Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

There are so many great places to live in Austin that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Kuper Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.


Mother-son real-estate duo Carol Strickland and Mark Strickland have 43 years of combined experience between them — most of which has been predominantly focused within Westover Hills and Central Austin.

In fact, it’s the neighborhood where Carol has lived for 45 years, Mark grew up in, and where he went to high school. Both he and his wife, Robin, graduated from Anderson High School, and their son went through Hill Elementary.

Neighborhood children can walk to both Hill and Doss Elementary, Murchison Middle School, and Anderson High School, but it’s not only the excellent schools that stand out in the area.

“The natural beauty and the greenbelts; the convenient proximity to the Domain, downtown, and the airport; and all the family-friendly amenities and recreation all contribute to its charm,” says Mark.

"It's the friendly, caring neighbors; casual lifestyle; lovely mix of younger and older residents; and winding streets with ancient oak trees that I love," says Carol.

They offered up a few more of their personal favorites about life in Westover Hills. Here's their guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
The Stricklands have a suggestion no matter what you’re craving. For tacos, head to crowd faves Taco Shack and Torchy's Tacos.

Grab a burger at Wally's Burger Express, Waterloo Ice House, The Boulevard, or 5280 Burger Bar.

Bert’s Bar-B-Q is an Austin original, having first opened in 1970, and Siena Ristorante Toscana Is another longstanding staple with incredible Italian food, a great happy hour, and a cozy fireplace to enjoy in the winter.

Family-owned Biderman's Deli has the best house-made bagels in town. For a casual place to eat in or take-out, Galaxy Café serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Where to play
Westover Hills Club is a private recreational club with activities, camps, and more for the whole family.

The Dell Jewish Community Center recently completed an expansion and refresh that includes an aquatic center, tennis courts, a two-story fitness center, and more.

What to see
Bull Creek District Park is a great place to explore, swim, hike, and have a picnic, the pair agrees. Look for the wagon wheel tracks that were cut into the creek bed so many years ago.

Where to live
"Most of the Westover Hills homes were built in the late 1960s and early '70s, and now many have been remodeled and have additions," says Carol. "You will find homes mostly constructed of rock quarried nearby. The lots are larger and have large oak trees, and the streets are winding."

“Homes range from Austin limestone ranch-style homes to modern rebuilds, and lots are generally one-quarter acre or more,” says Mark. “Those with a home in the western portion of the neighborhood get to enjoy scenic views of Loop 360 and the greenbelt.”


Carol Strickland and Mark Strickland work and play in Westover Hills. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, reach Carol by clicking here, emailing carol.strickland@sothebysrealty.com, or calling 512-426-2381. Reach Mark by clicking here, emailing mark.strickland@kupersir.com, or calling 512-968-2808.

Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

Bryker Woods: A welcoming, eclectic haven close to downtown

Your Neighborhood Expert

There are so many great places to live in Austin that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Kuper Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.


Although the expression “When you’re here, your family” was made famous by a popular Italian chain restaurant, it could definitely be the slogan for Bryker Woods, according to real estate agent Andrea Hamilton.

The native Austinite was born in the neighborhood at Seton Medical Center and lives there now with her family, so she knows all about its welcoming qualities.

“Bryker Woods feels like a small town tucked away inside a big city,” she says. “Everyone in my family is an extrovert, and we have met so many delightful people while out walking the dog or playing in the front yard. The whole area feels like home.”

A cool story about Bryker Woods that Hamilton loves is the origin of its giant Halloween block party every year.

“Our children were leaving on Halloween to go trick-or-treating in nearby Pemberton because it was more festive,” she says. “We wanted to do better, so we all pitched in to provide a bounce house, outdoor movie screen, face painting, music, and more.”

The neighborhood even has a Little Art Exchange, installed by one of the residents on 32nd Street, where kids and adults alike can take and leave homemade creations — reminiscent of the Little Free Libraries, but for art!

While there is plenty of redevelopment happening, Bryker Woods is still replete with historical characteristics, as many of the original homes were built in the 1930s and 1940s.

And with its central location and proximity to the University of Texas, Hamilton has observed that the resident population is an eclectic mix of long-time Austinites and recent arrivals.

“I always look for buyers and sellers in Bryker Woods and I love sharing advice about my favorite haunts with clients,” she says.

