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Photo by Steve Rogers Photography

Stephanie Chiarello might be out of a job if the wrong person reads this. Not to alarm you, reader; this chief of staff to a state representative has been putting on her satirical play about the Texas legislature for seven years now, and she’s been thinking a lot about risk lately. She’s decided it’s worth it, just in time for the new season September 16 through 18 at the Long Center.

“If I get fired from my state job for a theater show that I consider as freedom of speech, that's a pretty good badge of honor,” says Chiarello. “I don't want that to happen at all, but maybe I could fundraise off that.”

The live sketch comedy show Over the Lege exists to keep the legislature in check, even if the legislative body at large doesn't know about it. Chariello and her team spin scenes off of actual events at the Capitol to help staffers blow off some steam, and to make sure Texans have an accessible shot at understanding the decisions being made.

2022 is an interim year, meaning that legislation is not being passed, but the committees are “homework,” as Chiarello explains. Over the Lege runs in the fall to coincide with election season, and she points out this is an especially important year due to redistricting, which placed every statewide office, senator, and representative on the ballot. The next legislature starts in January of 2023.

Chiarello first pitched the show to the Institution Theater in 2015, the year of the 84th legislative session, while working for then-Senator and former Austin mayor Kirk Watson. Even besides watching overtly distressing lawmaking decisions at council meetings and floor debates, she was witnessing more than her fair share of “juvenile” behavior.

One member asked an Asian-American speaker to change his name so she could pronounce it better; another member teased a heavy legislator with a cookie. Chiarello wondered why it seemed that no one was paying attention to these, or even more egregious offenses.

“Senators represent about a million people in Texas and representatives are, like, 220,000 people. You mean so much more here on this level than you do to the President of the United States,” says Chiarello. “People can tell you who the president is — and bless Ted Cruz’s heart, people seem to know who he is now — but no one right now, who's not involved in the Texas lege, could tell you who their state senator or their state rep are. And that's what I wanted to change.”

Unlike the legislative members Chiarello skewers, she and her writers try to keep their ribbing to what individuals have earned. She tries to stick to policy, unless certain members have consistently transgressed on the side of bad policy. State Representative Briscoe Cain bought his ticket from relative protection to a children of the corn comparison with sensationally hardline policy goals, public name-calling, and, in fairness, a lot of pictures in fields.

Over the Lege is a nonpartisan show, at least in theory, but Chiarello finds it harder to make fun of Democrats — not for lack of material, but weakness of punchlines. “I try,” she says. “I promise I try so hard, but the show is really about punching up to power, and Democrats have no power.”

One sketch from 2019 takes the form of a game show called “How Red Is It?” The first contestant is a handsy Pisces from Austin who cannot name any gubernatorial candidates besides Greg Abbott, but pledges “100 percent” of her support to whoever his opponent is. She snaps at a “white male” on her way offstage.

Games shows are the basis for the Over the Lege podcast, which is active in between live shows, much more frequently, and returning for its fourth season in October. Episodes contain radio-style game shows (like Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!) with local comedians as contestants and interviews with “legislative celebrities.” The most recent episode, released on June 2, 2022, features comedians Aaron Salinas and Shana Merlin, plus Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant.

The Long Center show for the 2022 season features one special guest per showing: Senator Sarah Eckhardt, State Representative Gina Hinojosa, and Democratic campaign consultant James Aldrete, in order.

Aside from guests, the show keeps multiple writers busy, especially head writer Amy Knopp, who does advocacy work and Chiarello calls “Capitol-adjacent.” Other writers and actors affiliated with Over the Lege were either invited in an open call early in the show’s life, or have since joined through word of mouth.

Chiarello is also responsible for all the administrative work, booking shows, and buying costumes — basically, anything that comes up. As much as the sketch show is an outlet, it is financial baggage. She hopes that the show will one day support itself, so it at least breaks even. For now, she considers it her “civic duty.”

“I justify [the personal risk] by saying … 80 percent of what's in the show is real. It's really happened. It's a real policy. It's a real conversation. It's [really] something in someone's past,” says Chiarello. “So if a legislator is proud of the work they do, they should fear not of this show. And if they're not proud, then that's the whole point.”

