Photo by Tye Truitt

Finding free events during South by Southwest is sometimes as simple as bookmarking a social media post or walking down the street, but those strategies are hit-or-miss to say the least. The easiest free music plans to commit to are always at the Outdoor Stage, one of the only official SXSW venues that welcomes visitors for free, and sets clear plans well in advance.

This year, the festival has seamlessly transitioned to naming the event rather than just the stage, using "Community Concerts at Lady Bird Lake." These public concerts from March 16-18 transform Auditorium Shores into one of the biggest venues of the entire festival, using the Austin skyline as a backdrop while both local and nationally celebrated acts play. The lineup in 2022 featured both well-known and local bands including Mt. Joy, Heartless Bastards, and Golden Dawn Arkestra.

On Thursday, March 9, KUTX takes over programming as it has done on and off since 2007. This year's theme is ska, but the island genre only influences each set — performers from several genres including the blues, chiptune rap, and "billingual indie music for kids," will play their own music, plus at least one ska-flavored tune. This will be interesting when celebrated Austin guitarist Rosie Flores adapts her rockabilly style. Thao, an eclectic, folksy but funky solo artist from Oakland, closes out the night.

Fridays's shows are without theme, and only showcase three artists compared to Thursday's six. Afrobeat progeny Baba Kuboye (American nephew of Nigeria's late, great Fela Aníkúlápó Kuti) opens the day in a danceable way, followed by pop artist AJ Smith and vibes that couldn't be more different save for the general upbeat overlap. The Zombies — yes, those psych rock 60s icons — are currently touring with Smith, and will play Austinites home or onto their next plans (since all outdoor shows end at 7 pm).

Saturday is the last of the three-day mini-series, hosted by Honk TX (stylized HONK!TX), an Austin non-profit that brings street and brass bands to the Live Music Capital for free. This rowdy series will feature another six bands, this time all Austin's own, including the "undead" costumed Dead Music Capitol Band and the 25-person collective Minor Mishap Marching Band.

The full lineup for 2023's Community Concerts at Lady Bird Lake is as followed:

Thursday, March 16

  • Lucky Diaz
  • Mega Ran
  • Red Yarn & Aaron Nigel Smith
  • SaulPaul
  • Jonny Langford and the Silver Sands Roustabouts, and Rosie Flores
  • Thao

Friday, March 17

  • Baba Kuboye
  • AJ Smith
  • The Zombies

Saturday, March 18

  • Blowcomotion!
  • Dead Music Capital Band
  • Mazel Tov Kocktail Hour
  • Minor Mishap Marching Band
  • Moon Tower Brass Band
  • Yes Ma'am Brass Band

Attendees may bring a picnic or purchase food and drinks from local food trucks and a Beer Garden. More information about set times and other logistics is available at sxsw.com. Lineups are subject to change.

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Things to do in Houston this weekend: Duran Duran, Porsche paradise, a hysterical 'Housewife,' and more

weekend event planner

This weekend promises to get steamy, but those who venture out can check out a new live music series in the new East River area — just as temps cool — as well as an outdoor market in Memorial City.

Indoor fun promises plenty of great theater (check out all the offerings here), as well as dance and a performance by Houston's legendary DJ Sun.

As part of Sunday Funday, hysterical LA comic Becky Robinson brings her act town — entitled housewives, beware (read on).

Enjoy; here are your best bets for the weekend.

Thursday, June 8

Wine & Food Week

The week-long Wine & Food Week celebrates the creativity and passion found in the heart of the wine and food industry, featuring hundreds of wines, scores of celebrity guests, and a list of fresh culinary faces. Paying homage to the theme Wine + Food = Art, guests can expect to indulge all their senses with experiential art installations, a meet & greet with emerging artists, more. This will also support charitable organizations such as The Woodlands Arts Council, and New Danville, among others. 6 pm (11:30 Friday; 7 pm Saturday).

