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  • Holiday

A five-piece band born and bred in Austin, Holiday (Maggie Leyenberger, Kent Arnold, Dennis McHale, Waybe Dalchau, Travis Tejas) serves up unaffected indie pop-rock that's guaranteed to make you tap your feet and forget about that bad mood — at least for a moment.

The group continues to pick up more shows around town, and their music will prove to be the perfect antidote to a lazy, blistering Austin summer. Holiday's proclaimed musical influences include "sunshine, alcohol, sweet kisses;" to get a dose of that delightful disposition, check out their next gig at Elysium on April 12.

The group stopped by the Wheeler Brothers during SXSW madness to relax and play a tune off their debut album for the UTOPiA sessions.

The UTOPiA Sessions served as an oasis on the edge of SXSW craziness, providing top-quality bands we love with an opportunity to play in a welcoming and relaxing environment."The UTOPiA Sessions put bands in a state of euphoria," says Aaron Brown, director of Onion Creek Productions. "First we get them set up, then they get into the massage chairs and style salon. A few beard trims and bloody mary's later, we head into the very 'Wes Anderson' looking billiards' room. Each band plays a couple of songs, the Onion Creek boys film, Craig Lawrence records sound and we get a finished video about twelve hours later."

"Dainty Gent" by Holiday

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The UTOPiA Sessions is a co-production between Onion Creek Productions, UTOPiAfest, and Wheeler Brothers.

Onion Creek Productions is brothers Aaron and Jamie Brown, and Rob Seidel. We've been busy producing videos for several bands including Grupo Fantasma, Wheeler Brothers and Blitzen Trapper. Since we already were in the business of creating high-quality live and scripted live music videos, we had the opportunity to partner with Travis Sutherland, founder of UTOPiAfest.

Pat Cassidy is the Wheeler Brothers' manager and is the other producer of UTOPiA Sessions.

UTOPiAfest is an intimate campout festival in the most beautiful west Texas hill country — Utopia, TX. During the weekend of Sept. 28-30, over 20 top bands from around the world descend into the hills and end up in a secluded valley with vista's stretching for miles. There a lucky 1,800 people (capped audience) will enjoy a BYOB, free parking, free camping festival like none other. It's a magical location that has been the spot for many unreal music moments. UTOPiAfest last year featured bands such as Blitzen Trapper, Dawes, Keller Williams, Wheeler Brothers, Black & White Years, Grupo Fantasma, and Art vs. Science.

  • Quiet Company
    Photo by Jon Shapley
  • Ben Kweller
    Photo by Jessica Pages
  • Crooks
    Photo by Dan Solomon

Sounds from SXSW 2012: CultureMap's free Texas Showcase Sampler is now availablefor download

SXSW Rewind

Have you recovered from the post-SXSW blues? Even though the music-filled days (and nights) of SXSW are well behind us, we at CultureMap know that there's still plenty of listening, and discovery, to do.

Chances are you got to catch some new (or new to you) national and international acts during SXSW (hopefully along with a beer and maybe a little sun). But, with so many parties and shows (and RSVPs!), you may have missed some good ol' Texas tunes along the way. That's where CultureMap comes in.

Our first ever Texas Showcase Sampler features tracks from some of Texas' best official showcasing bands from SXSW 2012. And just like SXSW — and the Lone Star State in general — there's something to satiate every musical taste.

Tracks include one of Ben Kweller's latest releases, a tune from Quiet Company (who just raked in 10 accolades at the Austin Music Awards), some solid rock n' roll from Heartless Bastards and even a little modern outlaw country from Crooks.

CultureMap's Texas Showcase Sampler is completely free to download, just follow this link. Here's the full lineup of the 2012 Texas Showcase Sampler (rock, blues and outlaws included):

  • Guy Forsyth: "If I Was Sick"
  • Uncle Lucius: "Ain't It The Same"
  • The Wheeler Brothers: "Spent Time"
  • Carolyn Wonderland: "Victory of Flying"
  • Heartless Bastards: "Parted Ways"
  • Crooks: "18 Wheels"
  • Not in the Face: "Brass Tacks"
  • Quiet Company: "You, Me & The Boatman"
  • The Black and White Years: "Up!"
  • Mother Falcon: "Fireflies"
  • Marmalakes: "Geneva Hall"
  • SPEAK: "Carrie"
  • Ben Kweller: "Jealous Girl"

Download your copy of CultureMap's Texas Showcase Sampler here. It's one way to kick the post-SXSW blues.


