A fire on November 15 closed two of the three bars at Chance's (1100 Westheimer, 713-523-9533), but The Barn is still open with pool, Bud Light and the occasional flannel shirt. Tonight is Rock Star Thursday.
Even though I'm wearing an outfit that no straight man could have possibly put together, I'm not about to enter Chance's alone. At a quarter till nine I pick up my requisite female companion. Laura's just gotten back from a long overseas stint and is excited to re-explore the Texas lesbian scene. We head over to Chance's and enter the Barn, the back-bar that looks like, well, a barn.
"Yup, it still looks the same," says Laura. She scans the people in the room. "Yup, they look the same, too."
Fluff the Kat
Setting up on one-half of the wooden dance floor is Fluff the Kat, Chance's regular house band. Fluff the Kat conducts "Rock Star Thursdays," a healthy dose of covers, original songs and wordless karaoke (no bouncing ball to tell you the words). Bassist Kat Drake is running late for their 9 p.m. start, so keyboardist/ backup guitarist/vocalist Kimberly Jason busts out her guitar and croons some of her own original songs alone onstage. I stand beside the dance floor with Laura, transfixed by Kimberly's voice: It's powerful, yet not overstated, sultry, yet girl-next-door. I'm not entirely sure what some of the words are, but I don't really care. I just want her to keep singing.
Fluff the Kat's lead guitarist, Cindy Pruitt, is working the room, walking around and stopping every few feet to talk to someone. When she gets to me, she eyes me in a way that makes me feel slightly creepy for being a male, but after a round of introductions, she warms up and starts animatedly telling us about her band.
"Fluff the Kat has been around for three years, with me and Kat as the original members. We don't play a whole lot outside of Chance's. We all have other jobs or are in other bands so it's hard to find the time," Cindy says.
I ask her about the now infamous fire.
"It was a Tuesday," she answers, lowering her voice to an "It was a dark and gloomy night" stage whisper. "During Chance's singer/songwriter night an A/C unit above the stage caught fire. There were maybe 80 people inside, and everyone got out okay, but there's a lot of damage."
(As no one was hurt, you can now join with me in giggling as I imagine a throng of lesbians running outside, screaming, "Fire! Fire!" and a bright-red fire truck roaring toward the scene. I'm not an expert, but don't most lesbian porn films start off like this?)
While Cindy is talking to us, a fortysomething woman in a white sweatshirt waltzes over, looks at Laura as if she has known her for years, and then gives her a big hug. Laura hugs her right back, mouthing "I don't know her" to me over the woman's shoulder. I finish chatting with Cindy while Laura makes small talk with her new friend.
A little after 9:30, Kat arrives and the band takes the stage. I've noticed a very attractive biker-type person in the corner. It could be a very butch woman or a slightly soft butch man. I'm intrigued and am trying to figure out his/her gender (purely for sociological purposes, a date with a biker being the furthest thing from my mind). Fluff the Kat starts playing, and Laura's impressed. "They have a tambourine. That's hot. And bongos! And psychedelic hippie flowers on the drums. Cindy has them on her guitar, too, like stickers."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
I give up forcing my binary gender views on the androgynous biker-chick/dude, and check out the dance floor. Dancing/twitching/spazzing to a fantastically fun Killers' cover are femmes in miniskirts and makeup, butches in jeans and formless T-shirts and a variety of mix-and-match combos of the same. Not only are the women racially and stylistically diverse, but it truly is one of the biggest generational gaps I've ever seen on a Houston dance floor, as twentysomethings dance alongside a "mature" (a.k.a. seriously hip senior citizen) crowd.
I go up to the bar to order a couple of Shiners (for some reason I don't want to ask for my standard bourbon/diet with lime and two cherries). I feel everyone is looking at me and my oppressive manliness. I click down the beers on the bar next to Laura, who, her new friend gone, is entranced by the dancers, and I head to the men's bathroom. It's the dirtiest one I've ever encountered in Houston, which seems surprising as it isn't getting much use from me and the other two men in the bar (one is part of a bizarre, seemingly straight couple, and the other's a man who has coordinated his shoes to his purse).
Around ten thirty, Fluff the Kat stops for a three-song original set by first-time singer Gail Gandy, who has the best lyric of the night: "Jambalaya / Poontang pie / Stick my nose between your thighs." I'm sure it will be hitting the Top-40 airwaves within weeks.
For more info about Chance's, visit www.chancesbar.com.