Photo courtesy of Beck & Phoenix

Austin is a big city now, with a big entertainment venue to match. Moody Center is one year old as of April 20, 2023, and already one of the most successful venues of its size in the world. But many Austinites still haven't had a chance to check out the new arena that replaced the Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center after its four-decade run.

Besides buying an expensive ticket — no shade to Moody Center, but arena shows always cost a little more — local music lovers have two new chances to stop by and see what the fuss is about. The venue is celebrating its growth with new venue tours benefiting local nonprofits, and a limited run of $25 all-in concert tickets to select high-profile shows, as part of Live Nation Concert Week.

For just over the price of a Saturday cover at some small venues downtown, fans can see Beck and Phoenix, Logic with Juicy J, Illenium with All Time Low, Hippo Campus with Gus Dapperton, and more. Although the Austin Gamblers Professional Bull Riding team is not booked through Live Nation, it is also part of Moody Center's deals. A few shows have already sold out of the $25 tier, but still have reasonable prices left, including Duran Duran and Sam Smith. (These also may be worth checking for on resale pages as people who jumped on them start realizing they can't make it.)

There does not seem to be one page that lists all the active participating events, so concertgoers' best bet is to scroll through and check shows that pique their interest, just in case. You'll have to sit relatively far back, but for $25, just getting in the door is a win. The promotion goes on until May 16, or until tickets run out, and is active at other venues including popular Austin venues Emo's and Germania Insurance Amphitheater. An FAQ can be found at livenation.com.

For a more leisurely look at the arena with behind-the-scenes access, the series of venue tours will be offered on various dates in June, July, and August. These tickets are also $25, and proceeds benefit Red River Rising (RRR), Moody Center's "community platform initiative" for local outreach.

With help from the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM), the Community First! Village, and Red River Cultural District as partners, RRR hopes to generate opportunity for local musicians and reduce homelessness in the area. The platform works by distributing the funds it raises to these organizations, for the nonprofits to use as they see fit.

Venue tours will trace the process of building and opening the venue "from a paper napkin blueprint drawn by Matthew McConaughey in 2018 to the award-winning $375-million-dollar development," according to a release. For 75 minutes, visitors will learn about how the venue runs, while getting a look at the spaces usually reserved for artists and VIPs, like dressing rooms and the Moët & Chandon Imperial Lounge. They will also have a chance to put a message on the marquee on a first-come-first-served basis.

More information about venue tours, including booking links, is available via Ticketmaster.

Photo courtesy of The Ride

Austin bull riding team rounds up roles in new Prime Video series

along for the ride

A professional bull riding team from Austin will be one of eight featured teams in a new Prime Video show, dubbed The Ride. The eight-episode documentary series includes footage of riders on different teams, including the Austin Gamblers, as it follows them through a recent championship: the 2022 Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Team Series. The series premieres on May 30.

The Ride captures the full picture of what it takes for bull riders to perform at the highest level in one the world's toughest sports. But it's not all about the victories; rivalries between riders, balancing their passion for the sport with their personal lives, and the mental and physical tolls of the sport also pose difficult challenges.

Four Austin Gamblers members will be heavily featured in the show: riders Ezekiel “Blue” Mitchell, José Vitor Leme, Dakota Louis, and head coach Michael Gaffney. Mitchell is a 25-year-old Rockdale, Texas native who initially learned bull riding on YouTube, and is described as a promising star with a "colorfully engaging personality" to match. 26-year-old Leme is a two-time World Championship winner and multi-PBR record breaker. Louis, 30, is a world-class Native American rider and single father raising a young son that accompanies him to several events.

“As the 2023 PBR Team Series kicks off this summer, we are really excited for the docuseries to showcase not only the great athleticism our riders display, but also highlight the riders’ individual histories, hurdles, triumphs and more,” said Austin Gamblers CEO J.J. Gottsch. “We want viewers to feel connected to our riders and learn more about what it takes to become the best bull riders in the world.”

Following the release of The Ride, old and new fans alike can watch the Gamblers in action at the Moody Center from August 25-27. More information about The Ride can be found on Prime Video.

Photo courtesy of the Texas Smoke

Former MLB All-Star Brandon Phillips brings The Smoke to Austin as the city's first pro softball team

Batters Up

A new professional sports team is stepping up to the plate in Austin. The Women’s Professional Fastpitch softball league will plant one of its four teams, the Texas Smoke, in Austin beginning with the upcoming 2023 season.