SXSW Encore: Exclusive music from Geographer

UTOPiA Sessions music

This indie rock trio, made up of Michael Deni, Nathan Blaz and Brian Ostreicher stretches your imagination with electronic synthesizers combined with cello and soaring vocals. Formed in San Francisco in 2008, Geographer had released only one full-length album Innocent Ghosts since, but this year comes their second, Myth. It's a rare treat to have them in Austin and the Wheeler Brothers took advantage.

The group stopped by the Wheeler Brothers house last week during SXSW madness to relax and play a tune off their album for the UTOPiA sessions.

The UTOPiA Sessions served as an oasis on the edge of SXSW craziness, providing top-quality bands we love with an opportunity to play in a welcoming and relaxing environment."The UTOPiA Sessions put bands in a state of euphoria," says Aaron Brown, director of Onion Creek Productions. "First we get them set up, then they get into the massage chairs and style salon. A few beard trims and bloody mary's later, we head into the very 'Wes Anderson' looking billiards' room. Each band plays a couple of songs, the Onion Creek boys film, Craig Lawrence records sound and we get a finished video about twelve hours later."

"The Boulder" by Geographer

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The UTOPiA Sessions is a co-production between Onion Creek Productions, UTOPiAfest, and Wheeler Brothers.

Onion Creek Productions is brothers Aaron and Jamie Brown, and Rob Seidel. We've been busy producing videos for several bands including Grupo Fantasma, Wheeler Brothers and Blitzen Trapper. Since we already were in the business of creating high-quality live and scripted live music videos, we had the opportunity to partner with Travis Sutherland, founder of UTOPiAfest.

Pat Cassidy is the Wheeler Brothers' manager and is the other producer of UTOPiA Sessions.

UTOPiAfest is an intimate campout festival in the most beautiful west Texas hill country — Utopia, TX. During the weekend of Sept. 28-30, over 20 top bands from around the world descend into the hills and end up in a secluded valley with vista's stretching for miles. There a lucky 1,800 people (capped audience) will enjoy a BYOB, free parking, free camping festival like none other. It's a magical location that has been the spot for many unreal music moments. UTOPiAfest last year featured bands such as Blitzen Trapper, Dawes, Keller Williams, Wheeler Brothers, Black & White Years, Grupo Fantasma, and Art vs. Science.

  • Blitzen Trapper

SXSW Encore: Blitzen Trapper sends new music to the masses

Exclusive music

A Portland band started by Eric Early and Marty Marquis in 2000, Blitzen Trapper came to SXSW, played an amazing 11 shows and still had time to stop by the Wheeler Brothers house to relax and play a tune for the UTOPiA sessions. The highlight had to be a set played at Stubbs where they were joined by members of Big Star and R.E.M. on stage.

Generally described as folk rock or alt-country, the five member combo manages to conjure comparisons to Joe Walsh and Neil Young. The group has released six full length albums and continues to grow fans as a mad touring band. Eric Early, Marty Marquis, Brian Adrian Koch, Erik Menteer and Michael VanPelt are Blitzen Trapper. Here they perform "Fletcher" off of their latest album American Goldwing.

The UTOPiA Sessions served as an oasis on the edge of SXSW craziness, providing top-quality bands we love with an opportunity to play in a welcoming and relaxing environment."The UTOPiA Sessions put bands in a state of euphoria," says Aaron Brown, director of Onion Creek Productions. "First we get them set up, then they get into the massage chairs and style salon. A few beard trims and bloody mary's later, we head into the very 'Wes Anderson' looking billiards' room. Each band plays a couple of songs, the Onion Creek boys film, Craig Lawrence records sound and we get a finished video about twelve hours later."

"Fletcher" by Blitzen Trapper

---

The UTOPiA Sessions is a co-production between Onion Creek Productions, UTOPiAfest, and Wheeler Brothers.

Onion Creek Productions is brothers Aaron and Jamie Brown, and Rob Seidel. We've been busy producing videos for several bands including Grupo Fantasma, Wheeler Brothers and Blitzen Trapper. Since we already were in the business of creating high-quality live and scripted live music videos, we had the opportunity to partner with Travis Sutherland, founder of UTOPiAfest.

Pat Cassidy is the Wheeler Brothers' manager and is the other producer of UTOPiA Sessions.

UTOPiAfest is an intimate campout festival in the most beautiful west Texas hill country — Utopia, TX. During the weekend of Sept. 28-30, over 20 top bands from around the world descend into the hills and end up in a secluded valley with vista's stretching for miles. There a lucky 1,800 people (capped audience) will enjoy a BYOB, free parking, free camping festival like none other. It's a magical location that has been the spot for many unreal music moments. UTOPiAfest last year featured bands such as Blitzen Trapper, Dawes, Keller Williams, Wheeler Brothers, Black & White Years, Grupo Fantasma, and Art vs. Science.

