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Zydecowboys

Allons danser at Jax Grill's Zydeco Night

Are you an old man? Do you fancy dancing with attractive younger women? Well, Mister Inappropriately-Dances-With-Girls-Half-His-Age-Guy, Jax Grill (1613 Shepherd) is where you need to be.

Most people know Jax Grill as a family-style neighborhood restaurant offering up an eclectic mix of entrées because, well, it is a family-style neighborhood restaurant that offers up an eclectic mix of entrées. But from 6 to 10 p.m. every Friday and Saturday, dance partner discretion is left at the door as Jax transforms into a harbor of inhibition-free Louisiana rug-cuttery, featuring some of the area's Creole-est zydeco bands.

Chris Roberts, a 55-year-old retired truck driver, has been privy to this fact for about six years now. "I like coming here because it's a good time, there's no violence and the ladies don't mind dancing with an older man," says Roberts, a charismatic and real life zydecowboy.

Zydecowboys — a half-clever (but mostly lazy) term given to anybody who dances to zydeco while wearing a cowboy hat and boots — are an important part of the music's rich and cultured Gulf Coast image. They have been a key component of Jax's zydeco night since it began, shortly after Randy Griffin, Sheri Griffin and Clint Broadwell opened the restaurant's doors back in 1994.

Today, Jax has an impressive roll call of regular performers, including big draws like J. Paul and the Zydeco Nu Breeds and the wildly popular Step Rideau and the Zydeco Outlaws.

And for a city that, outside of a scattering of clubs and weekend church events held at places like Our Mother of Mercy (2010 Benson) and St. Francis of Assisi (5102 Dabney), offers little in the way of live zydeco, Jax Grill's effort goes a long way not only to supply an underserviced population of enthusiasts, but also to pre­sent it to potential new fans.

"I like Jax because it introduces zydeco to people who wouldn't have normally experienced it," says Monique Gonzalez, fiancée to Jax crowd favorite Step Rideau. "These past two years they're drawing a young crowd in, and it's really bringing zydeco back to life in the Houston area."

This night she appears to be correct, as almost all of Jax's clientele, which is predominantly black and nearing the 220 occupancy limit, appear to be there primarily for the music.

Full-out families, children and all, sit at tables on the outskirts of the dance floor and bop their heads as Rideau glides in and out of French and English; young business professionals, excited to finally be classified as young business professionals, crowd around the decent-sized beer and liquor bar; and people from smug twenty-somethings to bitter sixtysomethings congregate in pockets from the outdoor patio to the dance floor, simultaneously forgetting to be both smug and bitter.

So while most restaurant-to-dance hall variations come off as forced and kitschy at best, Jax Grill's unassuming nature manages to lend itself nicely to the down-home, syncopated style of zydeco, making for a genuinely agreeable evening out.

"One of our original managers started Zydeco Night and it's been great," says Laura Campbell, manager and 13-year employee of Jax. "People really seem to enjoy it, and it's a welcome atmosphere so they bring their families. Everyone is welcome here."

Laissez les bons temps rouler. (Which we think means "Watch out for that banana peel." But we failed French.)

Last Call

It's widely known that a vast and expansive knowledge of comic books drives women mad with lust. So this week Nightfly reached across the Web to Chris Sims, proprietor of www.the-isb.com and comic book super-genius, to provide three tips on how to become a totally hot comic book collector:

1. Try different things. Publishers these days offer up a wide variety of titles from traditional superheroes to stories of real-life relationships. Why anyone would want to read the latter, I have no idea.

2. Ask around. Generally speaking, guys don't work at comic book stores for the money; they're there because they like to read comics.

3. Collect what you like, not what you think other people will think is cool. In this sense, it's very much like porn.

Now that you've got those gems in your pickup arsenal, put 'em to good use at these W.A.R. Zone establishments (BTW, W.A.R. Zone is the newest in rad real estate slang meaning a location that has Westheimer, Alabama or Richmond as a cross street): Agora (1712 Westheimer) — People that don't like this lounge are called Agora-phobics. Get it? Thank you, thank you. We'll be here all week; Brasil (2604 Dunlavy) — Parking can be a bit of a hassle at this cafe, but we're sure the families who live behind Brasil don't mind people parking in front of their houses; Poison Girl (1641 Westheimer) — This place has pinball machines, which are like the arcade version of comic books.

 
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