Over the Lege is available as a podcast wherever podcasts are. Tickets for the Long Center show ($17-25) on September 16, 17, and 18 are available at thelongcenter.org.

Over the Lege draws from real Texas politics, and the unreal drama they create.

Photo by Steve Rogers Photography
Over the Lege draws from real Texas politics, and the unreal drama they create.
Photo by Jessica Pages

SXSW unveils first round of featured speakers and sessions for 2023 festival

Get This

The beauty of South by Southwest is that attendees make their own lineups, even on the conference side. Still, there’s so much to look at every day, it helps that the festival chooses featured speakers to narrow things down.

On Tuesday, August 30, the storied Austin festival revealed a cast of 13 featured speakers for 2023, featuring personalities and experts in sports, business, music, food, and more.

The conference events — less talked about than the flashy music and film festival events, which are technically all under the former umbrella — include more business and information sharing than entertainment, in several formats. Keynotes are presentations in the form of conversations with a wide range of recognizable guests, often visiting to perform at some other time. Panels are slightly different, more topic based, and are mostly picked by the community. Workshops, mentor sessions, and meetups are more personally involved.

This leaves featured sessions, which the conference sets aside for industry leaders. Following 25 tracks including huge topics like civic engagement and niche ones like psychedelics, these presentations are all about finding the zeitgeist, and likely interrupting it with innovative questions and lenses.

Featured speakers (by individual) and sessions (by topic) include:

  • Kyle Andrew, Allyson Felix, and Gloria Riviera: Andrew, chief brand officer at Athleta will talk with track and field Olympian Felix, who also works in athletic wear, and reporter Riviera, who podcasts about childcare. About what? It’s anyone’s guess with this eclectic group.
  • Amy Gallo: Gallo is the woman you want on your side at work. Along with contributing to the Harvard Business Review and co-hosting its Women At Work podcast, she has her own book coming out soon called Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People).
  • Sophia Roe: James Beard Award-winning chef Sophia Roe hosts Counter Space, a Vice TV series that examines the world through food; not just culture but innovation and climate change. Her explorations are mainly in the name of inclusivity, sustainability, and food equity.
  • “2050: Digital Identity is a Human Right”: Working from home, staying in touch with friends, or even just using a site that requires a log-in, everyone who uses computers and smartphones has a digital identity, and Unstoppable Domains senior Vice President Sandy Carter wants that ubiquity acknowledged.
  • “Data Privacy After Roe v. Wade”: The last thing many U.S. citizens want right now is to leave a record that they may become pregnant…and not deliver. Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, Alexandra Reeve Givens of the Center for Democracy & Technology, and Nabiha Syed The Markup talk protections.
  • “RTR 2023: The Neuroscience of Self-Renewal”: Resilience has been a trending topic for a long time, but in this talk by Chief Technology Officer of Everbridge John Maeda, it’s narrowed down to self-renewal. Can trusting that process help people overcome upheaval?

The rest of the featured speakers announced in a press release containing the above developments are Ian Beacraft, Rohit Bhargava, Henry Coutinho-Mason, Bryony Cole, Alex Naghavi, Chris Hyams, Daniel Lubetzky, Guy Moot, Douglas Rushkoff, Joost Van Druenen, Amy Webb, and Molly White. It also details a featured session called “Design for a Better Future.”

The 2023 South by Southwest conference will take place March 10-19. Current selection processes include music and film submissions, and pitch entries. Registration to attend (starting at $595) is open at sxsw.com.

Photo by Shelley Neuman

Texas Tribune's Evan Smith presents a trail guide to his final festival

Everything is Political

Believe it or not, politics can be fun, even if it’s all you talk about for days. The Texas Tribune is proving that once again with incumbent CEO Evan Smith’s last Texas Tribune Festival. From September 22-24, this long-standing annual event will bring together more than 350 influential speakers for more than 100 panels, from politicians in office to journalists and cultural wave-makers.

“It's become a major part of the Tribune's brand,” says Smith. “An important person I respect said to me in 2019, looking around the festival that year — the last year we did it in person — that we used to be a news organization with a festival, and we're becoming a festival with a news organization. And I thought, I'm actually okay with that.”