The Smoke will settle into their home at Concordia University’s Roberts Family Field with their first game coming June 15. The regular season runs until August 7. Both the Smoke and the university will collaborate on the game-day experience, including tailgating.

As they arrive in Austin, the Smoke becomes the second professional sports team in town. They’ll have current Howard University head coach Tory Tyson at the helm for their first season.

The new franchise brings together some notable owners: former Major League Baseball second baseman and three-time All-Star Brandon Phillips, and his partner in life and business, professional wrestling champion Jade Cargill.

“I knew from the start we needed a top-tier professional facility and environment for our players,” said Phillips in a press release. “After meeting with the Concordia team, I knew they were the best partner to provide a home for our inaugural season.”

"We are thrilled to welcome the Texas Smoke to Concordia University Texas," said university president and CEO Dr. Donald Christian. "We are proud to support a team providing a platform for professional women's sports. We hope their presence on our campus will inspire our students and the wider community to pursue their passions and break down barriers. We cannot wait to see what the Texas Smoke accomplishes and look forward to cheering them on!"

With no more events at Austin's Frank Erwin Center, it may be time to bring down the house

Sledgehammer, Wrecking Ball, etc.

The Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center's time on the side of Interstate 35 appears to be coming to an end.

Later this week, the University of Texas System's Board of Regents will meet to discuss demolishing the 500,000-square-foot arena, as well as the 44,000-square-foot Denton A. Cooley Pavilion next door.

According to an item on the board's agenda, the demolition of the two facilities would make room for expansion of the Dell Medical Center. The full demolition is estimated to cost $25 million, and the university hopes to finish the demolition project by October 2024.

Built in 1977, the Frank Erwin Center served as the arena for Texas Men's and Women's basketball games, as well as a concert venue and the location for UT's individual college graduations. The Denton A. Cooley Pavilion, built in 2003, has served as a basketball training facility.

Way back in December 2018, the board of regents voted to approve a new events arena to replace the Frank Erwin Center. In November 2019, the new arena got its name: Moody Center.


Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

Texas Longhorns/Instagram

Former UT running back Bijan Robinson is the earliest NFL Draft pick for the position in years

a longhorn takes flight

The Atlanta Falcons took former University of Texas running back Bijan Robinson with the eighth-overall pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night. The 21-year-old was the first running back taken in the 2023 draft, and his selection marks the first time a player at that position has been taken that early since Saquon Barkley went second overall in 2018.

Robinson earned the high pick after starring at Texas for three years, where he totaled 3,410 yards rushing, 805 yards receiving, and 41 touchdowns. In 2022, his final season in Austin, the Tucson native won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s most outstanding college running back, was a Consensus All-American, and finished ninth in Heisman Memorial Trophy voting. He is also involved in local initiativesoutside of football.

Draftee salaries in the NFL are pre-determined by draft slot, so as the eighth pick, Robinson is set to make $23.7 million over his four-year rookie contract. He is likely to jump into a starting role as a rookie and will have his work cut out for him on a rebuilding Falcons squad that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2017, nor ever won a Super Bowl.

Photo courtesy of KVUE

5 Texas Longhorns expected to steer the NFL Draft picks

Field Goals

The 2023 NFL Draft is here, and after the 2022 Draft saw no Longhorns selected for the first time since 2014, the Burnt Orange will undoubtedly be well represented this time around.

With one player a seemingly certain lock to go in the first round, as well as four others widely expected to be off the board possibly as soon as the second or third round, the Longhorns will be adding some more alumni to the NFL this season.

Let's get to know the five Longhorns who will likely hear their names called before the NFL Draft concludes.

Bijan Robinson
Undoubtedly the talisman of this Longhorns class, the question surrounding Bijan Robinson isn't so much if he'll be selected but when.

To further simplify, has his talent solidified his status as a top 10 pick, or rather will the lack of value placed on the running back position shift him to a later spot in the first round?

Regardless, Robinson's sheer talent and production alone has not only coronated him as Texas' top prospect, but as one of the Draft's best prospects altogether.

Totaling 41 touchdowns over a 3-year career for the Longhorns, paired with over 3,400 yards rushing and over 800 yards receiving, Robinson's skillset has earned him comparisons to NFL Hall of Famer and Falls County native LaDainian Tomlinson.

