venues; Participating artists and more updates will come in May. The festival is still looking for corporate sponsors. (Email nicole@redriverculturaldistrict.org.)

More information about Hot Summer Nights is available at redriverculturaldistrict.org.

Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

Go badgeless to the best free music showcases at SXSW 2023

Free at SXSW

No badge? No wristband? No problem – we’ve got you covered with some select SXSW parties that don’t require either. Take a look, and be sure to note which shows require an RSVP. We'll add shows as they come in, so check back here before you go.

Consider putting the money you saved on registration and entry toward tipping small bands. SXSW makes the largest chunk of many musician's income each year, especially if they're local.

Hotel Vegas and Volstead – March 10-14
While SXSW is a convenient time to see a ton of touring artists, it’s also a great chance to take in a lot of Austin-based acts, and the best place to do it in 2023 is at Hotel Vegas and Volstead this Friday, March 10 through Tuesday, March 14. These local-leaning events don’t require any sort of credential, and if you dip in and out of each of them, you’ll get to see a sizable portion of the great talent that our city has to offer.

  • Friday, March 10 – The Do512 Smoke Show with The Octopus Project, Being Dead, Me Nd Adam, and others. You can also expect a pop-up from KG BBQ, samples from Hometown Hero, comedians, and lots more. Free. Doors at 6pm.
  • Saturday, March 11 – SX Soundcheck Saturday with Golden Dawn Arkestra, Nolan Potter’s Nightmare Band, Die Spitz, Deezie Brown, and more, as well as a full day’s worth of cumbia artists inside Hotel Vegas. Free until 7pm. Doors at noon.
  • Sunday, March 12 – Side One Track One vs Austin Town Hall with Darkbird, Night Cap, Caleb De Casper, Jane Leo, The Stacks, and plenty more on a bill that features nearly 30 local bands. Free. Doors at noon.
  • Monday, March 13 – Day one of Spring Break Boogie with A Giant Dog, Good Looks, Annabelle Chairlegs, Pleasure Venom, Rickshaw Billie’s Burger Patrol, and a lot more. Free until 5pm. Doors at 1pm.
  • Tuesday, March 14 – Day two of Spring Break Boogie with Die Spitz, Nuclear Daisies, Daiistar, Sailor Poon, Shooks, and others. Free until 5pm. Doors at 1pm.

Marshall Hair of the Dog - March 14
One of the more appropriately named day parties of this year’s fest, Marshall Hair of the Dog, will go down at the Mohawk on Tuesday, March 14. Local psych stars The Black Angels will headline a show that also has Be Your Own Pet, Sunflower Bean, and others on the bill. The party starts at noon. RSVP at mohawkaustin.com.

Lost Weekend at Mohawk & Empire – March 15-16
Brooklyn Vegan and Resound’s Lost Weekend is back for its fifth go-round, and it’ll be happening at the Mohawk on Wednesday, March 15 and at Empire on Thursday, March 16. Artists performing include Indigo De Souza, Protomartyr, Kiwi Jr., Eshu Tune (Hannibal Buress), and a ton more. Free with RSVP. See the full lineups at brooklynvegan.com.

South X San José – March 15-19
From March 15-19, South X San José will be back for its 22nd year in the Hotel San José and Jo’s Coffee parking lot. This free event features local vendors and a stacked lineup of acts that includes The Heavy Heavy, The Lemon Twigs, The Nude Party, Sir Woman, and lots more. Gates are at noon each day. See the full lineups at bunkhousehotels.com.

Stereogum at Cheer Up Charlie’s – March 16
Longtime music blog Stereogum is set to host a free party at Cheer Up Charlie’s on Thursday, March 16. The lineup features a slew of great indie artists that the site has previously recommended, like Bartees Strange, Algiers, Strange Ranger, Coco & Clair Clair, and others. Starts at noon. RSVP at stereogum.com.

