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Que Maravilla, Taste of Texas, Mack, Jack & McConaughey Night 2

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

CHARITY 1: A trip to South America. Wonders and Worries, a charity that serves children ages 2 to 18 with a significant caregiver battling a serious illness, has changed up its annual benefit called Que Maravilla. The last time I attended, the theme was Western, to go with the exotic game ranch that hosted it. It’s still a casual affair, though its new home is the supremely flexible Brazos Hall. The 2014 theme was South America. Six of the 20 drummers from the Brazilian-style act Maracatu Austin got everyone moving in rhythm. Later in the evening, I understand that caterers served dishes from eight South American countries. (Neat to have a benefit during the hot season at which guests feel comfortable showing up in shorts.)

FOOD: Just a taste of Texas. The Austin Food and Wine Festival’s colony in Republic Square Park nicely complements the tented daytime affair at Butler Park. Although the lines grew long to sample delicacies from some Austin institutions, I concentrated on the out-of-towners. I was rewarded with intoxicating fried lamb from Houston’s Pass and Provisions as well as a frisky Dungeness crab dish from San Antonio’s Jason Dady. Also enjoyed talks with the likes of Elisbeth Challener from Zach and husband Brett Bachman, who take full advantage of their urban lifestyle through events like Taste of Texas. (Should do a story someday about the evolution of downtown living in Austin. Another one about the proliferating special-event venues like Brazos Hall.)

CHARITY 2: The gifts of silver and song. The second night of Mack, Jack & McConaughey matched the excitement of the first. First, a full house gathered downstairs with top-ticket buyers, while the mezzanine and balcony filled with concert-goers. Early order of business: Live auction of fancifully decorated longhorn statues. One covered with shiny fragments to echo the NCAA football championship trophy went for $250,000. By my count, the two live auctions earned something like $1.2 million. That doesn’t count ticket or package sales and silent auction. What followed was for music-lovers only: Jack Ingram and guests such as Lyle Lovett and Buddy Miller adding the art of performance to the craft of songs they wrote. (I like Jack Ingram. A lot. Classy guy.)

MUSIC: Kevin Carroll is the Pied Piper of ukulele players. From my story in the Statesman: “Longtime roots rock guitarist Kevin Carroll suffered horrible shoulder injuries while playing basketball in his youth. Deep into his musical career, his shoulder continued to dislocate onstage. In 2011, he consulted a physical therapist, who, out of the blue, offered treatment in trade for teaching his daughter the ukulele. “Ihad never played one,” Carroll, 49, says. “Never even picked up one.”His shoulder strapped into a sling after surgery, he decided to buy one of the Hawaiian instruments, invented in the 1870s by Portuguese luthiers who had immigrated, along with farmworkers, to the islands. “Like so many people, I thought they sounded terrible,” he says. “But I had never heard actual music played on one. That makes me a great advocate for the instrument now. I know what it’s like to think: ‘Really? You’re going to play music on that thing?’” These days, Carroll is something of a ukulele Pied Piper, teaching classes, recording CDs, spreading the good word and leading an “ukestra,” made up mostly of students.” http://shar.es/TSDCJ(What a treat to report!)