Mock drafts have had Robinson pegged to be picked everywhere from as high as the No. 8 pick, currently owned by the Atlanta Falcons, to as late as pick 30, owned by the reigning NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.

Regardless of where Robinson ends up, he will be an immediate contributor in whichever offense he plays in.

Roschon Johnson
Robinson isn't the only Longhorns back expecting to hear his name called. Senior running back Roschon Johnson hasn't gotten the same level of attention as his backfield mate, but he has quietly been a consistent contributor in his four years with the Longhorns.

Johnson ran for almost 2,200 yards with 23 touchdowns in his four years with the Longhorns. He also added three receiving touchdowns, although he wasn't used as frequently during pass plays as Robinson. Johnson is expected to be a Day 3 pick.

DeMarvion Overshown
One of the most intriguing and fascinating prospects in the entire draft is linebacker DeMarvion Overshown.

A defensive Swiss Army knife of sorts, Overshown displayed the ability to play as a tried and true inside linebacker, an edge rusher, a nickel corner and even as a shallow strong safety at times.

The only thing inhibiting Overshown's stock is his lack of eye-popping collegiate stats. In 33 games, he totaled 165 total tackles – a number that isn't poor, but relatively average for a high-level NFL prospect – and just one forced fumble across four college seasons. For context, Parsons had 191 total tackles and six forced fumbles in two seasons.

However, his aforementioned versatility will likely be valued by numerous coaches, giving him plausible Day 2 value.

Moro Ojomo
Considering that Moro Ojomo only started playing football in his junior year of high school, the fact that he is a likely NFL Draft pick is a remarkable feat by itself.


Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Creepy new horror film will make you believe in The Boogeyman

Movie Review

On the surface, calling a horror movie The Boogeyman seems trite and lazy. A generic term for any scary and mysterious being, it has long been used in all kinds of storytelling. But when you see that the film is based on a Stephen King short story and written by the team behind A Quiet Place, more attention must be paid.

After a supremely creepy and disturbing opening scene, the film introduces its main characters: Will Harper (Chris Messina), a therapist, and his two daughters, Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair). The three are grieving the recent death of their wife/mother, with each coping in different ways. Will is now distant, Sadie sees her own therapist while still lashing out, and Sawyer must sleep with many lights on.

A visit to Will by Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian), a very disturbed man, seems to invite in a creature that thrives in darkness. That creature slowly tortures the two daughters psychologically, starting with Sawyer before moving on to Sadie. With Will checked out in general and Sawyer unable to help much due to her age, it’s up to Sadie to figure out what is happening and how to make it stop.

Directed by Rob Savage and written by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, and Mark Heyman, the film takes the less-is-more approach, keeping the monster hidden in the shadows for much of the film. Scary things hiding in the dark is a tried-and-true method of horror films, but it works especially well here, chiefly because that terror is often seen through the eyes of the youngest daughter, Sawyer.

Putting kids 10 or younger in peril is not what most horror films typically do, but the effect of doing so is palpable, especially if you’re a parent. The opening scene sets the tone, and every scene involving Sawyer is as tense as you can get. Most of them involve her keeping a wary eye on her closet door or using a light-up model of the moon to expose dark corners, and her feelings of fear transfer easily to the audience.

The stories of Sadie and Will are a little harder to suss out. Sadie gets the most screentime, with awkward conversations with friends and investigations into the creature deemed the most important plot points. What the family was like before mom’s death is not explored much, so it’s difficult to understand Will’s state of mind, with him seeming to almost completely abandon his kids in their time of need.

Thatcher, who plays a character with a similar demeanor on Showtime’s Yellowjackets, does well in the de facto lead role, although the part is more low-key than your usual horror protagonist. Blair, who played a young Princess Leia on the Disney+ show Obi-Wan Kenobi, steals the movie every time she’s on screen; few kids her age could come close to what she accomplishes. Messina is a steady presence, but his character’s personality does him no favors.

By combining familiar elements, a story about a broken family, and some slow burn scares, The Boogeyman rises above its pedestrian title. It maintains its level of dread almost from beginning to end, a lesson that other horror filmmakers would be wise to learn.

Sophie Thatcher in The Boogeyman

Photo by Patti Perret

Sophie Thatcher in The Boogeyman.