Dr. Martens at Clive Bar – March 16-17
Head to Clive Bar on March 16 and 17 for a pair of free parties put on by Dr. Martens. These events will not only feature performances from Danny Brown, Balming Tiger, Dream Wife, Enumclaw, and others, but there will also be free tattoos by local artists Nick Freidline and Michael Williams. Doors for both days are at 1pm. RSVP at drmartens.com.

Community Concerts at Auditorium Shores – March 16-18
The SXSW Community Concerts are once again returning to Auditorium Shores. The free event, which is taking place March 16-18, will have a Beer Garden, food trucks, and performances from the likes of Thao, The Zombies, a variety of local brass bands, and more. Get full details at sxsw.com.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Onscreen intrigue in Don't Worry Darling blunts off-screen drama

Movie Review

Opportunities for female directors have only been growing in recent years, a development that’s taken too long to happen. One of the beneficiaries of this sea change is Olivia Wilde, who made her directorial debut with 2019’s well-received Booksmart. Now she’s back with her highly-anticipated (for an assortment of reasons) sophomore film, Don’t Worry Darling.

The film stars Florence Pugh as Alice Chambers, who lives in a utopian small desert town with her husband, Jack (Harry Styles), who works for a company called Victory. The town has all the trappings of an idyllic version of the 1950s, from the style of the houses to the cars to the way the wives dote on their husbands. But right away it’s clear there’s something off about the town, especially since everyone seems to hold up the company’s leader, Frank (Chris Pine), as some kind of infallible person.

Olivia Wilde and Nick Kroll in Don't Worry DarlingOlivia Wilde and Nick Kroll in Don't Worry Darling Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Alice starts to sense the cracks in town’s veneer, and gradually tests the boundaries that everyone else adheres to faithfully. Her suspicions only deepen when another wife disappears, and anyone with whom she chooses to confide gaslights her into thinking that she’s losing her mind. Trying to figure out what’s real or not drives her to do many things that threaten the whole town’s way of life.

Collaborating once again with Booksmart writer Katie Silberman, Wilde creates a mysterious and tension-filled film that is about as far away from the revelry of her previous film as you could get. There are times when the story starts to become too enigmatic for its own good, but Wilde seems to know exactly when to add on a new layer to keep viewers interested in where the story will take them next.

Wilde and Silberman also continue to explore gender politics through this well-told allegory. The actions of Alice and the other women (which include Wilde, Gemma Chan, Kiki Layne, Kate Berlant, and others) come off as Stepford Wives-ish, but they also act in ways inconsistent with people who have been brainwashed. When secrets finally start to be revealed, the story takes on a deeper meaning of male insecurity and female empowerment.

Chris Pine in Don't Worry DarlingChris Pine in Don't Worry Darling Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The behind-the-scenes technical team greatly aids in the mood of the film. The production design by Katie Byron is impeccable, and it and the desert landscape are shot extremely well by cinematographer Matthew Libatique. Especially standing out is the score by John Powell, who utilizes unconventional sounds and voices to create music that elevates every scene to which it’s attached.

Pugh has already been a star for several years, and she shows yet again why she’s held in such high esteem. She brings just the right level of angst, confusion, and anger to the evolution of her character, making her compelling throughout. Styles acquits himself well in his biggest role to date, never coming off as just a singer pretending to be an actor. Pine is also great as the creepy-but-charismatic Frank, demonstrating skills that every good cult leader needs.

Don’t Worry Darling holds a lot more than what it shows on the surface, making it a great second film for the talented Wilde. With a proven ability to jump between genres effortlessly, she should be given many more opportunities to tell stories on the big screen.


Don't Worry Darling opens in theaters on September 23.

Don't Worry Darling | Official Trailerwww.youtube.com

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Charming Austin suburb is the fastest-growing city in the country, plus more top stories

hot headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From Georgetown to Brenham, and of course inside Austin proper, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Charming Austin suburb is the fastest-growing city in the country, with neighbors close behind. Georgetown had a 14.4-percent population increase from 2021 to 2022, bringing the city's total population to more than 86,500 residents.