Hamilton offered up some of her personal favorites about life in Bryker Woods. Here's her guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
Hamilton recommends Tiny Boxwoods as a great place for a lunch with the gals or a special date night out.

“We frequent their sister takeaway spot Tiny’s Milk & Cookies for the best chocolate chip cookies in town, too,” she says.

For feeding a crowd, she heads to Rudy's Bar-B-Q on Lamar, and for sushi, look no further than Musashino in Gabriel's Court.

FoodHeads is great for a work lunch when a salad or a sandwich will hit the spot,” she adds.

Where to play
“Behind Bryker Woods Elementary School we have access to the Shoal Creek Trail System, which runs all the way from 38th Street to Lady Bird Lake,” says Hamilton. “It's a delightful natural area that goes through multiple public parks and is a great neighborhood treasure for maintaining an active lifestyle.”

Also nearby is Triangle Park in Pemberton Heights, all the new parks and trails at The Grove community, and a playground at Bryker Woods Elementary.

Where to live
“Historically speaking, Bryker Woods was filled with bungalows built 80 to 90 years ago and many of those single-story homes remain today, though plenty have been updated/expanded,” says Hamilton. “New construction is bringing larger homes, but the neighborhood is funky and just about every style seems to find a place.”

While Bryker Woods could be considered a more modest neighborhood in the highly desirable 78703 ZIP code, it actually maintains some of the most expensive costs per square foot in all of Texas.

What makes prices more affordable to many buyers is that the homes and lots are smaller than the adjacent Pemberton Heights and Tarrytown neighborhoods.

An interesting example of a home in the area is Hamilton’s recent listing at 3300 Kerbey Lane.

“When this house came on the market, I immediately called an investor client and suggested she jump on it,” she says. “We had been watching this house on a corner lot for years. We knew the interior needed significant work but being across the street from Bryker Woods Elementary, it had a perfect location and was primed to become something fabulous.”

When it was ready for prime time, the house was listed at $1,495,000 and went under contract after just three days on market for well above the list price.

“Working with Andrea was a no-brainer!” says the seller. “She lives down the street and has construction experience, so she was able to see potential in the house right away. We worked together come up with updates that stayed true to the neighborhood.”


Andrea Hamilton works and plays in Bryker Woods. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email andrea.hamilton@kupersir.com, or call 512-422-3562.

Realtor Andrea Hamilton

Photo by Onward Group

Agent Andrea Hamilton.

Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

Bunker Ranch: Where town meets country in Dripping Springs

Your Neighborhood Expert

There are so many great places to live in Austin that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Kuper Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.


When native Austinite and real estate agent Ashley Darnell wanted to move out of Austin proper — but not too far from family and friends — she found the small-town charm and elevated Texas Hill Country vibe of Bunker Ranch in Dripping Springs to be the perfect fit.

“After I got married and had kids, the slower-paced lifestyle seemed more appealing — plus Dripping Springs has amazing schools,” Darnell says. “Let's not forget low taxes, too!”

As a gated community, Bunker Ranch boasts livable, light-filled homes that are sited on large estate lots — anywhere from three-quarters of an acre to two acres — and many with majestic oaks or views of a scenic brook.

“It's a perfect place for those seeking serenity without being too far removed,” adds Darnell. “At only 25 miles west of downtown Austin, it offers homeowners a convenient commute to work without forgoing gorgeous landscapes and a dream lifestyle.”

After all, Dripping Springs may be tiny but it’s big on personality, with charming inns and resorts, creative restaurants, authentic live music venues, and superb shopping, not to mention wineries and tasting rooms, craft breweries, and distilleries.

“The sports scene out here is insane, too,” says Darnell. “My kids are 5 and 6 and we are fully ingrained in the baseball life. This town is breeding elite athletes by the dozen.”

A huge dog lover, Darnell is also an advocate for the Austin-based Wags & Whiskers, which provides peace of mind and temporary placement for pets of people facing illness.

She offered up a few more of her personal favorites about life in Bunker Ranch. Here's her guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
Named for owner Whit Hanks’ great-grandmother, Tillie's at Camp Lucy is a beautiful destination restaurant in the area with an executive chef who formerly worked at both Aspen’s five-star hotel The Little Nell and at Bobby Flay’s restaurants in Las Vegas and the Bahamas.