The Boogeyman opens in theaters on June 2.

6 things to know in Austin food right now: Whiskey distillery launches floating bar at "secret" lake locale

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.


Getting to the bar just got harder — but way more fun. Fierce Whiskers Distillery is literally launching a new pop-up called the Stubborn Bar, floating off the shores of Town Lake. The location is a secret, but not one too closely kept; Join the mailing list to receive updates and sign up to snag a spot. The bar operates June 3-4, June 17-18, and June 24-25. Visitors' hard work will be rewarded with a chance to taste the new two-year Texas Straight Rye, which the distillery says was very hard to make, and "the first pour should go to those who are just as determined." They're also celebrating the new release on land with a performance by Neil Frances and Thebrosfresh on June 10. Tickets ($30-120) available on Eventbrite.

Carve American Grille (stylized CARVE) has been working on its second location for more than a year, and the date has been moved one last time — hopefully. Instead of opening on June 8, it'll be June 12. It's taking up residence at The Grove (2613 Perseverance Dr.), a mixed-use community covering 75 acres. Carve, sister restaurant to Perry's Steakhouse, is well-known for its creative twists on a classic steakhouse menu, which can often border on austere. So, postpone your visit, but keep Carve on your list.

Other news and notes

Even after Memorial Day, we're all ready for a Fri-yay celebration, and thankfully this week brings another day of observance: National Donut Day. The Salty is ready with a limited-edition mini French toast donut, available only on June 2. This creative donut is made with a 24-hour brioche base, filled with a "homemade French toast filling," and topped with maple treats and mascarpone whipped cream. The shop is also celebrating with a 25 percent merch discount and free delivery to Salty Rewards Members using the app or website.

For those who just can't get enough rosé at brunch, there's the Rosé Dinner at Lost Draw Cellars. On June 3, the winery will open up its new space for a rosé tasting featuring its four new releases, all from 2022. These sips will be paired with a live fire dinner of beef and chicken from Hill Country Beef and Cielito Lindo Farm, respectively, and fresh vegetables from Hat & Heart Farm. Tickets ($85) are available at williamchriswines.com.

Austin wouldn't be Austin without the endless markets, and two more are popping up on June 4. One at Bar Toti gives an excuse to visit the chic space behind one of the city's most talked-about restaurants, Este. This Mercado del Girasol celebrates the Este Garden's third anniversary, with goods by local artisans and creatives, drinks, DJ sets, and more. Three raffles benefit Casa Marianella, which supports displaced immigrants in Austin, and visitors can pick sunflowers and try signature cocktails by Bar Toti. The other establishes a new weekly event at the Hill Country Galleria: the Bee Cave Farmers Market. In addition to the usual farmers' fare (from 40 vendors), these markets will offer live music performances, starting aptly with The Hens.

Starting this week — "as soon as I buy the buttermilk," according to the chef — Radio Coffee & Beer's food truck, Shortwave Diner, will be offering monthly specials centered on fried chicken and burgers. The pending special is a sweet and very crispy tarragon chicken with maple syrup, and the rest is a mystery. The breakfast truck stands at the ready at the popular work site for freelancers and remote workers, serving daily chicken and waffles, smash burgers, and more. Follow Shortwave on Instagram to see when the new series launches.

5 tips to build stunning sand sculptures from 2023 Texas SandFest winners

Fun at the beach

As summer fast approaches, sandy vacations to coastal destinations are on the horizon for many travelers. For those with kids in tow, sandcastle-making might top the list of beach trip must-dos.

But “playing” in the sand isn’t just an activity for children, as proven by the 22 professional sand sculptors from around the world who recently competed in the 26th annual Texas SandFest, held in Port Aransas in April. The internationally recognized event, started by Port A locals in 1997, is the largest native-sand sculptor competition in the nation; nearly 70,000 people attended this year.

Competition entries featured everything from mermaids to the Grim Reaper, all intricately carved, brushed, and chiseled from sand, ocean water, and perhaps a little diluted spray glue that sculptors say helps maintain detail. The competitors work on their masterpieces during the event, allowing spectators to witness their progress from start to finish.

“I do around five international sand sculpting competitions per year. It’s always a great challenge to compete a high level,” says Benoit Dutherage, a competitive sculptor from France who also creates snow sculptures in the French Alps during the winter.

