Last Concert Café
It's not very often that we get to write a sentence that we know, without a doubt, has never ever been written before, but today is one of those days:
Lord Allen Goodson wants his brain put inside of a robot.
You see, as bartender for the past 17 years at the enigmatic Last Concert Café (1403 Nance), Goodson has partaken in countless Would You Rather-type bar-guments of this sort, and tonight the conversation has turned to the inevitable "Would you want them to pull the plug if you were on life support?" Lord Allen apparently does not.
Outside of the typical human-to-robot brain transfusion, Lord Allen — who'd prefer you not know the origins of his moniker, save to say it involves a bit of alcohol and some British telly — is often overheard covering topics including the finer points of military diplomacy and, of course, making just enough inside jokes with the regulars to make newcomers feel uncomfortable.
But therein lies the Last Concert's appeal.
Much has been made of the cafe's 65-year history. Opened originally as a whorehouse by Elena "Mama" Lopez in the early '40s, Last Concert, keeping the original name, traded in the hookers and johns for flautas and tortillas in 1949. Ownership was passed around a bit over the years; the joint opened and closed and reopened its doors a few times, until it haphazardly fell into the hands of current proprietor Dawn Fudge in 1986. And at first blush — with the exception of the addition of a couple of stages, live music Tuesdays through Saturdays and a bit of a restaurant expansion — not much has changed since then.
The unimpressive and unadvertised storefront is the same as it ever was. So is the typically tacky Mexican-restaurant decor, the cramped seating/kitchen quarters, the tiny one-man bar shoved into the corner and the lack of plasma TVs; but they're all given a pass, chalked up to kooky traditions and ornamental history, because of Last Concert's yesteryear.
So the native tourists come through — the downtown suits, the badass bikers, the judges and the college kids — each looking to impress their friends with a "grass roots" knowledge of the city, spouting out Last Concert's peccadilloes as though they weren't known by everyone who's walked through the always-locked front door: Oh, did you know this place didn't even have a doorknob just a few years ago? Did you know that Kate Hudson has been by here with that dude from the Black Crowes? All the while, they're missing what's staring them in the face.
The ethos of Last Concert, what makes this place truly unique, lies not in its past, nor in its famous name-drops or peculiarities. The heart of L.C. lies within the inhabitants, who are as weathered and as storied as the place itself.
And if you've got your eyes open, on any number of nights you're likely to see the typical cast of characters, which includes the tie-dyed likes of Grateful Greg, who has spent the better part of "20 years worth of Thursdays" there because "for a lot of people, this is the only family they got"; 17-year veteran Richard the Photographer; Mara the Hula-Hoop Girl (who, coincidentally, is a girl named Mara who hula-hoops); Marsha the Lighted-Poi Spinner; or any other number of the 75 or so regulars, stereotypically identified by their handmade jewelry and flip-flops.
And this group, this ragtag sect of pseudo-family members, like a pack of protective hippie wolves, aren't too keen on letting just anyone join in.
"This is our place," says a bearded regular who requested his name not be used, "and we'd rather not have it broadcasted out what we have here. Most of us have been around for decades. We're a family, we watch each other's kids. You either gotta know someone or come around for a while before you get accepted here, but once you are, you are."
This space isn't nearly large enough to encapsulate exactly what Last Concert Café is. Many pieces of its peculiar puzzle have not been mentioned, including the ordained ministers who work there, July's annual Watermelon Festival and the bizarro invitation-only costumed get-togethers held outside its walls. But if we had to put Last Concert's odd aura into one sentence, let it be this:
Lord Allen Goodson wants his brain put inside a robot.
There's two guaranteed ways you can get people to like you: You can end every sentence with, "You guys like me, right?" or you can win the annual Houston's Funniest Person contest hosted by Laff Stop (526 Waugh). Two thousand six winner Danny Rios was kind enough to offer up some advice on how you can take the crown:
1. Make sure to talk about your ethnicity or sexual orientation. They're totally original and nobody else ever talks about them.
2. Tell the same joke as the person before you. Sure, they wrote it, but it sounds sooo much funnier when you say it.
3. Four words: Forrest Gump and Slingblade impressions. They never get old. Never.
Everybody at work already calls you the funny guy, so there's probably no need for you to practice. Instead, catch some live music at these venues: Crossroads Coffee (2531 University) — They serve European-style crepes and coffee, which means this is the place to go if you're looking to steal a poet's MacBook; Shakespeare's Pub (14129 Memorial) — The owners used to be marines, so don't dick around in here; Mucky Duck (2425 Norfolk) — Lyle Lovett played here, and he bagged Julia Roberts. By association, that means you should leave here with no worse than a Drew Barrymore.
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