2. Austin dethroned from top spot in new ranking of top summer travel destinations for 2023. Some Austinites are happy to hear the summer will be less crowded, but tourist revenue may suffer.

3. Lengendary Texas ranch resort makes waves on the market with $15 million price tag. It's a stretch to call it rustic, but this resort for sale includes horse stables, wildflowers, and an organic farm.

4. This is how big Austin apartments get for $1,500 a month. Unsurprisingly, it's not as much square footage as you can get elsewhere in Texas, but it's still not even close to Manhattan.

5. Here are the top 7 things to do in Austin this holiday weekend. The Memorial Day weekend brings chances to try great barbecue, take a walk with faeries, and hear lots of live music.

Dip your toes into these 7 Austin pools with passes, snacks, and summer events

Wet Hot Austin Summer

Memorial Day is here, which means so are the days of sitting in a lounge chair and sweating while looking unreasonably fabulous. Whether it's to beat the summer heat or to show off a new swimsuit, Austinites may have more options than they think to take a swim at the many pools around town. Even if you haven't committed to an overnight stay, most hotels offer day passes, and some even offer other deals or poolside programming.

One great way to find passes not just to pools around town, but also to spas and other hotel amenities, is to browse ResortPass. (Not sponsored, just cool.) There are 26 Austin options on the site right now.

But we wanted to let you know what's going on beyond the pass — who will set you up for a great meal, who lets you drink out of a coconut, and whose views (or lack thereof) provide the best ambiance for your day off. Some of our choices aren't even on the platform.

Go grab your sandals, and save us a towel.

Greater Austin YMCA
Let's start with the less glamorous before we break out the poolside fashion. The YMCA is a family staple for a reason, and if your goal is just to get in the water regularly throughout the summer, especially with kids, it's a great place to start. There are "interactive hours" at the outdoor pools (more fun than swimming laps) at the East Communities, Hays Communities, Northwest Family, Southwest Family, and Springs Family YMCAs, as well as the YMCA at Camp Moody. The Y is semi-affordable; It would probably be cheaper to visit a hotel pool once or twice, but a Y membership includes a month of access, guest passes, and much more, and may replace your gym membership for the summer. $69 per month, with age and household discounts. austinymca.org

Hotel Van Zandt
If your pool visit doesn't include spritz and giggles, why are you even there? Hotel Van Zandt is opening up its stylish rooftop pool for the "Spritz & Giggles Poolside Happy Hour & Sunset Swim" event series. Every Monday through Thursday, visitors can enjoy $8 frozen Aperol spritzes, $8 specialty cocktails, and a special pool menu with items like a refreshing green salad, pork belly al pastor tacos, and a spicy fried chicken sandwich. Geraldine's, the main restaurant, is right inside for even better drinks, expanded bites, and sometimes live music. Starting at $48 per day for adults, $15 for kids. hotelvanzandt.com

Carpenter Hotel
If one day at the Carpenter Hotel pool is just not enough, the hotel has now added monthly passes. In addition to unlimited access to the secluded pool in the Zilker neighborhood, a pass gets a $30 discount for the new monthly BBQ Pool Parties (bringing attendance down to $25). That will include a great spread of less commonly seen barbecue items like grilled bay scallops, mushroom skewers, elotes, deviled potato salad, and more. Monthly pass holders also get to bring one child under 8 for free. $40 daily, $200 monthly. Both Monday through Thursday. carpenterhotel.com

South Congress Hotel
The South Congress Hotel is right in the middle of where many Austinites want to be on a summer day, if it weren't so dang hot. This rooftop pool solves that problem in style, with daily pool passes every day of the week, as well as cabana rentals. Café No Sé supplies poolside drinks and snacks, and downstairs, Austin's Best New Restaurant Maie Day offers a hearty meal after a day of napping in the sun. Cabanas can be rented for four people and include self-parking, bottled water, and a bottle of champagne or bucket of High Noon. Days for $40 and cabanas for $300 on weekdays; days for $75 and cabanas for $400 on weekends. southcongresshotel.com

