By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
By Rocks Off
By Rocks Off
Best of Houston
Last week the Houston Press doffed our kudos cap to local institutions great and small in the Best of Houston® 2013 awards. So all through October, each of our four blogs will be looking beyond the winners in selected categories in a series we like to call "The Rest of the Best." Rocks Off figured we'd start with a pretty big one: the places where this music we cover almost nightly actually happens.
The editor asked each regular Rocks Off contributor to come up with a Top 5 list of local venues, in order, and added up the scores. For the record, 30 different venues across our sprawling metropolis drew at least one vote, but these are (drum roll)...the rest of the best. Clip and save.
Cynthia Woods is way out in The Woodlands, and the pavilion setting can leave one exposed to the elements, but glance at all the massive names it brings to town. The sound is as fantastic under those giant fans, but if you can't spare change for those high-roller seats, the lawn is where it's at. It's hard to beat chilling on a blanket beneath the stars, with plenty of elbow room to boot. And now that the Pavilion allows fans to bring their own munchies, it's ten times cuter than before. ANGELICA LEICHT
2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands
281-363-3300 or woodlandscenter.org
After a protracted (losing) struggle against Washington Avenue douche-ification, Walters's dedicated owner Pam Robinson took over a warehouse space in north downtown and somehow made her eclectic space for both touring and local bands even cooler. Now they get to play in much swankier digs with a great sound system, passionate staff and excellent drink prices, proving that not all small clubs are dirty and shady.
What sets Walters apart, however, is the club's reputation for giving bands a chance when others venues won't. (And in case you were wondering, yes, the bathrooms are much cleaner than those in the Washington Avenue location.) ALYSSA DUPREE
1120 Naylor, 713-222-2679
8. SUPER HAPPY FUN LAND
Put bluntly, there's no venue with more character in all of Houston. The place is a total gutter-punk DIY heaven, with odd furniture and decorations all over the place, brilliant graffiti and wall art, tables hastily set up to sell cheap merchandise, beer and local crafts, and, most important, bands you'd never hear anywhere else. Every venue says they love the strange and the unique, but the folks behind SHFL put their money where their mouth is by hosting some of the most avant-garde shit you've ever seen.
We just had a look at their calendar, and coming up in November is a French artcore band made up of three kids barely out of high school. You're not going to see that in Houston anywhere other than Super Happy Fun Land. JOHN SEABORN GRAY
3801 Polk, 713-880-2100
A Montrose fixture for more than a decade and a half, AvantGarden has had no trouble reinventing itself over the years. Once dubbed The Mausoleum, then Helios, the picturesque turn-of-the-century mansion has held a laid-back, artistic vibe through all of its incarnations and remains a favorite hangout for local creatives and yuppie transplants alike. It's not unusual to see down-to-earth longtime owner Mariana, who seems to have personified the venue herself and remains a recognizable fixture behind its bar mixing a batch of homemade sangria or mingling with her regulars.
Local singer-songwriter Chase Hamblin doubles as host and drink-slinger for the popular Tuesday-night open-mike, and regular events include poetry slams, acoustic showcases, hip-hop battles, dance recitals and a monthly craft market. With three separate performance spaces — one on each of its two stories and one in the lushly romantic back patio — AvantGarden exudes a "come one, come all" feel that readily makes you feel all cozy inside. LEILA CHEMAM-ALFARO
411 Westheimer, 832-287-5577
6. DISCOVERY GREEN
No concert venue in Houston boasts a better backdrop than Discovery Green, everybody's favorite downtown oasis. Flanked by skyscrapers, the outdoor stage hosts a regular concert series featuring top local performers such as the Suffers, Buxton and the Zydeco Dots, not to mention special events such as 2011's NCAA Final Four "Big Dance" concerts with Kings of Leon, Kenny Chesney and others. Best of all, the music is free for everyone. You can even stash your screaming kids on the playground while you enjoy the tunes. Bring a cooler and a Frisbee and make an evening of it. NATHAN SMITH
1500 McKinney, 713-400-7336
5. HOUSE OF BLUES
Ascending the escalator outside House of Blues feels a bit like climbing the stairway to heaven. With one massive stage, a balcony and what equates to a giant pit, how can you go wrong? Apart from select seated shows such as Aimee Mann, House of Blues' standing-room-only policy is one of the main features that make the downtown hall so popular. The others would include savvy bookings of legends and up-and-comers alike, three bars to help you imbibe whatever it is you're imbibing, and a food window to help you nosh mid-show. Small wonder HOB is about to celebrate its fifth anniversary this weekend going stronger than ever. ANGELICA LEICHT