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Loony Zunes

Universal Music helps Microsoft set a crappy precedent

None of which, it quickly became apparent, was gonna be a good fit for this room. (And there was no turntable to be seen, anyway.) Physically, it's pretty much open-air and housed in a converted gas station, and it looks funkier on the outside than it actually is. The clientele, however, was jarringly Richmond Strip-ish for a Heights bar -- a table of boisterous, twentysomething women pounded buckets of longnecks and screamed at a TV showing the Rockets game. There were a few dudes with gelled hair sticking up over frat-boy visors. And all these people screamed along to the chorus of the Killers' "Somebody Told Me," which billowed out of the jukebox; and as alarming and appalling as that sub-karaoke performance was, a much, much worse horror emerged next: Somebody paid to hear Blue October's "Hate Me." That was enough to send me scrambling for succor in my car, where I tuned in to Stevie T's quiet storm on KCOH to sooth my damaged nerves while I waited for Mike to arrive.

On the whole, though, Beer Island is not that bad a place -- even if the jukebox contains few (pleasant) surprises. It's a clean, well-lit place to knock back the Tuesday special -- dollar Lone Stars -- and watch Cheaters on mute, if not the kind of joint where you would feel comfortable rocking the turntable with some of the weirdest vinyl you own. (Fun tip I learned here: Watch "The Confrontation" scenes from Cheaters with Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" in the background; both song and show, great as they are separately, are enhanced enormously. It's kinda like that Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon deal.)

Across White Oak lies the Heights Sports and Social Club, a snug little bar replete with leather couches and lots of natural wood. This joint has one of those MP3 jukes, so there's a better selection than at Beer Island. (Beck's "The Golden Age" was playing when Mike and I walked in, and that oozing dollop of mellow, steel guitar-drenched melancholy never sounded better than it did here.) There are also little TVs in each leather-lined booth, which annoyed me a bit. I didn't want to be distracted from Cheaters, which was also playing on the big screen here. (What's up with that? Is this apparent Cheaters obsession a Heights deal?) At any rate, Racket gets cranky when he is distracted from watching Dallasites do the dirty on one another and then beat each other up. A trio of members of the San Jacinto Hi Rollers motorcycle club came in and sat in front of the TV, and I didn't want them to think I was staring at them, so Mike and I left. On the way out, I saw a sticker on the side of one of those bikers' helmets that said, "He who dies with the most toys, still dies." That's totally cool.

We headed down the street to Jimmie's just in time for their midnight last call and had a couple of Heinekens on their patio while listening to Dwight Yoakam from the juke, before heading to the bar part of Fitz's, which is open even when, as was the case this night, no bands were playing. Eventually, we wound up at the Shiloh Club for a nightcap at the real-deal last call. It was a fun and varied Tuesday night with minimal driving involved, and even if I didn't get to turn anybody on to Bongo Joe's "Innocent Little Doggie," I had more fun there in the Heights than I could have had downtown or Midtown. Who'd a thunk the Heights could be so hoppin'?

john.lomax@houstonpress.com

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