Hotel Viata
Hotel Viata is a bit of a sleeper hotel among Austin boutiques, as it's located a little beyond West Lake Hills. Still, if you want a taste of Italy, the drive to this retreat will be worth it. Not to mention, with the extra room these downtown hotels can't offer, a pool pass includes access to a hot tub, fire pits, and great views of the hills around the city. Pool passes are available, but if you want to see it for free before you spend, wait for June 10; The hotel invites guests 21 and up to check out the pool for free at the "Summer Festa in Piscina" party, with a "Taste of Italy" add-on ($55) for Aperol Spritz, limoncello lemon drops, and negronis all day. $45 per day for adults, $25 for children. resortpass.com

Wax Myrtle's
This rooftop bar and pool is known for its never-ending events calendar, and of course that energy extends to poolside entertainment. There will be live music on the weekends, plus live DJ sets on Saturday nights, alongside whatever other programming happens to be going on inside. Even if it's a do-nothing day, these large, over-the-top drinks will give you a delicious challenge. The "Boot Scootin Fruity" mixes rum, an aperitivo, hibiscus, and lime in a cowboy hat punch bowl ($90); the luxe "Mojito 75" combines Moët & Chandon with rum and mojito must-haves in a disco ball ($230); and an unnamed cocktail is worth trying just to enjoy it from a real coconut. Starting at $15 for adults, $10 for children, and more for daybeds and cabanas. waxmyrtles.com

Austin Motel
Perhaps one of the best known pools in Austin for its retro vibes, fun events, and accessibility to on-foot wanderers is the Austin Motel. This is a great, less expensive choice that's probably more fun for casual pool revelers who would feel a little put out by having to dress up and behave in a more luxe hotel setting. There are also frequent poolside events at this motel, like the free "Bounce Motel" series with live DJs, or the body-positive "Chunky Dunk." The pool is offers daily passes every day, even when there's nothing on the calendar. $25 on weekdays, $45 on weekends, or $600 in three-and-a-half-month "waves." austinmotel.com

Carpenter Hotel pool

Photo by Andrea Calo

Austinites don't need to stay at a hotel to be invited to the pool. (Pictured: The Carpenter Hotel)

6 Austin museums are offering free admission for military families all summer long

spread the museum love

Half a dozen Austin museums are honoring active-duty military personnel and their families with free admission through the Blue Star Museums initiative, May 20 through September 4, 2023.

Established by the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the U.S. Department of Defense, the Blue Star Museums program annually provides military families free access to 2,000 museums nationwide throughout the summer. The program begins yearly on Armed Forces Day in May and ends on Labor Day.

Free admission is extended to personnel currently serving in the U.S Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard (including those in the Reserve), and all National Guardsman. Members of the U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps and NOAA Commissioned Corps are also included in the program.

Those who qualify can use their military ID to bring up to five family members – including relatives of those currently deployed. More information about qualifications can be found here.

There is no limit on the number of participating museums that qualifying families may visit. Admission for non-active military veterans, however, is not included.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts website, the initiative was created to help "improve the quality of life for active duty military families" with a specific focus on children. The site states two million have had a parent deployed since 2001.

"Blue Star Museums was created to show support for military families who have faced multiple deployments and the challenges of reintegration," the website says. "This program offers these families a chance to visit museums this summer when many will have limited resources and limited time to be together."

Among Austin's participating museums, the Blanton Museum of Art recently held its grand opening celebration to debut their new grounds, complete with a new large mural by Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera.

“As a museum that has long been at the forefront of collecting work by artists of Latin American descent, as well as the place where Ellsworth Kelly realized his last great work of art, entering the collection at this moment marks a high point in my long career," Herrera said.

Here's a look at all the museums in Austin that participate in the Blue Star Museums initiative.

For those looking to take a drive around Central Texas, the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum and Taylor's Moody Museum are also participants in the Blue Star Museums initiative.

More information about Blue Star Museums and a full list of participants can be found on arts.gov.