Smith announced his impending departure from the Tribune in January 2022, in a simultaneously wistful and tongue-in-cheek farewell address that acknowledged his “sentimentality and nostalgia.” He will be finished with his tenure by December, but will continue through 2023 as a senior advisor to his yet-unnamed replacement.

“I will be sentimental about it being my last. Of course, I'm also nostalgic, and I'll be nostalgic about the early days of the festival,” says Smith. “But one of the great things about leaving the Tribune now is that everybody here is in the best possible position to carry the important work that we've been doing forward to the next 13 years. And so I'll be watching like everybody else, with a lot of pride.”

This year, the festival broadened its scope from 2021 and earlier to include even more interests tangential to politics, aiming for the same bullseye as the Tribune always does: the average reader. The festival is always as jargon-free as possible, this year including topics like Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner’s memoir and 50 years of cultural change, retired top tennis player Andy Roddick’s opinions on the duties of nonprofits, and singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett’s experience as a Texas legend.

To help attendees start building their itineraries (or give keen readers at home some things to research), Smith selected the following must-attend events for CultureMap readers to keep on their radar.

Thursday, September 22
Thursday is a shorter day with “a couple of sessions to get peoples’ appetites going,” according to Smith. Of the 10 events, he chose two not to miss:

A Conversation with Katy Tur
9:30 am - 10:30 am

The MSNBC anchor will discuss journalism with Smith himself, with special attention to her recent second book that stretches all the way back through her childhood, Rough Draft: A Memoir. This chat will be in-person, kicking off the festival.

One-on-One with Anthony Fauci
10:30 am - 11:30 am

This prerecorded conversation is only available virtually. Smith interviews Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the U.S. president, about the “layered” public health emergencies of COVID-19 and monkeypox as it emerges.

Friday, September 23
This mid-size day has 43 scheduled sessions. Smith chose one from each time slot:

One-on-One with Glenn Youngkin
8:45 am - 9:45 am

The Virginia governor is, in Smith’s words, “one of the big Republican success stories of the last couple of years,” and will be interviewed by senior correspondent David Drucker of the Washington Examiner. Some speculate that Youngkin will run for president in 2024.

The Forward Presents: One-on-One with Deborah Lipstadt
10:15 am - 11:15 am

U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt is talking about the issue nationally and worldwide, interviewed by Forward editor-in-chief Jodi Ruth Warren. A recent report found that 2021 was a record year for antisemitism in Austin.

One-on-One with Walter Isaacson
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tulane University professor Walter Isaacson discusses Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and his current work with Elon Musk. He is interviewed by Pushkin Productions CEO Jacob Weisberg, former editor-in-chief of the Slate Group.

One-on-One with Hillary Clinton
1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

Former U.S. Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is interviewed by New York Times podcast host Kara Swisher about progressive values in the United States. Swisher runs the Vox Media Code Conference, and is no stranger to the stage.

One-on-One with Ben McKenzie
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Austin-born actor and writer Ben McKenzie is one Austinite speaking out on a large scale about “the case against crypto” as the city grows more and more entangled with it. He is interviewed by Bloomberg Digital executive editor for news Joe Weisenthal.

Saturday, September 24
The longest day of the festival, Saturday hosts 68 sessions. Smith chose one for each time slot:

After Roe
8:45 am - 9:45 am

This panel addressing one of the hottest topics in recent politics is run by Ana Marie Cox of The Cut, and features Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson, Texas state representative Donna Howard, and former state senator Wendy Davis, famous for her abortion filibuster.

One-on-One with Annette Gordon-Reed
9:00 am - 10:00 am

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Harvard professor Annette Gordon Reed discusses the legacy of slavery and the morals of studying history. She is interviewed by Errin Haines, editor-at-large for The 19th, founded by former Tribune editor-in-chief Emily Ramshaw.

One-on-One with Ted Cruz
10:30 am - 11:30 am

U.S. Senator and Texan Ted Cruz is slated to talk on Saturday, although he hasn’t yet been matched with a conversation partner. He’ll talk about tension with the Biden administration, the “soul” of the Republican party, and a possible reprisal of his 2016 presidential campaign.

One-on-One with Chris Bosh
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

NBA Hall of Famer Chris Bosh is interviewed by ESPN commentator Kirk Goldsberry on sports, being retired, and voting. Bosh has spoken out about social justice, and always ties it to a message of using one’s voice to create change.

