La Bare has long been popular for such special occasions as bachelorette parties and divorce celebrations, but now owner, general manager and former dancer Chris Domangue is trying to attract businesswomen for everyday lunches with clients and happy hours with colleagues. He's moved the club down Richmond Avenue a few blocks to a bigger space with Roman decor, new dancers, Vegas-style shows, wall-to-wall couches and corner fireplaces. It's an upscale environment, explains Domangue, where you "don't have a butt in your face when you walk in the door." In fact, La Bare dancers don't wear G-strings, but tightly tailored "posing" trunks designed for bodybuilders. The club is not even considered a sexually oriented business by the city (which, of course, means La Bare is not subject to any 3-foot laws). The club's grand opening begins with a dollar-drink, no-cover happy hour at 6 p.m.; the full show begins at 8 p.m. and lasts until 2 a.m. Regular cover charges are $7 for 21 and up and $10 for 18-20. 6234 Richmond. Call (713)780-0930 for reservations or go to www.labare.com for a preview.
Ian McEwan's Booker Prize-winning Amsterdam is a tale of a friendship based on an unusual pact. When two old friends meet at the funeral of a mutual lover who spent the end of her life as an invalid, they each agree to help the other die should either reach a similar fate. The two men generate as much anger as sympathy, and this entertaining paradox is just one of the novel's many bright spots. Full of McEwan's bitter wit, Amsterdam is a quick but by no means easy read; in fact, strange plot turns will leave you feeling uneasy long after the last chapter. McEwan will read from his newest novel at 7 p.m. at Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, (713)523-0701. Free. (Jennifer Mathieu)
Mardi Gras is upon us, and you haven't booked a room in New Orleans. Luckily, you're less than an hour away from another Gulf town that's celebrated theweeks before Lent with grand Bacchanalian flair since the mid-19th century. And you're still in time to get $10 tickets to the gated Strand Entertainment District from Ticketmaster (they're $15 if you wait till tomorrow or until you get on the Island). In keeping with this year's "Vegas on the Gulf" theme, Mardi Gras! Galveston kicks off tonight with a special 8:45 p.m. appearance by the Flying Elvi. The Elvi won't actually jump out of a plane until tomorrow at noon, before a 5:15 p.m. performance by R&B great Blood, Sweat and Tears. The second weekend of Mardi Gras (February 12 and 13) will feature performances by .38 Special, Cheap Trick and Las Vegas-style impersonators. The Strand Entertainment District is between 25th and 21st streets on Strand and Mechanic. Parades and processions take place throughout both weekends here and on Seawall Blvd. Call (888)GAL-ISLE or go to www.galvestontourism.com for more information.
What's made poetry sexy again for the first time since the '60s? Slams. This is not the kind of poetry printed in books or read by bongo-drumming bohemians in coffee houses. This is punk-rock poetry -- frenetic, noisy, raw, in-your-face poetry. Emmy award-winning director Paul Devlin's documentary, SlamNation, follows the best performers to the biggest contest in the country: the four-day-long National Poetry Slam in Portland, Oregon. The Houston premiere of SlamNation screens at the Museum of Fine Arts' Brown Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Also, Friday, February 5, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, February 7, at 7 p.m. 1001 Bissonnet. For more information, call (713)639-7531. $5; $4, students and seniors.
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Any group that would drag an 800-pound, five-foot-wide drum (carved from a single tree, mind you) all the way from their village on Sado Island in the Sea of Japan is worth your 12 bucks to see. The majestic o-daiko drum is played by two men with baseball bat-type sticks -- one playing a fixed rhythm and the other improvising. When the two reach unison, they are said to be "wrapped within the embrace of the o-daiko." The Kodo Drummers also dance, mime and play other traditional instruments such as the bamboo xylophone, the gong and the shamisen in their shows. 5 p.m. Also, Saturday, February 6, at 8 p.m. Presented by the Society for the Performing Arts at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. Call (713)227-ARTS for tickets, $12-$45.
In the vein of toddler television shows-turned-touring productions such as "Sesame Street Live!" and "Barney -- Live!" comes "The Big Comfy Couch -- Live in Concert!" Loopy Loonette, "a young clown learning about the world," will hang out with her mute, miming doll-friend Molly, Granny Garbanzo, Major Bedhead and a couple of "dustbunnies" at the Aerial Theater when her 12-foot-long overstuffed sofa rolls into town. 6:30 p.m. Also, Tuesday, February 9, 6:30 p.m. 520 Texas Avenue. Call Ticketmaster at (713)629-3700 or the Aerial Theater box office at (713)230-1600 for tickets, $20 and $26.
The Museum of Fine Arts has been lending cameras, film, darkroom time and a little professional expertise to students of inner-city schools, residents of public housing, senior adults and people with HIV/AIDS. The Glassell School of Art's "Positive/Negative: Photographs by ArtAccess Students" features some 60 black-and-whites by students from Austin, Bellaire, Furr, Jones, Lamar and Milby high schools as well as Positive Art Workshop participants, who focused their cameras on the daily aspects of living with disease. The "Positive/Negative" opening reception is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the show continues through February 21. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Glassell School of Art, 5101 Montrose. Call (713)639-7500 for more information. Free.
The Houston Grand Opera's production of Verdi's La Traviata is marked by the Houston debuts of two performers fresh from triumphant turns with the Metropolitan Opera. American soprano Patricia Racette got rave reviews in New York for her portrayal of La Traviata's lead, Violetta, the selfless 19th-century Parisian courtesan who sacrifices herself for the nobleman she loves. Racette may be a visiting star, but the other recent Met transplant, Maestro Patrick Summers, will be around for a while: He's HGO's new Music Director. 7:30 p.m. Also, February 5, 13, 16 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. and February 7 and 21 at 2 p.m. Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas. Call (713)227-ARTS for tickets, $20-$175.