Goodbye, George?

Strait's "The Cowboy Rides Away" tour closes out this year's rodeo.

Live Shots

On March 17, a Sunday night, George Strait wrangled 80,020 fans into Reliant Stadium for what is sure to be justthe first of his "farewell" shows here in Houston.

This glut of country fans — only a few thousand short of the total population of Santa Monica, California — broke both RodeoHouston and Reliant all-time attendance records, packing the house to see Strait, Martina McBride and the Randy Rogers Band close this rodeo season.

George Strait set a new Reliant Stadium attendance record...
Photos by Daniel Kramer
George Strait set a new Reliant Stadium attendance record...
...with a crowd of more than 80,000 on St. Patrick's Day.
Photos by Daniel Kramer
...with a crowd of more than 80,000 on St. Patrick's Day.

Strait remains the capital-K King of country more than 30 years into his run. Every wave of his hand Sunday made the venue erupt, and the stadium could barely contain the love for him in the room.

The singer remains something of an enigma for the press, though. He's not the most open personality. He doesn't see the need to air out every twist and turn of his life on social media, and his legend (the definition fits him) only seems to grow through the years as every subsequent male country singer attempts to at least grasp at what Strait has done since the early '80s.

Strait's luck with a great songwriter like Dean Dillon ("The Chair," "Ocean Front Property") brings to mind the string of commercial successes that Elton John and Bernie Taupin saw during their heyday.

You won't see him as a judge on a reality show, and he won't be writing a tell-all memoir anytime soon.

For a member of the music press like myself, that is perhaps why he is still so interesting. His songs seem to mirror his audience more than himself, and he sings everyone else's life while we know relatively little about his own, other than through the stray interview or concert ­anecdote.

Sunday night's set list didn't sound like what you would call a last-hurrah collection, though, which solidifies my notion that this wasn't his last Houston go-round. The cowboy may very well be riding away, but he's taking his time.

Last September, Strait said that after 2014 he's done, but he seemed to leave the subject somewhat open-ended.

"I'm gonna miss that," he would say after each and every huge swelling of adoration Sunday.

I mean, how would he himself resist playing "Carrying Your Love with Me" during his final, final show in Houston? He didn't even leave on a horse.

You gotta leave on a horse, Mr. Strait. Then I would know you are done.

Night Life

Last Kiss
Popular River Oaks "make-out" bar Marfreless announces its impending closure.

Chris Gray

Rising property fees in its expensive River Oaks surroundings have forced Marfreless, the most famous Houston bar without a sign, to close at the end of the month. The bar's owners announced the news on Marfreless's Web site the evening of March 20.

"Dearest friends, patrons, charities, and fellow establishments of the evening — the owners and staff of Marfreless are grieved to announce the upcoming closing of our iconic Houston landmark bar and lounge," the statement said. "Our tentative last day of business will be Saturday, March 30, 2013.

"While we are actively seeking a new place to call home and another door to paint blue, we have recently and unfortunately joined the ranks of those small businesses which have been forced to adapt to the ever-­increasing cost of fees levied by property ­owners."

The statement added that Marfreless will be effectively throwing a wake for itself until the final last call and welcomed customers to come by and share their "stories of poignancy, excess and debauchery." (See "Openings and Closings" in Eating...Our Words, page 37.)

Marfreless also put out a call for tributes on social media via its Twitter account, @MarfrelessBar, and the hashtag #MarfMoment. It didn't take long, and in fact, these were already being posted days before the news even broke. It was that kind of place.

@shaxperio: "12 year old whiskey, a real femme fatale, and slow sweet jazz from the shadows."

@shoegirl1970: "My ex husband & I had our first date with you! We have 2 beautiful children."

@maslowbeer (posted Feb. 21): "I was making out in the school desk room upstairs @MarfrelessBar when most of u cool cats were in middle school."

Known by the blue door that became the only outdoor sign Marfreless ever needed, and frequently mentioned in "Hidden Houston"-type articles, the 40-year-old bar has long been a popular spot for clandestine assignations. As a friend put it, it was a good "mistress bar." (The couches...)

Marfreless was also awarded "Best Cheap Thrill" in the Houston Press's 2004 Best of Houston® issue, with good reason.

Only in Houston

Tablet Fail
A major Houston venue tells fans to leave their iPads and such at home.

Craig Hlavaty

Here comes some news that most everybody should be able to get behind this coming summer concert season.

While updating the Houston Press's online concert calendar with new listings for the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion last week, I discovered that the venue now bans the use of iPads and other tablet devices at all its events. In fact, it has been doing so since last summer.

So saith the Pavilion's Web site:

"Tablets, such as iPads and Kindles, are not permitted in the venue because they are a distraction to other guests and the artists."

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