For classic comfort food, Homespun Kitchen and Bar has the best chicken-fried steak and shrimp and grits around. Oak Creek Café is another casual neighborhood hangout. And don’t miss Dripping Springs Distilling for a vodka tour and tasting.

Darnell also recommends Texas Hill Country Olive Co., a family-owned business that supplies the highest quality olive oil produced in the United States. Book a tour of the Tuscan-inspired mill house and orchard, and then have a meal at the Bistro with a menu that highlights their award-winning products.

Where to play
“Bunker Ranch is right across the street from Dreamland, a fan fave of my family's,” says Darnell. “They have pickle ball, mini golf, disc golf, corn hole tournaments, movies on the lawn, fireworks on the 4th, live music, a tasting room, bar and kitchen, and more.”

She also suggests Camp Lucy, a luxury resort on a Hill Country ranch, as a great staycation in the area.

Driftwood Axe House is another great spot, and if you’re not into axe throwing, the Driftwood Dugout Sports Bar is right next door.

What to see
You can rediscover your love of nature because you're close to Hamilton Pool, Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center’s 76-acre preserve, and Pedernales State Park.

Historic Mercer Street is also a must, where you’ll find unique and eclectic shops located in original buildings — some dating to the late 19th century.

Where to live
“The style of homes in Bunker Ranch ranges from farmhouse to modern, transitional, and traditional,” says Darnell. “And you can bring your own builder for custom homes, both new construction and resale.”

What’s also unique about the community are the generous building setbacks for privacy — at least 35-foot setbacks from the front and back property lines and at least 15 feet between homes, side to side.

A brand-new listing of Darnell's showcases exactly that. 857 Bunker Ranch Blvd. has an enormous backyard with Spanish Oaks (that produce stunning fall foliage, by the way) and a ruggedly beautiful hillside that slopes to a natural dry creek. It's 1.4 acres of peace and privacy.

Also, it’s important to note that Dripping Springs was one of the first designated International Dark Sky Communities, and the town has enacted efforts to preserve peaceful nighttime views and keep light pollution out. So you really can stargaze from your backyard!


Ashley Darnell works and plays in Bunker Ranch. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email ashley.darnell@sothebysrealty.com, or call 512-657-3343.

Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

Circle C: Friendly community and fun amenities right outside your door

Your Neighborhood Expert

There are so many great places to live in Austin that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Kuper Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.


While Hanan Lowell was introduced to the world of real estate as a young girl, coming from a family of land developers, civil engineers, and remodelers, this University of Texas at Austin alumna actually started her career in music as an opera singer.

Having received two more degrees from the Juilliard School in New York City and lived around the world, the native Texan came full circle when she returned to Austin for a main role and to work with graduate students in a master class at UT.

Once back in the city, Circle C was at the top of places to live.

“It is so highly sought-after and was on my radar even back in my days at UT,” she says. “I love its low-key, cool vibe.”

Now, as a real estate agent, she finds it so rewarding to help clients achieve their own goals of selling and buying homes in Austin — especially in one of her favorite neighborhoods.

“I think the gem of Circle C is the people who live here,” says Lowell. “Circle C is a super-friendly, inviting community with excellent schools and amazing amenities. There's a high rate of participation in activities — farmers markets, food truck nights, live music, recreation, you name it — and smiles everywhere you turn.”

It’s also close to downtown — a mere 12 minutes or so — yet far enough to get some of breathing room at the end of a long, busy day.

Lowell offered up a few of her personal favorites about life in Circle C. Here's her guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
Lil'Doddy — which is Hopdoddy Burger Bar’s little brother — along with Torchy's, and Taco Deli are Austin favorites in Circle C, says Lowell.

Also nearby is Kerbey Lane Café for comfort food classics and the longstanding Austin institution Hyde Park Bar & Grill.

An amateur chef in the kitchen? The neighborhood has its own HEB, and a Whole Foods is less than 10 minutes away.

Where to play
“We have so many trails that you can enjoy here,” says Lowell. “I think that's a real draw for Circle C: just walk out the door and you can have an awesome day.”

She also recommends hopping on a bike and exploring the Veloway, getting some yummy goods at the Friday Farmers Market, and attending live music nights in the neighborhood.

