Bill’s Best Bets: Hit Christian group MercyMe at USA, veteran-led Scooter Brown Band at Cactus, two plays and Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’

This is a football weekend for Texas Tech, and an important one. The Red Raiders will play against the TCU Horned Frogs at 11 a.m. Saturday at Jones Stadium, with Tech still needing to win two of its three final games to reach bowl eligibility. Tech also could create another winning streak after defeating West Virginia on the road last weekend.

There are a lot of other Tech and Lubbock Christian University athletic events this week and a growing number of entertaining attractions across town.

Read on for a selection of this week’s Best Bets.

MercyMe (pictured above)

Popular Oklahoma-based, contemporary Christian music band MercyMe will make yet another Lubbock appearance, headlining a concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the United Supermarkets Arena, 1801 Indiana Ave.

Crowder and Micah Taylor will open this show.

Tickets are on sale at all local Select-A-Seat offices and by calling 770-2000.

Reserved seats on the front row, facing the stage, are $169.

All floor seating and the lowest seats in the lower bowl, are $89.

Remaining seats in the lower bowl are $78, $67, $51, $39.50 and $32.25. All prices include service charges.

MercyMe last performed in Lubbock with the Rock & Worship shows on Feb. 18, 2012, and March 27, 2015. (My thanks to United Supermarkets Arena officials for those details.)

The band was formed in 1994 and released six independent albums prior to signing with INO Records in 2001. The group gained its first mainstream recognition with crossover single “I Can Only Imagine,” which elevated debut album “Almost There” to a triple platinum certification.

Since then, the group has released eight additional studio albums, a couple of Christmas albums and a greatest hits release titled “10.” The group also has 13 consecutive Top Five singles on the Billboard Christian Songs chart, with seven reaching Number 1.

MercyMe has won eight Dove Awards and several Grammy Award nominations. The band’s ninth studio album, “Lifer,” was released in the spring of 2017.

Songs on “Lifer” include radio hits “Best News Ever,” “Grace Got You” and “Even If.”

Members of MercyMe are Bart Millard, lead vocals; Nathan Cochran, bass guitar and keyboards; Michael John Scheuchzer, guitars and keyboards; Robin Troy “Robby” Shaffer, drums and Barry Graul, guitars.

This Lubbock appearance by MercyMe also arrives on the heels of successful 2018 film “I Can Only Imagine,” telling Millard’s inspiration behind writing the song.

The film co-stars J. Michael Finley as Bart Millard; Cloris Leachman as Bart’s grandmother; Madeline Carroll as Shannon, Bart’s girlfriend and Dennis Quaid as Arthur Millard, Bart’s abusive dad who converts.

The Scooter Brown Band

A red dirt country band out of Houston, The Scooter Brown Band will make a concert appearance at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Cactus Theater, 1812 Buddy Holly Ave.

Reserved seats throughout the theater are $15 in advance and $20 if purchased on the day of the show. Limited balcony box seats, including free concessions, are $30 in advance and $40 on the day of the show.

Take note: Listed Cactus ticket prices are “base prices;” varied fees and tax always will be added to base prices at time of purchase. Tickets also can be purchased in advance by using a link at

All sales are final. The Cactus Theater does not permit exchanges, refunds or credit for future shows in exchange for unused tickets. The theater’s box office is staffed at 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, unless Monday is a major holiday.

Call the Cactus at 762-3233, or visit online site  for more information.

After four years and three months of military service, including two tours overseas with one tour of combat in Iraq as a U.S. Marine, Scott Brown traded his guns in for guitars and hit the road.

Scott formed the Scooter Brown Band in 2005, adding bass player Steven Sutherland and drummer Matt Bledsoe; guitarist Nathan Lockhart would join them later.

Four years of gigging followed and, in 2009, they released debut album “Between Hell and Texas.”

Live album “Live in Big Texas” followed in 2010. The sophomore recording “Valor” debuted in 2013, and an eponymous full-length album arrived in 2015.

The Scooter Brown Band increased its live appearances, building a solid fan base which cheered the release of the band’s fourth studio album, “American Son,” in 2017. At that time, Rolling Stone cited the band as a “country artist to watch.”

During North American tours, the band has opened for some of their biggest influences, including The Charlie Daniels Band, Travis Tritt, Dwight Yoakam, Lee Roy Parnell and The Marshall Tucker Band.

Brown was a finalist on the USA Network’s “Real Country” program in 2018, and named male vocalist of the year at the third-annual Rocky Mountain Country Music Awards presented by iHeartRadio.

Two band members served in the military. The Scooter Brown Band dedicates significant time to veteran support organizations such as Base Camp 40, Warriors in the Wild, Lone Survivor Foundation and the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation.

Brown is a founder and board member for Base Camp 40, an organization providing brotherhood and support to American military veterans.

It was while visiting Base Camp 40 that Brown met and became friends with the late Chris (“American Sniper”) Kyle. Conversations with Kyle inspired Brown’s writing the song “Valor,” which he was asked to sing at a memorial service for Kyle in February 2013, held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

From left, Emily Pritchard as Woman, Justin McKean as Andre, and Lydia McBee Reed as Anne in production of “The Father” at Texas Tech’s Black Box Theatre.

‘The Father: A Tragic Farce’

Translated from its original French by Christopher Hampton, playwright Florian Zeller’s contemporary play “The Father: A Tragic Farce” will be staged at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday through Saturday and also on Nov. 21-23, with 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays, Nov. 17 and 24, at the new Texas Tech Black Box Theatre, 2812 18th St. on campus.

The theater also is called The CH Foundation The Legacy of Christine DeVitt Black Box.

DayDay Robinson will direct.

All seating is general admission, with tickets $15 for the general public and $5 for all students with valid IDs. A limited number of free student rush tickets are available for Texas Tech students.

