10. Concert Pub North It's probably safe to say that Concert Pub North is the only venue in the area attached to a seafood restaurant/bar, known as the "Concert Pub Yacht." Like its cover-band-oriented Galleria-area counterpart, CPN programs plenty of "party bands" like the Velcro Pygmies, Electric Circus and the Stars, but has also seriously stepped up its hard-rock and metal bookings. Just recently, it's hosted Austin's Vallejo, a rare appearance by near-forgotten Houston prog-rockers Ozz Knozz and the Michael Schenker Group just this Thursday night. Manny Charlton's Nazareth and Kill Devil Hill (ex-Pantera) are on the horizon. 2470 FM 1960 W., 281-583-8111, www.theconcertpub.com/TCP-North.html
9. Scout Bar For anyone who misses the '90s and is still interested in the likes of Cypress Hill, Smile Empty Soul, Eve 6, Taproot and Everclear (all of whom perform here in the next two months), Scout Bar is the place to be. The venue also boasts the best hair-metal cover band in the city (a regular at the venue), and local and regional acts perform every Sunday during the 94.5-sponsored Texas Buzz. It's a bit of a drive from most of the other venues in town, though. Ooooooo-weeeee, what up with that? 18307 Egret Bay Blvd., Clear Lake, 281-3335-0002, www.scoutbar.com.
8. Mango's For regional and smaller acts, Mango's is a great venue. Located in the heart of Montrose just next door to AvantGarden, this place was expected to flop when Omar Afra left to focus on his acquisition of Fitzgerald's. But a succession of promoters have stepped up to the plate and kept the eatery/venue relevant in the local scene. Mango's doesn't put itself into a corner when booking acts, but rock shows are a sight to be seen at this place. It feels like you're hanging out in your friend's living room... if your friend's living room had big ol' amps and a friendly bar staff, that is. 403 Westheimer, 713-522-8903 or www.mangoscafehouston.com.
7. Bayou Music Center Formerly Verizon Wireless Theater, Bayou Music Center is still a force to be reckoned with, thanks largely to Live Nation's solid bookings. BMC makes our list primarily for the quality of its lineup, but the venue's setup is also worth mentioning for giving fans a great view of the stage no matter their vantage point. (To get the most bang for your buck, general-admission tickets are fine). The seating upstairs won't afford you the same atmosphere as downstairs, and BMC is large enough that, if you find yourself stuck behind a tall dude, you have plenty of other places to stand. 520 Texas (Bayou Place), 713-230-1600, www.bayoumusiccenter.com.
6. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion When major acts come through town, the Pavilion is their best bet - besides perhaps Toyota Center - for reaching a prime number of fans. Or, if an artist sees fit, he/she/they can opt for covered seating only, as was the case during last year's Arcade Fire show and Florence + The Machine just two weeks ago. 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands, 281-363-3300, www.woodlandscenter.org.
5. The Continental Club Looking for some real, honest-to-God rock and roll? Acts like Beatles cover band Beetle, Nick Gaitan & the Umbrella Man and Little Joe Washington keep the Continental Club and its little brother two doors down, the Big Top, rockin' most every night. Affordable drinks and a relaxed atmosphere add the venue's charm, as do themed-party nights such as '80s Prom Night. There's plenty of seating out back for you to rest your feet, and occasional patio shows, but it's the main hall that keeps music lovers coming back again and again. 3700 Main, 713-529-9899, www.continentalclub.com/houston.html.
4. Fitzgerald's Has it really been two years since Fitz's changed management? Sure has. And in those two years, a lot has changed for the better, assuaging the concerns of a number of skeptics' (including this one). What was once an easily accessible dive for unknown artists to get some experience onstage has become the premier venue for smaller artists, local and otherwise. Last June's Dillinger Escape Plan show may have been one of the rowdiest shows we've ever attended, and Fitz's upgraded sound system, intimate feel and cheap drinks were the icing on the cake. Local music is still an important aspect of Fitz's, though, and weekly open-mikes still offer unknowns a chance to perform. 2706 White Oak, 713-862-3838 or www.fitzlivemusic.com.
3. House of Blues As far as sound quality is concerned, House of Blues is the obvious pick for No. 1. But for rock music, personally we prefer a slightly larger venue. When HOB is packed, which it usually is, it can be hard to stay out of anyone's way. You'll inevitably find yourself in the way of someone trying to buy a beer, and as the night goes on, crowds can get a little rowdy. 1204 Caroline, 888-402-5837, www.hob.com/houston.
2. Warehouse Live Warehouse Live is the most well-rounded venue for rock in town. Hell, it may be the best venue in Houston for any genre of music, period. No matter where you are in the crowd, you'll be able to see the stage and hear the performer(s) just fine. Fans never have to travel too far from their spots either, since there are half a dozen places they can wet their whistles. Its capacity (about 1,500 in the main hall) is the ideal size for a rock concert, giving fans a chance to get lost in the crowd, while never having to worry about losing track of their pals or significant others. Lesser-known and regional acts, meanwhile, can pack the Studio, which has a capacity of about 400, and true up-and-comers are welcomed in the relatively new Green Room. 813 St. Emanuel, 713-225-5483, www.warehouselive.com.
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1. The Dirt Houston's favorite dark, hip and nasty rock bar, The Dirt, is now located across from the House of Blues off Caroline after spending its first few years incubating in the Heights. The bar's staff comes complete with fun rocker attitude, with extremely pretty, sorta-dressed girls and tattooed boys who will do shots with you if you're cool. The only hitch seems to be finding street parking on downtown's busier nights, leaving you with the options of walking or ponying up for paid parking. 1209 Caroline, 713-426-4222, www.dirtbar.com.