SXSW Encore: Exclusive music from Caveman

Exclusive music

This group of Brooklyn-based indie rockers recently released their debut album Coco Beware. Formed in late 2009, Caveman completed their SXSW tour to see themselves on the cover of Paste Magazine with none other then The Boss himself.

Matthew Iwanusa, Jimmy Carbonetti, Stefan Marolachakis, Sam Hopkins and Jeff Berrall are quickly developing a national following. A recent write up in the New York Times said, "The deliberate soft focus lends depth and an air of mystery to what might have been cool-headed, straightforward indie-rock; there are echoes of the Feelies, the Strokes and, somewhere in the distance, the Beach Boys." The group stopped by the Wheeler Brothers house last week during SXSW madness to relax and play a tune off their album for the UTOPiA sessions.

The UTOPiA Sessions served as an oasis on the edge of SXSW craziness, providing top-quality bands we love with an opportunity to play in a welcoming and relaxing environment."The UTOPiA Sessions put bands in a state of euphoria," says Aaron Brown, director of Onion Creek Productions. "First we get them set up, then they get into the massage chairs and style salon. A few beard trims and bloody mary's later, we head into the very 'Wes Anderson' looking billiards' room. Each band plays a couple of songs, the Onion Creek boys film, Craig Lawrence records sound and we get a finished video about twelve hours later."

"Thankful" by Caveman

---

The UTOPiA Sessions is a co-production between Onion Creek Productions, UTOPiAfest, and Wheeler Brothers.

Onion Creek Productions is brothers Aaron and Jamie Brown, and Rob Seidel. We've been busy producing videos for several bands including Grupo Fantasma, Wheeler Brothers and Blitzen Trapper. Since we already were in the business of creating high-quality live and scripted live music videos, we had the opportunity to partner with Travis Sutherland, founder of UTOPiAfest.

Pat Cassidy is the Wheeler Brothers' manager and is the other producer of UTOPiA Sessions.

UTOPiAfest is an intimate campout festival in the most beautiful west Texas hill country — Utopia, TX. During the weekend of Sept. 28-30, over 20 top bands from around the world descend into the hills and end up in a secluded valley with vista's stretching for miles. There a lucky 1,800 people (capped audience) will enjoy a BYOB, free parking, free camping festival like none other. It's a magical location that has been the spot for many unreal music moments. UTOPiAfest last year featured bands such as Blitzen Trapper, Dawes, Keller Williams, Wheeler Brothers, Black & White Years, Grupo Fantasma, and Art vs. Science.

  • Hungry Todd Rungry
    Photo by Michael Graupmann
  • Todd Rungry and the competitors.
    Photo by Michael Graupmann
  • Photo by Michael Graupmann
  • Photo by Michael Graupmann

Eating for America: The Hungry Todd Rungy Show hits the streets and a screennear you

Food TV

"He's American! He's Todd Rungy! Fighting for freedom, fighting to eeeeeeeat!"

Perhaps you saw him handing out swag and making new friends at SXSW this year, or maybe you've seen webisodes of Todd Rungy's exploits on the internet. If you haven't caught the competitive eating fever yet, Austin, it's coming your way and it's wrapped in the American flag.

With the hardest working team in showbiz backing him, including an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign, Rungy is now searching for a home on television to expand his ministry of "Eatin' for America." Austin film director Joshua Riehl has been recording Rungy's every bite since day one and has recently completed the pilot episode of The Hungry Todd Rungy Show.

Filled with the hysterical exploits of one man who embraces our patriotic penchant for excess, the show is Riehl's passion project for the city that is as much a character in the show as Rungy himself. Adventurous Austin grazers will recognize the trailers, tacquerias and tiendas that keep our great city fed — just not usually to the degree that Rungy is eating.

Riehl, a graduate from the Radio, Television and Film department at the University of Texas has been busily editing the nearly 250 hours of footage from the past four months of shooting in order to constitute the first season of the show. SXSW proved the perfect opportunity to get Rungy and the show out in the public and seen by the right eyes.

Part of that mission was a Texas-sized eating contest co-hosted by The Hungry Todd Rungy Show and regular partner Torchy's Tacos at the South First Trailer Park. Having found Rungy online, Torchy's Marketing Director Danielle Neighbors contacted Riehl to set up a SXSW eating challenge that would feature some of Austin's favorite trailer tacos.

After some clever brainstorming, the Torchy's SpecTACOlar Showdown was born. Despite all the hulabaloo downtown, a healthy showing of curious bystanders gathered to watch the spectacle of 12 grown men speed-eating two giant Torchy's Ace of Spades tacos. Eric "The Lizard Man" Sprague hosted the event that pitted Rungy against long-time Torchy's fans, one of Torchy's co-owners and even career competitive eater Randy Harrison, fresh off his win from Home Slice's Carnival o' Pizza.