What to see
Close by is one of Austin’s most iconic gardens: the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

“The gardens delight young and old with seasonal events, including nocturnal light shows, a playful yearly installation of forts for children to climb and explore, local flora and fauna sales, and much more,” says Lowell.

Where to live
While some homes are builder specs, updated once or twice over, there are smatterings of custom builds and some luxury builders in the newer portions of the community.

“They truly range in home size and lot size, and the large-scale remodels are absolutely stunning,” says Lowell, who also loves the fantastic trees in the neighborhood. “One of the things I like to enjoy is the amount of care to include local plants in the landscape design of this area,” she adds.

A recent listing of Lowell’s at 5504 Ballenton Lane is a prime example of the diversity among the 5,000-plus homes in Circle C.

The custom-built, 4,200-square-foot cottage-style home sits on half an acre in a cul-de-sac with a generous backyard and pool.


Hanan Lowell works and plays in Circle C. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email hanan@hananlowell.com, or call 646-342-8968.

Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

Leander + Cedar Park: Space to spread out and its own vibrant downtown

Your Expert Guide

There are so many great places to live in Austin that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Kuper Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.


Growing up with a career military father, Greg Vassaur moved around quite a bit but now, as an adult, he has happily found his home in Leander.

"Leander offers great family living with a future that is bright," the real estate agent says. "There continues to be a mix of small, local restaurants and shops, but as the city grows we are able to take advantage of some of the more national brands. The city of Leander offers a nice suburban feel but has retained its character with a hip downtown that continues to evolve."

Vassaur has called this "vibrant" and "warm" area home for the past seven years, but has been helping clients buy and sell here for nearly a decade.

"I love the close-knit communities that are sprouting up all over Cedar Park and Leander," he says. "These areas have become great places to raise a family, but also give residents plenty to do to cut loose and have some fun."

He offered up a few more of his personal favorites about life in Leander. Here's Vassaur's guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
Lucky enough to make the top three are Humble Pie, Casa Costa Bake Shop, and Maggie Mae's.

Vassaur also enjoys dropping by Sweetwater, The Good Lot, and The Haute Spot in Cedar Park, along with Humble Pint Brewing in Leander.

Where to play
Commune with nature at Lakewood Park, Brushy Creek Park, and Devine Lake Park.

Practice your swing at Crystal Falls Golf Course, or spend a day axe-throwing, playing cornhole, or just relaxing in the laid-back atmosphere of Smooth Village.

He says to also mark your calendars for the Old Town Street Festival in June and the Poppy Festival in April.

Where to live
"Homes in Cedar Park and Leander range from ranch style to ultra contemporary," Vassaur says. "Most neighborhoods include plenty of greenspace, with amenity centers and pools enjoyed by all residents. Golf course communities exist, and there are multiple neighborhoods offering one-acre lots that allow residents to spread out."

2500 Monte Ranch Trail, a recent sale of Vassaur's, is a terrific example of the latter. It sits on one acre and encompasses four bedrooms, a four-car garage, and a backyard oasis consisting of a pool, hot tub, outdoor kitchen, Sonos surround sound, and landscape lighting.


Greg Vassaur lives, works, and plays in Leander. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email greg.vassaur@sothebysrealty.com, or call 512-587-9528.

Realtor Greg Vassaur

Photo by Onward Group

Agent Greg Vassaur.

Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

Headwaters: Where the stars — and homes — are big and bright in Dripping Springs

Your Expert Guide

There are so many great places to live in Austin that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Kuper Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.


"We have lived in Barton Creek, Spanish Oaks, Westlake, and Central Austin and loved them all, but there is something about Headwaters that has a piece of our heart," says Camille Abbott. "Word traveled fast that a Realtor had chosen this neighborhood. We heard a lot of 'This must be a great area if you bought here!'"

Enticed by an amazing view that backs to a greenbelt and "the best floorplan ever," Abbott also praises the neighborhood's amenities: a beautiful pool and clubhouse, great gym, dog park, beautiful walking trails, and fiber internet which is paid through the HOA.

Even though she's only lived in Headwaters for the past three years, Abbott was already very familiar with the area. Abbott is a native Texan who began calling Austin home in 1970, so she's known Dripping Springs when it "was only the blinking light at RR12 and Highway 290."

