Best of Houston®

Best Of 2016


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Arts & Entertainment

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Readers' Choice


Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Curator
Valerie Cassel Oliver, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

For several years now, CAMH senior curator Valerie Cassel Oliver has eschewed fickle fads in favor of the quiet, steady promotion of serious artists like Susie Rosmarin, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Jae Ko, Nathaniel Donnett, Benjamin Patterson, Robert Hodge, Sanford Biggers and Jason Villegas. The art world can be a vast, contentious and capricious place, and it takes a well-seeing eye to avoid the flavor-of-the-month distractions.  With her commitment to local artists and her discerning taste, Cassel Oliver has energized the institution.

5216 Montrose Blvd., Houston, 77006
Best Local TV Commercial

Commercials on local TV were never supposed to make viewers pause to ponder the profound philosophical questions of life...until Texas Mattress Makers came along. The camera lingers lovingly over mattresses in production at the company's East End factory-showroom, as a disembodied voice asks a few simple questions in a tone that implies he's talking about a lot more than a good night's sleep: "What is a mattress?" "Where does it come from?" "How does it make you feel?" Soothing and sleepy, the narrator's voice barely reaches above a whisper, the exact opposite of Mattress Mack's hyper-caffeinated, high-volume late-night pitches of yore. Brilliant.

4619 Navigation, Houston,
Best Blues Club
The Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club

You can almost feel the smoke of a different era still hanging in the air at the Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club. On the stage, you'll likely find a full-bodied blues band with a twanging guitar, fierce keys and throaty vocalist who, yes, sounds like he may have just smoked a pack. Not a single wall, table or tile is without chipped paint in this dark joint. Old photos and posters of Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Dr. John leave little room for white space anyway. And in the center of it all are a few middle-aged couples dancing and twirling around so impressively in front of the stage that if you're young and single you think, "Life goals," and if you're old and married you think, "Why can't I do that?" This isn't a place where you go to gab — there's simply too much to absorb.

READERS' CHOICE: The Continental Club

5731 Kirby, Houston, 77005
Best Place to See an Intimate Concert

The lack of interior space at Satellite Bar isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially because it means you get a good, close-up look at the local and national acts taking the stage. This East End venue is the best place in town for experiencing a show right in your face, whether you like hardcore punk rock, electronic dance music or stand-up comedy. And there's a big backyard if you need to take a break for some air.

6922 Harrisburg, Houston, 77011
Best Art Exhibit

Mari Carmen Ramírez is on fire, leading the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in relentless pursuit of the best and brightest modern and contemporary art from Central and South America. Ramírez, the Wortham Curator of Latin American Art and director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas, has a keen eye, and the museum's "Contingent Beauty" exhibit was an edgy showstopper with themes of poverty, political oppression and violence. We saw exciting installations, like the starfish-studded Woven Water: Submarine Landscape by María Fernanda Cardoso; the minimalist Stress (in memoriam) by Yoan Capote (incorporating thousands of human teeth); and Óscar Muñoz's video projection chronicling the desaparecidos. Both cerebral and beautiful, it was the sort of exhibit that stays in your mind long after it closes.

1001 Bissonnet St., Houston, 77005
Best Concert Venue

In its first year, Satellite Bar has already built a reputation for putting on shows that don't disappoint. The dark dive hosts mostly local and Texas bands, serving up everything from funky space rock to shoe-gazing fuzz. The small stage is tucked into the corner across from the bar, which offers an extensive selection of craft beers from breweries across the country. But the real draw at Satellite is its huge backyard: There are fire pits, tables and festive lighting, and every now and then, management sets up an outdoor stage. Satellite is exactly where you want to be on one of those clear, sweater-weather nights.

READERS' CHOICE: House of Blues

6922 Harrisburg, Houston, 77011

Best Curator: Valerie Cassel Oliver, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston


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