Where the Boys Are

Guava Lamp is a good-natured gay bar in disguise.

Guava Lamp (570 Waugh) is indeed a gay bar.

Most of the time, informing someone the place they've just wandered into is a gay bar is about as necessary as letting them know their facial hair is on fire. For example, at Montrose's Ripcord (715 Fairview), there's a giant outline of some guy squatting on his hands and knees, balls dangling gloriously, painted on the wall.

But over at Guava Lamp, it's not quite that obvious.

"We're really a place that welcomes everybody," said manager James Cook. "We're about 80 percent [gay], 20 percent [not]. It's a little more even on our karaoke nights — Wednesdays and Sundays — but we want to be a place where everyone can feel comfortable any night."

Seeing Milk does not make one automatically familiar with the gay lifestyle, and not every gay bar is as "flamboyant" as Ripcord. Truthfully, even wondering whether a place does or doesn't look like a "gay bar" feels a little ignorant. But the polished, moderately upscale Guava Lamp, which opened in Shepherd Plaza in 1998 but relocated about four years ago due to landlord difficulties, will make you wonder.

Shoot, the Saturday evening we were there, about the "gayest" thing that happened was when the music — which generally follows a "current" to "somewhat current with a hint of dance" curve — cycled from Black Eyed Peas' "Pump It," to LL Cool J and Jennifer Lopez's "Control Myself," to that Ciara video from a few years ago in which Petey Pablo mistakenly thought he had enough clout to make wearing overalls cool again.

Claudia, a regular who asked that her last name not be used, confirmed manager Cook's description of the clientele, and she was hardly the only one. "Whether you're gay or straight," she said succinctly, "this is a great place to go."

Aesthetically, Guava Lamp is classier than its bland business-park surroundings — although its approximate 2,000 square feet do include the requisite concrete floors and a tall, black ceiling tiled as part of an apparent strip-center mandate. But there are large windows with smart curtains, and a back wall painted a bronze-ish color, matching the mosaic top of the large, semi-oval bar that dominates the warmly lit room.

The typical weekend turnout is mostly guys — also, water is wet; the sun, hot — usually late twenties to early thirties and neatly presented. Outliers in the crowd when we visited included a couple of hetero couples, a few black guys and the occasional hefty fellow. Sexual preferences aside, customers generally mirrored the same good-natured vibe as the venue itself.

Guava is much more a pleasant place that happens to be a gay bar than a gay bar that happens to be a pleasant place. Of all the favorable opinions we heard — from gay or straight, male or female — 57-year-old Eric Slough's seemed to fit the best.

"Where would someone my age go that isn't into leather and isn't a cowboy?" said Slough. "I love [Guava Lamp]. I can sit down, watch TV and it's safe. That's very important to me."

LAST CALL

Tax the Wolf

Houston's spacey rock experimentalists Tax the Wolf inscrutably, but wholeheartedly, rock tits. Describing exactly how they sound would almost certainly involve referencing some obscure band from Portland no one's ever heard of, and then making some goofy analogy about a soundtrack to a dream we once had. Instead, we'll just direct you to www.taxthewolf.com, where you can download their music for free. Check 'em out live June 6 at Super Happy Fun Land (3801 Polk) with Jane Frequency and AnotherRun.

 
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