"I have been working in Dripping Springs for about 10 years," the real estate agent says. "Dripping Springs offers my clients the possibility of a little more land within a short drive to Austin, and it is the gateway to the Texas Hill Country. For myself, I loved the look of Headwaters but most of all I loved the idea of looking out my window and seeing the Hill Country every day."

There is a definite small-town vibe to "Drip," Abbott says, even though the area is expanding more with each day.

Residents can expect a farmers market on Wednesdays, with annual events like a Founder's Day celebration and the Dripping Springs Rodeo in the fall. "It's the friendliest neighborhood ever," Abbott says.

Abbott offered up a few more of her personal favorites about life in Headwaters. Here's her guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
"Homespun is a charming small restaurant situated in a little log cabin in the heart of Dripping Springs," she says. "It offers farm-to-table cooking with European and American influences, and everything on the menu has a nutritional purpose. My favorite appetizer is the deviled eggs served with a tiny jalepeno on top for just a little kick, and the shrimp and grits is another favorite."

Abbott points out the restaurant's cozy atmosphere as the ideal setting for dinner with friends or even a date night meal.

"Our first meal here was by accident on Valentine's Day," she says. "We got the last unreserved table, it was great, and we knew we were 'home.'"

Abbott also notes Mazuma, Hudson's on Mercer, Hill Country Ranch Pizzeria, Deep Eddy Distillery, and Suds as favorites.

Where to play
Dripping Springs Ranch Park and Event Center is 130 acres of Texas Hills Country located on RR 12, and offers six miles of scenic trails for hikers, bikers, and trail riders, and leashed dogs welcome.

Equestrians enjoy multiple riding arenas and equine amenities, details Abbott, who rides cutting horses herself as a hobby.

"Throughout the year, you will find this venue is home to the Dripping Springs Rodeo, the FFA Livestock events, equine shows of all disciplines, and trade shows — it's truly a taste of Western cowboy heritage," says Abbott, who herself is a champion at showing cutting horses.

Dripping Springs was the first city in Texas to be designated as an International Dark Sky Community, which assures that the stars at night remain big and bright for stargazers.

It has also been designated by Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas Audubon as a Texas Bird City. There is a bird-viewing station overlooking the pond, and 2022 will see the city host its second annual World Migratory Bird Day Festival of Flight Celebration on May 14.

The Headwaters neighborhood was once a ranch, as Abbott says many of the neighborhoods were in the area, and the developers chose to preserve the ruins of the old ranch house and make it a park and part of the hiking trails.

It sits on a hill overlooking the neighborhood and is maintained by the HOA, with benches and landscaping making it a popular spot to pause.

The HUB, as the community center is called by residents, offers a beautiful pool, gym, and outdoor meeting area, all overlooking the Hill Country. "It is a definite plus for the area and enjoyed by all residents," Abbott says.

What to see
The Pound House was built in 1854-1855 by Joseph and Sarah Pound in an untamed area of Central Texas now known as Dripping Springs. It is believed that Dripping Springs was part of the original wagon route from Austin to Fredericksburg, and the Pounds may have passed through on their journey.

Today, the Pound House is included on the National Register of Historic Places and has been a Texas State Historical Landmark, and offers a living depiction of early life in the Texas Hill Country. The grounds include an oak tree that is over 500 years old called the Heritage Oak. The antique roses that Sarah Pound brought as cuttings to her new home from her native Mississippi in 1853 still thrive today.

Abbott says not to miss the annual Christmas on Mercer, which includes everything from holiday lights to live music, arts and crafts, and movie showings.

Where to live
"Headwaters offers something for everyone: empty nesters, young families, professionals working from home, and single parents, just as a few examples," says Abbott. "The HOA organizes food truck visits, movie nights, mornings with coffee vendors, and all kinds of opportunities for neighbors to get to know one another."

Modern farmhouse is the trending style in the area — expect board and batten exteriors and shiplap accents on the inside. Open living areas with island kitchens are popular and allow guests and family to enjoy being together. Many of the single-story homes sit on larger lots and offer a game room upstairs, with all bedrooms down. All homes back to a greenbelt and most have some sort of a view.

"It is a neighborhood where people walk their dogs and babies in the evenings, gather in the streets, and take care of one another," Abbott says. "We experienced first-hand how the community takes care of each other when my husband had a stroke a year ago. Trash cans were brought in for us and baskets of goodies welcomed us home — the love we felt from our neighbors was awesome."

