Since moving out of Montrose, I have learned two valuable lessons. The first lesson will be disclosed later on. The second lesson is more relevant to the topic at hand: There is life, and copious amounts of culture, outside of the Loop.
In the past few months I've been back on the Southwest, I haven't been to many local shows. However, the last show I went to was a Noguey and Copwarmth show, hosted at Mango's. I was totally let down: Not by the music, but by my beloved Mango's. The front patio has been boarded up, the graffiti painted over and (with the exception of the bathroom) it almost feels...clean.
Granted, Houston venues have changed a lot in the past year. Changes in management, clientele, promoters, bands, noise ordinances -- it's all bullshit. As Houstonians, we must accept these changes and move on. At the end of the day, it's just nice to have a venue with decent sound, a good atmosphere and maybe some drink specials.
Lately I've been trying to find places closer to me that offer added incentives that Rudz, Mango's and Walter's can't. As a pregnant concertgoer, beer and cigarettes serve more as a detractor nowadays.
After exploring a few central hubs of culture and music, I have found the perfect venue for any type of show...and it's not a bar or a restaurant. It's a culmination of all facets of free enterprise: La Pulga Del 59.
Also known as the 59 Flea Market, this is a Mexicentric swap-meet mecca located on Highway 59 and Windswept.
La Pulga is a cornucopia of vendors who sell everything from food to tattoos to quinceañera dresses. Walking through the market is like maneuvering through a video game: You must pass through a mile of tents and running children, all while avoiding shady ID dealers and equally shady transactions.
Once you've cleared the checkpoint, there's a huge concert hall with a dance floor. While the hall is mainly for weekend Ranchero concerts, the space looks like the perfect setting for any type of summer show. It's dark, the air conditioner works at full capacity (the only place it's used at La Pulga) and there are more than enough suspicious-looking audience members to make any Houstonian feel at ease.
In the past, La Pulga has proven to be a good venue for punk. Houston punk group Los Alimañas played a show there about three years ago, choosing a spot outside next to the vendors and performing for a seemingly confused but receptive crowd.
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The Market is open every weekend, all day on Saturday and Sunday. There is usually a visiting band playing live music at the dance hall on Saturdays, but I'm hoping to see more Houston bands utilizing the space in the near future. In fact, I'm hoping to see more bands utilizing the expanse of the surrounding area.
Which brings me back to my first lesson: No one genuinely loves music more than the people who live in Alief...no elitism, just devoted fandom. Seriously, there are still die-hard Slipknot fans out there.