The Catastrophic Theatre presents A Maroon’s Guide to Time and Space

The latest work by local interdisciplinary artist Candice D’Meza is a genre-blending exploration of quantum mechanics that uses imagination to liberate oneself from the confines of linear time. A thematic continuation of D’Meza’s surreal, Afrofuturist film series 30 Ways to Get Free, this uses film, technology, performance, and audience imagination to create the perfect environment to escape into space - where a new and better world is waiting for us. Through Saturday, June 17. 7:30 pm (8 pm Friday & Saturday; 2:30 pm Sunday)

Houston Ballet presents Swan Lake

Houston Ballet’s 2022-23 season is capped off by one of ballet's greatest love stories. In this opulent production, the everlasting love between Prince Siegfried and maiden-turned-white-swan Odette is tested by evil knight Rothbart and his black-swan enchantress, Odile. Stanton Welch's production features lavish sets and costumes by Kristian Fredrikson and utilizes Tchaikovsky's full score to aplomb for this three-act production. Through Sunday, June 18. 7:30 pm (1:30 & 7;30 pm Saturday; 2 & 7:30 pm Sunday).

Friday, June 9

Duran Duran: The Future Past Tour

One of the most enduring bands in pop music hits Houston as part of the new Future Past. Duran Duran's show, as the name implies, will feature past hits like "Rio," "Save A Prayer," "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Come Undone," and their comeback smash "Ordinary World" — along with some future gems. Original members Simon Le Bon, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes, and Roger Taylor have been bringing it at every stop, so expect a killer show at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion from the New Romantic icons. Tickets are available via LiveNation. 7 pm.

East River 9 and Riverhouse present Live Music Summer Series

East River 9 and Riverhouse are thrilled to announce the launch of their new summer series. All ages are invited to experience free, live musical performances, while taking in unmatched views of Buffalo Bayou and the city skyline on Riverhouse’s expansive open-air terrace every Friday and Saturday night. from June through August. Hadlie Jo Duo will kick things off on Friday, while Adrian Michael Duo will perform on Saturday night. 7 pm.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston presents Jazz on Film

We’re back with the annual film series, guest-curated by Peter Lucas, which celebrates the intersections of jazz and cinema. This year’s program brings three weekends of screenings that include memorable jazz scores, rare classics, a new documentary, and other films that illuminate fascinating figures in the world of jazz. FIrst up, on Friday night, is the documentary Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes. On Saturday night, Shirley Clarke’s independent drama The Cool World will be shown in 35mm. Through Saturday, June 24. 7 pm.

Alley Theatre presents The Servant of Two Masters

Identities are mistaken, engagements are broken, and lovers are reunited in a world premiere adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s commedia dell’arte masterpiece. Set in Venice, mayhem erupts when the wily - and chronically hungry - servant Truffaldino hatches a zany scheme to double his wages (and his meals) by serving two masters at once. Through Sunday, July 2. 8 pm (2:30 pm & 7:30 pm Sunday).

ISHIDA Dance Company presents having been breathed out

having been breathed out includes the world premiere of an original ISHIDA poetic narrative titled American Gothic which explores the internal and external dynamics of the nuclear family. The program also features works by two widely respected – but rarely seen in the United States – European choreographers: Horizons by Greek choreographer Adonis Foniadakis, and the critically acclaimed Mutual Comfort by Edward Clug from Romania. 8 pm (3 pm Sunday).

Saturday, June 10

Children’s Museum Houston presents Spider-Verse Collision

Get tangled in a web of excitement as the Spider-Man multiverse collides during Children Museum Houston’s Power Up! Summer. Join Peter Parker, Miles Morales and Spider-Gwen and participate in the Spidey Web-Sling Showdown at 1 pm (admission is separate; relay is first come, first serve). Then, learn how to paint your face to look like your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. 10 am.

The Lawn at Memorial City presents Memorial Market

The Lawn at Memorial City presents bountiful, monthly artisanal markets that will feature up to 30 premium and award-winning vendors curated by Your Neighborhood Farmers Market. Farm stands offering ripe fruits and vegetables will showcase fresh produce not available at local grocery stores or the Memorial Villages Farmers Market. In June, for National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, there will be complimentary smoothies while supplies last. 10 am.