The American-clad Rungy put up a noble fight, but in the end, a construction worker by the name of Fred Jeziorkowski was crowned the champion, winning the title, the trophy and a $100 gift card to Torchy's. A still-hungry Harrison accepted Torchy's challenge to claim a separate prize if he could finish a specially-made seven pound Ridonculous taco. (He might still be finishing it...)

The Torchy's SpecTACOlar Showdown is the perfect example of crazy stunts and good-natured humor that have been a part of the show from the get-go. "I remember one time Todd ate a ghost pepper, and it was like all the mucuous membranes in his face exploded at the same time," recalls Rungy's brother and trainer, Dick Rungy, who has seen his share of awesomely gross behavior during the filming process.

"Todd actually doesn't do fried eggs," Riehl revealed to us before the bout. "So this eating contest is not just about beating others; it's about beating his own fear." Overcoming his food phobias is a strong element of the story arc in the first season of The Hungry Todd Rungy Show, Riehl reveals. And what metaphor could be better for a patriotic competitive eater than overcoming his own greatest obstacles?

A true American hero, ladies and gentleman. Eating for your right to assemble, speak your mind and own guns. Clearly, also a true Texan. Raise your forks in salute.

"He's American! He's Todd Rungy! Fighting for freedom, fighting to eeeeeeeat!"

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Watch the first episode of The Hungry Todd Rungy Show on their website. And support his fight for freedom on Facebook and Twitter.

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H-E-B unveils merch for super fans, plus more hot Austin headlines

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. H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise in celebration of its 117th anniversary.

2. Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

3. Draft 'Vision Plan' for Zilker Park unveils land bridge and more possibilities. Austinites are invited to comment on a vision plan that will inform the future of Zilker Park.

4. Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report. Austin is the No. 43 best city in the world, according to a new study. (And yes, we beat Dallas.)

5. Austin airport launches new SkySquad travel assistants in time for the holiday rush. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is keeping lines moving during a period of heavy travel with a new team of airport assistants.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort

tilman goes laguna

Fans of Tilman Fertitta's nationwide hospitality brands are in for a treat. The Billion Dollar Buyer has just secured an award-winning, 30-acre resort in sunny Southern California.

Fertitta has purchased the acclaimed Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel, a premier beachfront property in the sunny SoCal getaway destination. Notably, the Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel is one of only six hotels in the U.S. to score the Forbes Triple Five-Star hotel status. The Montage has also been included among Travel + Leisure’s Top Hotels in the World.

Image courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Fertitta's newest purchase overlooks the ocean in Laguna Beach.

“I am truly thrilled to acquire this world-renowned property and add one of America’s most iconic trophy resorts to our luxury hotel portfolio,” Fertitta noted in a statement. “I have been traveling to Laguna Beach for over 30 years. It is one of my favorite places to visit and one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The Montage is a stunning oceanfront property and one of the premier hotel brands in the world.”

Press materials didn't list the property purchase price, but Law360 reports that the deal is in excess of $660 million.

The Craftsman-style resort sits on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Impressive amenities are highlighted by the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which offers eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movement studio, and a lap pool.

More outdoor fun includes two pools and direct beach access, a museum-quality fine art collection, and more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, per press materials.

Every resident space — the 260 guestrooms, including 60 suites, beach bungalow-style rooms, and multi-bedroom villas — boast stunning views of the Pacific.

Dining destinations offer chef-driven interpretations of coastal California flavors inspired by region. The property is designated and included in the distinctive Legend Collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

“We are thrilled that Tilman is the new owner of this one-of-a-kind property and welcome him into the Montage family,” said Alan Fuerstman, founder, CEO, and chairman of Montage International. Mary Rogers, the Montage's GM added, “The staff is thrilled to be working with Tilman. Everyone here at the property is tremendously excited about his purchase and look forward to continuing to provide a world-class experience to all of our guests."

Aside from his palatial Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Fertitta also owns 14 other hotel properties around the country, including the award-winning San Luis Resort in Galveston, plus five popular Golden Nugget casino and hotel locations.

Another feather in Fertitta’s luxury portfolio cap is the iconic Huntting Inn, one of the most charming and historic locales in East Hampton, New York.

No stranger to California, Fertitta's presence there includes Catch Seafood and Catch Steak, Mastro’s Ocean Club and Mastro’s Steakhouse, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, The Palm, and more — all part of his 60 brands and more than 600 concepts nationwide.