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.
10. CYNTHIA WOODS MITCHELL PAVILION
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
1204 Caroline, 888-402-5837
4. CONTINENTAL CLUB
The Continental Club serves as the heart of the quirky and eclectic mid-Main strip that is quickly becoming a Mecca of sorts for the local indie scene — and no surprise, since the two-block hipster oasis is the innovation of CC managing partner Pete Gordon. Ideally nestled amid vintage dress and barber shops and adjacent to both the Metrorail and a B-cycle charter station, the Continental is the perfect size for catching a local or regional act: small enough to maintain a dive-y, intimate feel but big enough to make room for a dance party should the need arise.
For a little peace and (relative) quiet, the back room houses a second bar, a billiards table and some damn-good barbecue, which (ask anyone from around here) is a staple of any legitimate Texas dive-bar experience. And when the weather gods are smiling, it's arguably the best venue in town for soaking up those rare cool evenings — a large patio out back boasts ample seating and kitschy-chic decor, from the trademark "Elvis" sign to a real live tiki bar (grass hut included). LEILA CHEMAM-ALFARO
3700 Main, 713-529-9899
3. WAREHOUSE LIVE
Most of Houston's mid-size venues hardly feel "mid-size," which is why we're so lucky to have Warehouse Live. Because the ballroom boasts a capacity of 1,500, Houstonians have been able to catch big names while still taking advantage of the venue's intimate layout, which is even more pronounced in the adjacent Studio room. Since Warehouse opened its doors in February 2006, thousands of acts such as Pink, Bruno Mars, Sunny Day Real Estate and Deftones have graced the venue's two rooms, with no sign of slowing down.
And despite the fact that Warehouse Live's sound system gets loud enough that you can feel the volume in your chest, the venue is known for being both subtle and fancy all at once. With LED chandeliers hanging overhead and a bar set off to the side that allows drinking patrons to do so without fighting a crowd, every piece comes together to make Warehouse one of Houston's most beloved live-music gems. ALYSSA DUPREE
813 St. Emanuel, 713-225-5483
With all due respect to Numbers, there isn't a longer-running or more beloved music venue in town than Fitzgerald's, the creaky old club on White Oak Boulevard in the Heights. Built in freaking 1918 as a Polish dance hall and community center, the place was taken over in 1977 by Sara Fitzgerald and hosted once and future rock and roll legends on its upstairs and downstairs stages for decade after decade, with anecdotal evidence suggesting the bathrooms were cleaned once or twice during that span.
From James Brown to Death to Iron and Wine, Fitz has been the place to see the best local and touring rock and roll acts for generations of Houstonians, and it's changed so little over the years that it still feels like home no matter how long it's been since your last visit. No other spot in town has as much music history baked into its black walls. NATHAN SMITH
2706 White Oak, 713-862-3838
1. JONES HALL
Houston has newer and arguably nicer music venues than Jones Hall, but the building at 615 Louisiana has been offering one of the most satisfying concert experiences in town since opening in 1966. Jones is of course best known and most often employed as the home of the Houston Symphony, but has also recently hosted concerts by junkman bard Tom Waits, R&B sexmonger R. Kelly, Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and even "The Power of Love" time-lords Huey Lewis & the News, among others. Award-winning for both its architecture and its acoustics, and with several significant pieces of civic art on the premises, Jones is everything a world-class, big-city concert hall should be. CHRIS GRAY
615 Louisiana, 713-227-3974
Only in Houston
Local musician Ben Godfrey got a little too close to the recent Grand Prix of Houston race.
When Houston musician Ben Godfrey headed to the Grand Prix of Houston at Reliant Park on October 6, he wasn't aware that he would go from simply watching the action to becoming a part of it.
Godfrey, best known around town for his role in indie-folk acts listenlisten and B.E. Godfrey, was struck by fence and car debris after Dario Franchitti crashed when he was bumped by another driver, Takuma Sato.
"It was the last lap; I saw the two leading cars race by," says Godfrey. "There were more cars coming, but I figured it was all over, so I checked my phone. Next thing I know, there's a loud noise, I look up, and an explosion of dust and debris is forming just to the right of my stand."
Godfrey, who says the three-day event was his first-ever auto race, said a "spray of car parts and a huge section of the fence" flew into the stands where he was sitting.
"The fence basically landed on me and the group of 20 people around me," he says. "I watched in what seemed like slow-motion as the side of the fence slammed right into my forehead. I did make a futile attempt to block it with my arm, but somehow forgot to duck."
According to the Associated Press, a total of 13 spectators were injured as a result of the crash. Of those injured, three were sent to a local hospital for further treatment, and were listed in good condition the evening of October 6.
As for Franchitti, his injuries were a little more serious. The AP said he sustained two fractured vertebrae, a fractured right ankle and a concussion. He was released from Memorial Hermann Hospital last Thursday and taken to Indianapolis for further evaluation.
No other drivers were injured in the crash.
"The paramedics were quick to see who needed attention and got us taken care of," says Godfrey. "They just gave me an ice pack and did some basic concussion tests."
Luckily, Godfrey was the only one in his group injured, and was able to walk away from the incident with a lump on his head, a handful of debris "souvenirs" and a large number of photographs from the scene of the accident.
"They were all smart enough to duck," he says. "My friend Daniel Drake is a bartender at La Carafe, and I'm sure he'd love to have folks come hear his tall tale of the time he almost died at the big car race."
Ask Willie D
A reader's immature father is embarrassing the hell out of him.
Dear Willie D:
My dad is a complete embarrassment. He spends most of his time hanging around his loser, much younger friends talking about girls and what they would like to do with them, like he's in middle school. He is the old guy at the party who will dance crazy to get attention and talks like a New Age hippie so that people will think he's cool. The other day he came over to my house wearing skinny jeans.
He reminds me of the movie That's My Boy, in which Adam Sandler plays an immature slacker dad who refuses to grow up. I love my dad, but I just wish he would act like my dad instead of a weird friend who is unaware that he doesn't have to act like a juvenile delinquent to be accepted. Is there anything I can say or do to help my dad reach mental maturity?
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Tell your dad how you feel about his immature antics, and when he does act childish, don't entertain him. As with children who act out for attention, in most cases ignoring them is the best way to go. Being attentive and catering to them only reinforces their negative behavior. Having said that, your dad is a grown man with an adult child and residual bills. He is pretty much set in his ways.
Everyone has at least one friend who relishes his role as the life of the party. The next time your dad acts like a juvenile, don't think of him as your dad. Imagine that he's the goofy, fun dude in your crew and accept him for that: the goofy, fun dude in your crew. I know that sounds crazy, but sometimes we have to do crazy things to maintain relationships with the people we love. Don't try to change him. Change your expectations of him.
Ask Willie D appears Thursday mornings on Rocks Off.