Dance Source Houston presents Barnstorm Dance Fest

Saturday will be the final day to catch this festival, which highlights the breadth and depth of dance in the Houston region and beyond, offering live performances, dance on film, public workshops, and artist talks.three unique programs, including 19 live performance works and nine dance films, which will highlight the emerging and established dancemakers working in a wide range of styles. In addition to the programs at MATCH, public classes and workshops led by festival choreographers will take place at studios across Houston. 5 and 7:30 pm.

Aperio, Music of the Americas presents Loveletter & Radio Rewrite

A grooving program of minimalist music and lo-fi jams, Loveletter & Radio Rewrite will feature a live orchestral performance of DJ Sun’s latest release, Loveletter. Maestro Marlon Chen conducts Aperio’s orchestra with guest soloists complemented by Steven Reich’s Radio Rewrite and Duet. Fat Tony, Tim Ruiz, Sam/Sin and Krystal Hardwick will be the guest performers on hand. 8:30 pm.

Sunday, June 11

Becky RobinsonThe hilarious Becky Robinson comes to town in the She Gone Tour. Becky Robinson/Facebook

Kollectiv: Festival of Porsche

This year marks the second annual celebration that pays homage to Porsche. Kollectiv will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the iconic automotive brand. More than 100 classic and contemporary beauties will be on display around City Place Plaza, courtesy of Coffee & Cars. While some streets will be closed for the festivities, complimentary garage parking will be available. Guests can get snacks and food from urban core restaurants. 10 am.

Children At Risk presents The Big Brunch: A Celebration of Texas Pediatric Advocates

Guests of Children At Risk The Big Brunch: A Celebration of Texas Pediatric Advocates will enjoy a brunch prepared by some of Houston’s best chefs, wine tastings, contests, and more. The event will highlight the great work being done by pediatrics across the state to support and advocate for the health and well-being of our most vulnerable children and families. The theme this year is “A Celebration of Texas Pediatric Advocates,” highlighting the great work being done by Dr. Hilda Loria, Dr. Karla Fredricks, and Dr. Anu Partap. 11 am.

Becky Robinson: She Gone Tour

Becky Robinson, a JFL Montreal New Face of Comedy (and Wild ‘N Out alumna), is an LGBTQ+ LA-based comedian, writer, actor, and voiceover star. Her explosively unique character antics and viral videos have racked up millions of views and fans. She is also known as “Entitled Housewife,” the outspoken, viral golf character Becky created to help spread laughter during the pandemic. 8 pm.

Duran Duran
Photo courtesy of Duran Duran
Pop icons Duran Duran play the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on Friday.

'Wicked' games, wild Italian comedy, and little lies headline June theater in Houston

best june theater

It’s getting hot out there, Houston. Perfect timing for cool new theater and dance to chill out to this June.

From tragic swans to wicked witches, devilish deals, a new take on a comic classic, and two new-play festivals, we’ve got a lot on our must-see list this month. Plus, it wouldn’t be a Houston theater summer without a new musical dancing mayhem revue from Tamarie Cooper and the Catastrophic Theatre crew.

Here are the hottest stage productions this June in Houston.

Wicked from Broadway at the Hobby Center (through July 2)

The show that defied gravity — and Broadway conventions and expectations — when it first took to broomstick in 2003 is back for a nice long stay at the Hobby Center.

Wicked still flies high, with Houston – and world-wide – audiences never getting enough of this story that redefines who’s good and who’s wicked in the land of Oz. Before Dorothy landed via tornado, two witchy legends went on a whole other adventure of sisterhood, love, family, heroism and the occasional flying monkey.

"Thank Goodness" Elphaba and Galinda have returned to bring some magic to our summer.

Swan Lake from Houston Ballet (June 8-18)

National tour of Wicked
Photo by Joan Marcus

Witch team are you: Elphaba or Galinda? Memorial Hermann Broadway at the Hobby Center presents Wicked.