Call 742-3603 or visit online site for more ticket details.

The play exposes the cost of what it means for one man to maintain his independence.

A synopsis of this dark comedy:

“Andre is a man facing persecution from all sides and refuses to take it any longer. First a girl considered a ‘helper’ – whom he does not need at all – steals his favorite watch. Then his scheming daughter Anne, who worries too much, tries to take his flat away. Yes, the same beautiful flat he has owned for more than 30 years, in which he is still quite capable of living, thank you very much! As for his daughter Elise, whom he loves very much, where is she? She never comes to visit.

“Anne’s husband or lover, Pierre, with whom she will either stay in Paris or move to London, threatens Andre with violence if he will not cooperate.

“And to top it all off, strangers keep entering Andre’s flat, telling him they are friends or family members, and also telling him that he does not live in his flat anymore. No matter how old he may be, Andre knows he is a powerful man, a man of authority and he will find some way to assert it. After all, he still has all of his faculties … doesn’t he?”

In this darkly humorous and deeply poignant translation, Zeller’s “The Father” is a tragi-comic mystery, a sobering and realistic family story and an unsentimental, emotionally intense look at the world through the eyes of a man experiencing dementia, a dramatic illustration of physical losses which occur alongside the mental ones.

“Directing the English translation of Florian Zeller’s ‘The Father’ has been an absolute joy. I have learned more about dementia in the past few months than I have in my 13 years working in disability studies. I am excited for people to see the production; there will be someone in the audience who needs to witness this play. I hope our entire production team is able to do justice to this beautiful story,” said the director.

The cast includes Justin McKean as Andre, the title character; Lydia McBee Reed as Anne; Steven Weatherbee as Pierre; Kaylee Underwood as Laura; Emily Pritchard as Woman and Hunter Lovering as Man.

Do we even need to identify the two guys in this photo?

‘The Irishman’

Director Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” – certainly one of 2019’s biggest and most important films, and most controversial in terms of motion picture politics – arrives in Lubbock this weekend for two (lengthy) showings per day at the Alamo Drafthouse.

Why the controversy? This is Scorsese’s first film since his sadly overlooked “Silence” and one that would demand an unprecedented budget that started at $160 million and grew.

Like last year’s “Roma,” Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is produced by Netflix, considered a competitor by motion picture studios.

“The Irishman” made its one-day debut on Sept. 27 at the 57th-annual New York Film Festival, where critics raved about the film, Scorsese and his cast. While “The Irishman” would re-open in Los Angeles on Nov. 1 for a run making it eligible for Academy Awards consideration, Netflix would make the same film available to its subscribers less than a month later.

Never mind that it is a motion picture best experienced on the big screen.

In fact, motion picture distributors believe movies should remain in theaters for three to four months, minimum, before being made available to pay-cable TV. But “The Irishman” debuts on Netflix on Nov. 27.

Yet how can the Oscars possibly blackball, or ignore, a Scorsese film with this cast?

Actually, it was star Robert De Niro who first became excited and brought this project to the attention of his friend, Scorsese, after reading the 2004 book “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt.

The new film is an epic – three hours long – crime film scripted by Steven Zaillian, directed by Scorsese, and starring De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, with Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Stephanie Kurtzuba and Jesse Plemons in support.

The movie follows Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a truck driver who becomes a made hitman involved with mobster Russell Bufalino (Pesci, who came out of retirement to take part) and his crime family and also worked for powerful Teamsters union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino).

The obvious question: Will the film try to reveal what happened to Hoffa, who disappeared at age 62 in July 1975?

The budget nears $200 million and the running time is 209 minutes, the most expensive and longest of Scorsese’s career.

Two years ago, Scorsese announced the film would be told via a series of flashbacks depicting an older Frank Sheeran recollecting his many criminal activities over several decades. Thus, De Niro will appear as young as 24 and as old as 80.

Part of the high budget involves a never-before-used “de-aging process.” This of course involves computers adapting earlier film footage. A posture coach was brought on set to give De Niro, Pacino and Pesci tips on how to comport themselves like much younger men.

Scorsese shot 319 scenes in 117 different locations on a 108-day shooting schedule.

Fun facts. “The Irishman” is:

  • The ninth movie collaboration between De Niro and Scorsese, their first since 1995’s “Casino.”
  • The fourth film to star both De Niro and Pacino.
  • The seventh film to star both De Niro and Pesci.
  • The first film to star both Pacino and Pesci.
  • The first time Pacino has been directed by Scorsese.

Texas Tech’s BurkTech Players

First, who are Texas Tech’s BurkTech Players?

The name refers to a collaboration between the Texas Tech School of Theatre and Dance and the on-campus Burkhart Center for Autism Education & Research. And this is far from the first time when imaginative theater has been produced and staged by students from both working together.

The mission of the BurkTech Players is to provide a nurturing environment to encourage, extol and extend collaboration through shared experiences of the performing arts with individuals on the autism spectrum.

This weekend finds the BurkTech Players performing “Two Nights of One-Acts” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday on the main stage at All Saints Episcopal School, 3222 103rd St.

There is no admission charge.

Performances consist of nine one-act plays, one new piece and a performance by the improvisational comedy troop known as The Sentiend Nuts.

Each of the two nights provides a slightly different lineup of one-acts, the intention being to “provide something for everyone.”

“Every semester we present a full production utilizing students from both Tech’s School of Theatre & Dance and the Burkhart Center. We have actors, designers and technicians from the Burkhart Center working alongside theater students to produce a quality performance for the community. BurkTech Players take pride in our collaborative spirit and our ability to work alongside those who might think a little bit differently than us. We strive to produce a safe and welcoming work environment to everyone who wants to participate,” a BurkTech leader explained,