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Do This Tonight: Picnic at Miller Outdoor Theatre

Dine under the stars as Miller Outdoor Theatre screens the classic Talking Heads rock-doc Stop Making Sense.

By Katharine Shilcutt August 14, 2014

Miller Outdoor Theatre is picnic perfect.

Despite the fact that it's the middle of summer, the humidity in Houston is refreshingly low—meaning you should be outside enjoying this rare August weather, and we've got just the idea for an evening spent basking in some of the finest (and cheapest) entertainment options the city has to offer: a picnic at Hermann Park and one of the best music movies of all time.

Tonight, Miller Outdoor Theatre is screening Jonathan Demme's classic rock documentary Stop Making Sense at 8:30 p.m—for free. Film critic Leonard Maltin called it "one of the greatest rock movies ever made," and not just because it's a collection of some of the Talking Heads's best songs in one tidy package; Stop Making Sense is also notable for being the first movie shot using digital audio, meaning the sound quality is as superb today as it was when the movie was first released. Watching Stop Making Sense, which was filmed over the course of three days as the Talking Heads performed at Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, at a venue like Miller Outdoor Theatre is as close as you'll get now to seeing the legendary band live at the height of their popularity in the mid-1980s.

So here's how to make the most out of this great evening. Grab a tote bag or two, a blanket, and let's start with parking, which is limited at Hermann Park. I suggest shrugging off the Museum District entirely and parking your car downtown, where street parking is free after 6 p.m. Try to get a spot close to Phoenicia Specialty Foods at Austin and Lamar; this is crucial for the next step.

Without Talking Heads, there would be no Arcade Fire. Hell, there'd be no Tom Tom Club.

Now get those tote bags and head to Phoenicia. This is where you'll stock up on all the delicious goods for your picnic on the hill at Miller Outdoor. Go wild. I suggest hitting the prepared foods case where you can get tubs of some of Phoenicia's homemade hummus, baba ghanoush, muhammarra, and other dips that pair perfectly with its fresh-baked pita bread. Supplement your dip spread with some olives from the olive bar, a few different kinds of cured meat, some various cheeses, and a few pieces of baklava. If you need something more substantial, you can also get a hot lamb shawarma or some mana'eesh, essentially the Lebanese equivalent of personal pizzas.

Before you head out, be sure to pick up some drinks—just make sure they're not in glass containers, as those aren't allowed at Miller Outdoor. (Though no one is preventing you from pouring that wine into a Camelbak. No judgment here.)

From Phoenicia, it's a quick four-block walk to the southbound station of the light rail at Main and Lamar (which, for reasons unimaginable to me, has its own Wikipedia page). Pay the $1.25 fare and take the short 10-minute ride to the Hermann Park/Rice University station, where you can hop off and stroll through the gorgeous park at sunset—I recommend checking out all the new public art in Hermann Park—before finding a spot on the hill at Miller Outdoor. If you insist on bringing a lawn chair, remember that those go on the left side of the hill. The right side of the hill is for us blanket people.

Spread out your picnic, dig in, and get geared up for the entire audience (or at least me, wearing a Camelbak full of wine) to loudly sing along to "Naive Melody," and bask in the benefits of living in one of the greatest cities on earth. 

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