The exquisite tragedy makes a soaring return as the Houston Ballet performs one of the most beloved ballets of all time. This production has quite the history, as the Tchaikovsky-set Swan Lake was the first full-length story ballet that Stanton Welch created as Houston Ballet artistic director in 2006.

With costumes and set design inspired by John William Waterhouse’s painting The Lady of Shalott by the late Kristian Fredrikson, this Swan Lake has become a favorite of Houston dance lovers. It has also earned international praise after tour to the famed Tokyo Bunka Kaikan theater in Tokyo in October 2022.

Oh, and a 150-year-old spoiler alert: there’s no happy ending for this fairytale story of a maiden-turned--swan who falls in love with a prince, but what heights she flies along the way.

The Servant of Two Masters at Alley Theatre (June 9-July 2)

Alley Theatre artistic director Rob Melrose has translated and also adapted this Carlo Goldoni classic work of Commedia dell’arte that's both a world premiere — and a 200-year-old play.

Theater lovers might be a little more familiar with the modern adaptation, One Man, Two Guvnors, which the Alley also staged several years ago. But we hear Melrose, who also directs, will take his adaptation back to its original Italian roots with actors wearing the traditional costumes and masks of the traditional comedy style.

With the entire Alley resident acting company and additional Alley regulars in on the mayhem, expect lots of mistaken identities, outrageous disguises, star-crossed lovers with wacky, not tragic, destinies — and one hungry Harlequin.

Alley All New Festival at Alley Theatre (June 16-25)

The annual new play reading fest gives us the (free) chance to discover what may be the big theatrical thing.

This year brings the freshest new work from several up and coming and award winning women playwrights. Expect tales surrounding a love letter, rural girls and their horses, a DIY séance, a May/December romance, a medical thriller, and even a modern take on The Odyssey from Penelope’s POV.

This festival brings a multitude of voices and stories to the stage for a week of theatrical discoveries.

Thunder Knocking on the Door at Stages (June 16-August 6)

Stages closes out the ’22-’23 season with a bluesy deal with the devil that heats up into a unique love story across generations.

Weaving the music three-time Grammy Award winner Keb’ Mo’ into this family story, Thunder Knocking tells the story of a mysterious blues guitar-playing stranger who arrives in a small Alabama town with a musical challenge for the offspring of his late rival.

"Thunder Knocking on the Door is one of those magical experiences in the theatre where a simple family story transforms into an epic fairy tale,” says Stages artistic director Kenn McLaughlin. "There are so many theatrical surprises and so much joy, I still hold the first time I saw this show in 1998 as one of my favorite evenings in the theatre ever.”

Fade to Black Festival at MATCH (June 22-24)

Houston’s only national short play festival to spotlight the new works of African-American playwrights returns for its 11th year.

The guiding formula for the festival is 10-10, as it features 10 plays of 10-minute length that are all new works from a dynamic selection of playwrights.

Every year, the scripts go through an impressive selection process before the shows make it to full, 10-minute productions. Quite a few of the winning plays come from Houston playwrights, but also look for new works from exciting new voices from across the country.

Tamarie’s Totally True Revue (plus lies too!) from Catastrophic Theatre (June 23-August 5)

Tamarie’s back and daring us to discover the whole truth about her weird, wonderful world. As always, Tamarie brings a cool new musical theater revue to our sweltering summers.

Somehow, she also manages to get her crew of Catastrophic regulars into some of the most outrageous costumes, and dance routines of the year. We hear rumors that everyone from Tinkerbell, Pinocchio, Ben Franklin, Kenny Rogers, and Tamarie's psychic high school attendance clerk (!) will make an appearance to tackle the nature of truth, lies, and dental hygiene.

Smoke on the Mountain at A.D. Players (June 28-July 23)

Another feel-good summer show that brings a bit of music to our nights, this production transports audiences back to a 1938 Saturday night sing-a-long in a small community in North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains.