A recent sale of Abbott's exemplifies the typical Headwaters home: 158 Dayridge, a beautiful, four-bedroom, single-story David Weekly design with a huge bonus room and bath upstairs. Abbott was able to sell the home above asking price within the time frame she had promised her sellers.

"Camille was professional and extremely knowledgeable about the market and sales in the area," says client Ann Pierpoint. "She offered guidance through the process, which made it much less stressful, and was responsive and easy to work with."


Camille Abbott lives, works, and plays in Headwaters. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email camille.abbott@sothebysrealty.com, or call 512-529-1299.

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Tenacious D will play the best song in the world in Austin this fall

Spicy Meatball

America's favorite (only?) comedy rock duo is back on tour, and lucky for Austinites, they've announced the addition of three Texas dates this fall. Of course, we're talking about none other than Tenacious D, comprised of Jack Black and Kyle Glass.

The duo's Spicy Meatball Tour is currently underway this month in Europe, with newly extended dates including Houston (September 13), Grand Prairie (September 14), and Austin (September 15).

Supporting acts are yet to be announced, but tickets are on sale as of Friday, June 9, at 10 am. Fans can purchase tickets HERE.

According to a release, the tour dates come on the heels of the recently-released recorded version of Tenacious D’s viral, fan-favorite live cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” The single is accompanied by a video directed by longtime D collaborator Taylor Stephens, and features our dynamic duo in a glorious, romantic romp by the sea. Last month, they released their first new song in five years, “Video Games,” which has been streamed over 18 million times across all platforms in less than a month. The animated music video, created by Oney Plays, brings video game-ified versions of Black and Glass to life in classic and hilarious ways.

In addition to the single releases, Tenacious D will be the special guest at this year’s Video Game Awards, happening on June 25 at the Hollywood Bowl, where they will perform their new single.

But of course the burning question remains: Will Black perform his equally viral "Peaches" from the recent Super Mario Bros. movie? There's only one way to find out.

Full Tour Dates are below (new dates in bold font):
6/7/23 Berlin, Germany @ Zitadelle
6/8/23 Nickelsdorf, Austria @ Nova Rock Festival
6/10/23 Milan, Italy @ Carroponte
6/12/23 Zurich, Switzerland @ The Hall
6/13/23 Brussels, Belgium @ Forest National
6/14/23 Rotterdam, Netherlands @ Ahoy
6/16/23 London, England @ O2 Arena
6/18/23 Clisson, France @ Hellfest Open Air Festival
6/25/23 Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Bowl (Video Game Awards)
9/6/23 Charlotte, NC @ PNC Music Pavilion
9/7/23 Franklin, TN @ Firstbank Amphitheater
9/9/23 Indianapolis, IN @ All IN Music Festival
9/11/23 Rogers, AR @ Walmart AMP
9/13/23 Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
9/14/23 Grand Prairie, TX @ Texas Trust CU Theatre
9/15/23 Austin, TX @ Germania Insurance Amphitheater

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is ridiculous and fun at the same time

Movie Review

The Transformers series has been one marked by near universal derision by the critics and (mostly) massive box office, highlighting the divide between those who watch movies for a living and those who just go for fun. Given that history, it seemed unlikely that the latest film, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, would unite the two factions.

Like the last film, Bumblebee, Rise of the Beasts is a prequel to the Transformers films directed by Michael Bay from 2007-2017 (Bay remains as a producer). Set in 1994, it features a way-too-complicated story involving something called the Transwarp device prized by three separate groups of Transformers: The Autobots led by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen); the Maximals, animal-esque bots led by Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman); and the Terrorbots, led by Scourge (Peter Dinklage). One guess as to which of those groups is the evil one.

Mirage (Pete Davidson) in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Mirage (Pete Davidson) in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts.

Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos) is a former soldier in Manhattan who can’t find a job and tries his best to take care of his sickly brother, Kris (Dean Scott Vazquez). Elena Wallace (Dominique Fishback) works at a museum on Ellis Island, where she encounters an artifact with unusual markings. Through a series of unlikely but still fun events, both of them are dragged into the conflict between the Transformers, with nothing less than the fate of the universe at stake.