Dutherage took first place in the Duo Masters category, along with his sand sculpting partner Sue McGrew, for their work called “Wish You Were Here.” Comprised of two loving faces (one mystically cut in half), the sculpture was a tribute to Pink Floyd.

“We like to reflect human emotions in our sculptures,” he says. “It is never easy to pick an idea among the thousands of ideas we have.”

Florida resident Thomas Koet, whose sculpture called “The Prospector” won first place in the People’s Choice category, intended to create something with horses and a cowboy as an homage to Mustang Island, where the competition took place. High tides just before the event thwarted his plans.

“The high tide washed away so much of the sand, I had only enough left for a mule or a foal,” he says. “So I decided to make an old prospector with a mule.”

Thinking out of the box when it comes to carving sand is just one of several suggestions Koet has for recreational sand sculptors. (“Who says it has to be a castle?” he says.) He and other winners from the 2023 Texas SandFest say they are always happy to see novices get creative.

Here are five of the pros' top tips for producing a beachfront masterpiece.

1. Think beyond the standard sandcastle
“Design and sculpt outside of your comfort zone,” says Abe Waterman, a sculptor from Prince Edward Island, Canada, who took first place in the Solo Masters division with his sculpture, “Sleeps with Angels.” The mega sculpture featured four angels at four corners holding a blanket carrying a sleeping woman. “While this may not lead to the best sculpture results, one will improve faster by doing this.”

Waterman noted that there are different types of sand depending on location. Some are better suited for detailed work while others work well for verticality. “But something can always be sculpted regardless of the sand quality, the design just may need to be altered,” he says.

Koet recommends picking something that will fit your attention span. “You can make anything you want,” he says. “You can make a cat, a shark, a monster truck, your high school mascot, a sneaker, or a shark eating an ice cream cone.”

2. Use the right tools
Forgo the cheap tourist shop plastic bucket and shovel set. “You definitely need proper tools to get a good result: A solid shovel, a few trowels – not too big – and a wall painting brush to clean your sculpture,” says Dutherage. “You’ll also need buckets.”

Think big painter’s buckets, he says, used to make what’s essentially “sand mud” consisting of lots of water and sand. Which leads to the next tip ...

3. Create a form mold
Consider this the secret to head-turning sand sculptures. Whether it’s a 10-foot-tall wooden box with sides that come off, or a plastic bucket with the bottom cut out, a “form mold” is an open-top vessel used to hold packed sand and water to create a carve-able structure.

“It’s a very useful thing to have in order to get a solid block, and to go high,” says Dutherage. “If you are a handyman, you can build your own forms. But a quick solution is to take a bucket, no matter what size, and cut out the bottom. Then put that bucket upside down on the sand. Add a few inches of sand, some water, mix with your trowel and compact that layer. Repeat until the bucket is full. Then gently pull the bucket up and surprise! You will get a nice block of sand ready for a sandcastle full of windows, arches, and gates.”

The compacted layers of sand and water almost act as cement, creating a sturdy base for carving. Dutherage says folks can easily repeat the form mold process to create multiple bases, either side by side or stacked.

4. Use plenty of water, for the sculpture and yourself
Benoit recommends adding even more water during the sculpting process.

“Bring a plant sprayer,” he says. “Sand needs to be wet to be sculptable.”

Even rain during sand sculpture building isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that rain will destroy a sand sculpture,” says Waterman. “While this is possible, most often it just textures the surface.”

Water is also essential for the sculptor, as staying hydrated is key during the process, Waterman adds.

Texas SandFest

Texas SandFest

"The Prospector" took first place in the 2023 Texas SandFest People's Choice category

5. Practice, Practice, Practice
“The biggest misconception is that I do anything different than anybody who does it only for the first time,” says Koet, who’s been sculpting sand for 25 years. “Sure, I bring more and bigger tools and I spend much more time shoveling the sand high and mixing it with water. But there is no magic other than years of practice.”

Waterman, who admits sand sculpting has taken over his life, competes in up to 10 contests a year and also creates sculptures for exhibits and corporate commissions.

“Tricks and tips will only get a person so far,” he says. “But ultimately practice and putting the time in will get them a whole lot further.”

Benoit agrees. “Making a sand sculpture requires a lot of work and the more you practice, the better you will get,” he says. “But first of all, you have to enjoy the fun of it.”