Below the Line
2:15 pm - 3:15 pm

Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and urban development Julián Castro joins former mayor of Stockton, California, Michael Tubbs and ProPublica-Texas Tribune investigative reporter Vianna Davila to discuss Texans living disproportionately below the poverty line.

One-on-One with Gavin Newsom
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

California Governor Gavin Newsom takes a leadership role, telling MSNBC anchor Alex Wagner about what the rest of the United States can learn from his state. The Democratic governor leans toward messaging about innovation and creating precedent-setting big change.

Tickets for the Texas Tribune Festival ($269 general admission) from September 22 to 24, both virtually and in venues across Austin, are available at texastribune.org.

Photo by Patti Perret / Focus Features

Podcasting becomes cinematic in the lively and deep Vengeance

Movie Review

Over the past decade, the medium of podcasts has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry, attracting celebrities, journalists, and everyday people due to the relative freedom the platform provides. As podcasting has grown bigger, it has naturally seeped into other mediums, with the show Only Murders in the Building being the latest and greatest example.

Now, actor/writer/director B.J. Novak has made what might be the definitive movie about podcasting with Vengeance. An unrepentant serial dater, Ben Manalowitz (Novak) is a writer/aspiring podcaster in New York City who pitches his ideas to Eloise (Issa Rae), a producer at a podcasting company.

When Abilene Shaw (Lio Tipton), a girl Ben had dated casually, dies of a drug overdose, Ben’s presence on her social media leads her family to assume they were more serious than they were. Guilted into coming to her funeral in Texas, Ben soon finds himself drawn into their world, especially when Abilene’s brother Ty (Boyd Holbrook) suggests that Abilene’s death was not accidental. He starts recording everything to not only get to the bottom of the potential mystery, but to document a way of life he knows little about.

The film, the first movie written and directed by Novak, has an interesting tone. It’s not a full-on comedy, although there are a lot of comedic moments. While it has some heartfelt scenes in its relatively short 94 minutes, the inherent cynicism of Ben keeps it from becoming too sentimental. And the story introduces a degree of mystery, but it never becomes consumed by that part.

What Novak seems interested in more than anything is examining the way people from different parts of the country interact. While perhaps not the most profound investigation of the human condition ever put on screen, the film is much deeper than one might expect. Novak doesn’t eschew Texas stereotypes like religion, guns, and Whataburger, but he doles them out in small increments, focusing more on who people are than what they represent.

And so while Abilene’s sisters Paris (Isabella Amara) and Kansas City (Dove Cameron) are seemingly shallow on the surface, they also are worldly enough to know about the works of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. Quentin Sellers (Ashton Kutcher), a small-town record producer with whom Abilene worked, gives off a creepy vibe, but he’s also among the most erudite people in the whole film.

Novak obviously knows what type of role fits him best, and he does extremely well as the jaded-but-curious Ben. Holbrook steals the film as Ty, a potentially one-note character that becomes much more in his hands. Rae makes the most of a part that has her mostly talking on the phone. And all of the actors who make up Abilene’s family provide nice color to the story.

Vengeance is much tamer than its title would suggest, and it’s all the better for it. It does what podcasts often do best, diving deep into a particular aspect of American life, providing revelations that can surprise both the podcaster and the audience.

---

Vengeance opened in theaters on July 29.

Ashton Kutcher and B.J. Novak in Vengeance.

Photo by Patti Perret / Focus Features
Ashton Kutcher and B.J. Novak in Vengeance.

Popular podcaster Joe Rogan tied to new downtown Austin comedy club

ritzy makeover

A new comedy club associated with local comedian and podcaster Joe Rogan is on tap for downtown Austin’s vacant Ritz Theater, formerly home to Alamo Drafthouse.

Asylum Real Estate Holdings, which bought the landmark last year from Craddock Properties, plans to convert the theater into a venue called Comedy Mothership, according to public records. Asylum is managed by Matthew Lichtenberg, who is Rogan’s talent agent.