Smoke features two dozen rousing bluegrass songs played and sung by the Sanders Family, a traveling family music group making its return to Mount Pleasant Baptist Church after a five-year hiatus.

As each family member takes a turn sharing an important life event, one thing after another goes awry and they reveal their true — and hilariously imperfect — natures, endearing themselves to us and allowing us to share in their triumphs.

Phenomenal Woman at Ensemble Theatre (June 29-July 30)

Ensemble partners with North Carolina Black Repertory Theatre for a “rolling world premiere” of this biographical depiction of the life of acclaimed American poet and icon, Maya Angelou.

This Phenomenal Woman takes us on an epic journey through her astonishing life story. From the trauma that thrust her into mutism, to the awakening that inspired her to write “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” audiences will experience this monumental, poetic spirit and discover how she developed one of the most celebrated voices of all time.

Pioneering leader of Miller Outdoor Theatre announces curtain call after game-changing, 14-year run

standing o for cissy

Beloved Houston arts figure Cissy Segall Davis, managing director of Miller Outdoor Theatre, will retire at the end of the theater's 100th anniversary season, the organization announced. Segall Davis has helmed the cherished organization for the last 14 years.

Her retirement was announced at a June 6 gathering of arts leaders and Miller Outdoor Theatre Advisory Board (MTAB) members. MTAB oversees the theater and its chairman, Romulo Tim Cisneros, broke the news at the gathering.

"For nearly 15 years, I have had the extraordinary opportunity to follow my personal passion every day," Segall Davis tells CultureMap. "Sharing my love of the performing and cultural arts with millions of Houstonians and visitors has been the thrill of a lifetime. I am a very lucky woman."

A pioneer in Houston arts, media, and events, Segall Davis took on Miller Outdoor Theatre's managing director position in 2008, the culmination of a career that began in 1972 and has included the management, production, and promotion of theatrical, entertainment, and special event industries.

One of her first jobs was in concert promotion, and over the decades, she amassed a deep knowledge of promotions, public relations, management, and arts administration. Long a lover of theater and the performing arts, she's often called her position at the theater a dream job.

"This really was a dream come true for me,” said Segall Davis, in press materials announcing her retirement. “Miller Outdoor Theatre has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. First as a camp counselor gleefully leading kids up and down the famous Miller hill singing “the hills are alive with the sound of music,” then professionally during my 20 years with Theatre Under Theatre Stars, later as a client when I ran my own PR firm and now of course as its managing director."

Under her leadership of Miller's day-to-day operations across the last nearly 15 years, Segall Davis oversaw a grants program for Houston performing arts and community organizations.

She also created and oversaw an annual season of more than 120 artistically and culturally diverse performances, all presented free of charge to the public. Segall's support of the arts and dedication to Miller helped build the theater's series, which runs from March to October, into the largest program of its kind in the U.S.

“It is not easy to walk away from a job that has been career-defining and one that I have absolutely loved and that has provided me the opportunity to follow my passion every day," she added. "But, knowing when to exit is part of show business. It’s time to pass the torch and offer someone else the chance to bring a new perspective and make an impact on this program. Miller Outdoor Theatre is one of Houston’s best amenities…it is beloved and treasured. It has been an honor to work with the Miller Theatre Advisory Board, our staff, the many performing arts, and cultural organizations that perform here, and the remarkable Miller crew for so many years.”

Rita MorenoEntertainment legend Rita Moreno will headline MOT's annual gala honoring Segall Davis this year.Photo courtesy of Miller Outdoor Theatre

Another big announcement was made at the same gathering where the news of Segall Davis' retirement was shared. The 16th annual gala for Miller Outdoor Theatre will be held on November 16 and fittingly, will honor Segall Davis.

The event, chaired by June Deadrick, Robin and Danny Klaes, and Christine and David Underwood, Jr., will also feature special guest and Broadway and Hollywood legend Rita Moreno. The actress and activist is one of 18 people to hold EGOT status — winning Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards for her work.

Funds from the gala will contribute to the theater's $12.5 million capital campaign.