Directed by Steven Caple Jr. and written by a team of five writers, the film is as ridiculous as any of the previous iterations, and yet somehow it becomes the most entertaining entry yet. Some of this has to do with the human characters, who are given engaging scenes outside of the ones with Transformers, allowing them to be relatable instead of just pawns in the robot battles.

The trifecta of Transformer groups turn out to be actually interesting, rather than an excuse to fill the screen with CGI nonsense. The Autobots, as usual, are the main heroes, and with Bumblebee using movie quotes to talk and Mirage (Pete Davidson) lobbing wisecracks constantly, they’re rarely unentertaining. Having the animal-like Maximals on board gives a new dimension, and the seemingly unstoppable Scourge makes for an intimidating villain.

That’s not to say, of course, that the film doesn’t devolve into chaos on multiple occasions. Several of the battles, including the final sequence, seem designed to be almost incomprehensible. But Caple and the visual effects team appear to have understood that clarity makes for a better moviegoing experience, and so even as bedlam reigns, there’s a level of focus to the film that other films in the series have not had.

Even though his character isn’t fully fleshed out, Ramos brings a kind of streetwise energy to the role that makes him stand out. Fishback is not given as much to do, but she’s still highly enjoyable. Cullen, who’s been voicing Optimus Prime since the 1980s, is still a commanding presence, allowing Davidson, Michelle Yeoh, Perlman, and more to bring their own unique flair to their characters.

It may be a low bar to jump, but Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is the best film so far in the series, cracking the code of pairing humans with robots for a (semi)intelligible story. A late movie teaser will have fans geeking out over the future, but it’s best to enjoy this film for being as good as it is.


Transformers: Rise of the Beasts opens in theaters on June 9.

Austin Public invites viewers to step into the studio to celebrate 50 years of public television

Austin On-screen

Public television may call to mind images of children's shows and documentaries, but the format has lots more to offer — especially if staying in touch with local culture is a priority. Austin has a strong connection to the medium, as the city with the longest continually running public access station in the country, and now it’s celebrating 50 years by naming the month of June Austin Public Television Month.

A public event on June 25 will invite viewers to stop by the Public Access Television Studio (1143 Northwestern Avenue) from noon to 4 for an open house. Visitors can explore, take interactive tours, and mingle with complimentary refreshments by the Austin Film Society (AFS), which the state-of-the-art multimedia facility on behalf of the City of Austin.

Channel 10 (formerly Austin Community Television, or ACTV; not to be confused with KLRU, or Austin PBS) can trace those 50 years back to Mt. Larson, in Westlake, where some University of Texas students “[carried] their video production equipment on their shoulders,” according to a release. With the help of community activists and members of the Texas Commission on the Arts, they started the city’s first broadcast.

This was about more than entertaining Austinites — although Austin Public has done plenty of that over its decades. It was, and still is, a platform for locals to get messages out that likely won’t be picked up by major private networks. (Think of Austin’s wacky KOOP 91.7 FM on the radio today.)

“When community television ... launched, it was the only free-speech outlet available for residents that provided a voice for traditionally underrepresented groups and perspectives unavailable within mainstream media,” said Rondella Hawkins, the City of Austin’s Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs Officer.

“The City of Austin has continued its commitment to preserve and support the access TV channels," Hawkins continued, "to distribute the content created by the local community at the studio facility, using the state-of-the-art video production equipment.”

And even though these programs are for their viewers, they represent an irreplaceable opportunity for the people who work on them to start or continue their craft. “Leveraging these resources,” continued Hawkins, “it’s through our partnership with Austin Public to provide the training and the pathways for promising careers in the creative industry.”

Austin Public runs a paid workforce development program called Creative Careers, and broadcasts highlights on its producers. The station's many programs include lots of hosting opportunities, like on The Gene and Dave Show, which highlights the disabled experience with comedy, and in nerd-culture conversations curated by Kaiju Labs Media.

Austinites have Channel 10 to thank for attracting and developing talent like film director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused), who founded AFS, and Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Sin City). Now in addition to that main channel, Austin Public also runs Channels 11 (for Christian programming) and 16 (for music programming).

“The history of Public Access in Austin is intrinsically tied to the growth and success of the City’s creative sector, and public access remains vital to the culturally focused expressions of a diverse city," said AFS CEO Rebecca Campbell.

Register for the free open house at at Austin Public at austinfilm.org.