The Ritz Theater, at 320 E. Sixth St., dates back to 1927 and started as a movie theater. In subsequent years, it hosted musical acts like Stevie Ray Vaughn and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It also did time as an adult movie theater and as a temporary home of the Esther’s Follies comedy troupe.

Tim League, co-founder of Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse, renovated the building’s façade and interior in 2007, and returned the venue to its original use as a movie theater. The COVID-19 pandemic forced Alamo Drafthouse to shut down the theater in 2021.

Under its most recent configuration, the venue contained a downstairs theater with 175 seats and an upstairs theater with 96 seats.

The Austin Towers blog, which first reported on the Rogan-linked comedy club, notes that Rogan had eyed the One World Theatre in West Austin as a comedy venue but that deal fell through.

Now, Rogan — who recently has whipped up controversy over his views on COVID-19 and his use of racial slurs — appears to be setting his sights on the Ritz property.

As part of the building’s transformation into a comedy club, the Alamo signage is supposed to be removed and replaced with Comedy Mothership signage, but the Ritz signage is set to remain.

So far, there’s no indication about when work on Comedy Mothership will begin and when the comedy club will open.

Last July, an entity related to Asylum Real Estate Holdings filed a federal trademark application for “Comedy Mothership” that would cover, among other things, comedy shows, apparel, audio and video recordings, documentaries, and other products and services bearing the brand name.

Rogan moved to Austin in 2020 from Southern California after landing a $100 million podcasting deal with Spotify. He and his wife, Jessica, live in a tricked-out $14.4 million mansion along Lake Austin.

Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez

New podcast from UT Austin professors focuses on Blackness in full color

Everyday People

When Austin unveiled its Black Austin Matters street painting in June 2020, Richard Reddick responded with a tweet: “In light of the #BlackInAustin painting on Congress, I think it’s good for us to talk about what being #BlackInATX is actually like.” Reddick, associate dean of equity, community engagement, and outreach at the University of Texas, then tagged some colleagues.

“I love this question,” replied Lisa B. Thompson, playwright and professor of African and African diaspora studies. “Let’s have a public convo! @KUT are you game?”

That night, the projects editor for Austin public radio station KUT, Matt Largey, emailed, accepting the call to action.

A year and a half later, the local NPR station and its sister music station, KUTX, are debuting a podcast about the full scope of Blackness in Austin. Hosted by the two aforementioned UT staff members and produced by KUT’s own set of colleagues — Largey and Pause/Play producer Miles Bloxson — the collaboration focuses on real-life matters of Black Austin. The Black Austin Matters podcast covers not just what’s promoted during commemorative occasions or lamented in moments of crisis, but everything in between.

“I just really want to get away from the notion of Black life being a problem to be solved,” says Thompson. “We have many grievances that make sense, but we don’t live in that space, always and only.”

The new team is interviewing Black Austin residents of all kinds, from well-known activists and artists to teachers and barbers. So far, two episodes have been released, starting strong with Austin Justice Coalition founder Chas Moore and seven-decade power couple Wilhelmina and Exalton Delco. Soon, the new podcast will start zooming in on community members with less public positions.

Thompson calls this intersection of interviewees “neighbors.” The team considers each potential subject’s reach before each talk, not to exploit outside audiences for new listeners, but to be sure new stories are getting as much space as those making more frequent news. If the topic is normal, diverse Black life, shouldn’t the roster include normal, diverse Black people?

The hosts stumble into a convoluted, hypothetical episode on the top 10 Black Austinites, and laugh.

“I don’t know if we’d make it or not,” says Reddick, as Thompson predicts the latter.

To expand the platform the podcast can offer these normal speakers, it targets normal listeners who might not already be familiar with podcasting. Every month, a new episode will drop, with an eight-minute segment running on KUT 90.5. The segments, producer Bloxson says, are chosen by the professors to represent the most impactful part of the interview.

“We’re adding our artistic value to it [as producers], but we also want to make sure that this is their voice,” says Bloxson. “It’s been fun teaching them how to do a podcast, because they’ve been professors for so long. They’ve been teaching people, so it’s interesting to see them in a different space.”

The professors echo Bloxson’s thoughts, reflecting on their own interview experiences. As ambassadors for the University of Texas — and now the world listening in — they reject the assumption that they are leading the conversation. Actually, they’re learning from Black neighbors about their personal histories and current community topics that may not be visible past those directly involved.

“It’s finding out how recent the history is,” says Reddick of what he’s learned from storytellers like the Delcos. “We’re talking to people who literally broke barriers in the city. They’re up in years, but they’re telling stories about integrating stores, integrating schools, integrating universities, all in one conversation.”

Bloxson, Reddick, and Thompson all emphasize the fun of working together and delving into a community they share. Despite an air of apparent academia in summaries about professors talking on public radio, the conversations mirror those between any Black friends or admirers, and with great purpose. In the podcast’s first week, readers have already written in from across the country to express interest and gratitude. Black community matters to Black communities everywhere, and this one just happens to be unfolding here in Austin.

The first two episodes of Black Austin Matters, featuring Chas Moore and Wilhelmina and Exalton Delco, are available to listen to now at kutkutx.studio or anywhere else podcasts are streaming. Short segments will air locally on KUT 90.5 during breaks between Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

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Affluent Austin suburb boasts one of the biggest holiday budgets, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Affluent Austin suburb cashes in with one of the biggest holiday budgets in the U.S. Cedar Park boasts a jolly big holiday budget of $2,855 per person this year — the 14th highest in the U.S.


2. Acclaimed Hill Country winery pours onto list of the world's 100 best for 2022. The celebrated vineyard near Fredericksburg just uncorked a coveted spot on an exclusive list.

3. Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort. The Billion Dollar Buyer scooped up one of only six hotels in the U.S. with the Forbes Triple Five-Star rating.

4. 100-plus comedians set to make Austin laugh in Moontower's 2023 festival lineup. Trevor Noah is one of Moontower's exciting 2023 headliners.

5. Renovated UT Austin museum set to reopen in 2023 with exciting new exhibits. The Texas Memorial Museum will reopen in fall 2023 with new exhibits.

New self-guided tour showcases iconic Fort Worth Stockyards' many Hollywood ties

Tinseltown in Cowtown

A new self-guided tour showcasing the Fort Worth Stockyards’ many star-studded appearances in cinema throughout the years recently debuted in time for the 16th annual Lone Star Film Festival, which took place earlier this month in the Stockyards for the first time.

Called Stars of the Stockyards, the eight-stop, go-at-your-own pace walking tour guides folks to famous film sites where celebrities have stepped foot in front of Hollywood cameras. Visitors to the Stockyards can access the PDF tour map on their smart phones via QR codes (no app required) posted throughout the district, namely at hotels and tour kiosks.

"The Stockyards is a historic and celebrated destination for many reasons, but one that may be lesser known is its popularity as a filming location for some of our favorite movies and TV series," said Ethan Cartwright, VP of marketing for Stockyards Heritage Development Co.

The tour and corresponding QR codes are a permanent addition to the district, he said.

Stops on the map include the iconic White Elephant Saloon, a hotbed for Hollywood performances including several by legendary actor and martial artist Chuck Norris in the longtime TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger when the watering hole was portrayed as the fictional CD Bar. The White Elephant was also graced by country music superstar Tim McGraw and Academy Award-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton for their appearances in Paramount Plus’ hit series 1883.

Also in 1883 and featured on the tour is Hookers Grill, hidden in the less flashy West side of Exchange Ave. The burger shack transformed into a gambling den in the show called The Texas House of Liquor & Sport. It’s the only building in the Stockyards that preserved the façade constructed by 1883’s production team. During operating hours, customers can order at the outdoor burger window and dine at patio tables within the two-story structure.

Cowtown Coliseum is marked on the map for its appearances in the 1983 film Tough Enough, where actor Dennis Quaid played an amateur boxer. It’s also the home of the final rodeo scene in the 1992 movie Pure Country starring country music legend George Strait.

Billy Bob’s Texas, the Stockyards Hotel, and even unassuming historic cattle pens also make the list on the tour, along with notations for the Texas Trail of Fame, which features more than 240 bronze markers honoring contributors for preserving and perpetuating the Western way of life.

Veteran actors Sam Elliot and Robert Duvall, both stars in the megahit TV series Yellowstone, are among the most recent Texas Trail of Fame inductees.

For more information and to get started on the tour, go here.

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.