Landmark River Oaks If you want stadium-style seating, 24 screens and convenient parking, this is not your movie theater. But if you care about the movies -- if you actually go to watch the show, not to swivel back in your seat while the special effects whiz by -- then your best bet is the Landmark River Oaks theater. Built in 1939, it has a seedy elegance you won't find in the too-bright, mallish cineplexes that line the interstate. There are only three screens here, but they're usually showing something smart.

Landmark River Oaks Theatre
Landmark River Oaks If you want stadium-style seating, 24 screens and convenient parking, this is not your movie theater. But if you care about the movies -- if you actually go to watch the show, not to swivel back in your seat while the special effects whiz by -- then your best bet is the Landmark River Oaks theater. Built in 1939, it has a seedy elegance you won't find in the too-bright, mallish cineplexes that line the interstate. There are only three screens here, but they're usually showing something smart.

The Big Easy Social & Pleasure Club We tip our feathered felt hats to the dearly departed Miss Ann's Playpen, which closed last summer. The sweaty Third Ward mecca of all things blues was the kind of eternally legit joint that a real blues town like ours needs. But there's a blues club still keepin' it real, and it ain't in one of the wards. Nestled on the outskirts of Rice Village, of all places, the Big Easy welcomes blues hounds, college kids, yuppies in khakis and just about everyone in between. Ditch the pretension percolating at other spots and nurse a brew on Mondays for Jukebox Appreciation Night, or check out regular giggers Luther & the Healers on Wednesdays. And on Sundays you can get your Cajun on with a dose of live zydeco.

The Big Easy Social & Pleasure Club We tip our feathered felt hats to the dearly departed Miss Ann's Playpen, which closed last summer. The sweaty Third Ward mecca of all things blues was the kind of eternally legit joint that a real blues town like ours needs. But there's a blues club still keepin' it real, and it ain't in one of the wards. Nestled on the outskirts of Rice Village, of all places, the Big Easy welcomes blues hounds, college kids, yuppies in khakis and just about everyone in between. Ditch the pretension percolating at other spots and nurse a brew on Mondays for Jukebox Appreciation Night, or check out regular giggers Luther & the Healers on Wednesdays. And on Sundays you can get your Cajun on with a dose of live zydeco.

South Beach Call it "DJs' choice," because this Montrose hot spot garners rave reviews from the high priests of Houston clubbing. Now in its third year of existence, the venue (known in its previous life as Heaven) has more than 10,000 square feet of room to work with -- and a dance floor that fits hundreds. Decknicians drool over its EAW Avalon Series sound system, and the sweaty ladies and gents under their spell love the liquid-nitrogen ice vents that can cool the room by 20 degrees in ten seconds. Perhaps that's why South Beach has been attracting gay and straight crowds alike -- for the boogie-bound, this is the local gold standard.

South Beach
South Beach Call it "DJs' choice," because this Montrose hot spot garners rave reviews from the high priests of Houston clubbing. Now in its third year of existence, the venue (known in its previous life as Heaven) has more than 10,000 square feet of room to work with -- and a dance floor that fits hundreds. Decknicians drool over its EAW Avalon Series sound system, and the sweaty ladies and gents under their spell love the liquid-nitrogen ice vents that can cool the room by 20 degrees in ten seconds. Perhaps that's why South Beach has been attracting gay and straight crowds alike -- for the boogie-bound, this is the local gold standard.

Michael DeGrace These are tough times for house DJs, scrapping to have their signature sound heard above the ubiquitous din of Top 40 and hip-hop. (As if there were much difference between the two nowadays.) If anyone has earned the respect that comes with longevity, though, it's local spinster veteran Michael DeGrace. The venerable resident turntablist at the Habitat after-hours party has kept dance floors hot for more than 20 years, which in DJ years is actually something like 487 years.

Michael DeGrace These are tough times for house DJs, scrapping to have their signature sound heard above the ubiquitous din of Top 40 and hip-hop. (As if there were much difference between the two nowadays.) If anyone has earned the respect that comes with longevity, though, it's local spinster veteran Michael DeGrace. The venerable resident turntablist at the Habitat after-hours party has kept dance floors hot for more than 20 years, which in DJ years is actually something like 487 years.

Masquerade Theatre Musical theater doesn't get too adventurous in Houston. TUTS revives the usual suspects of Broadway warhorses; Broadway in Houston tours the safest current hits; and most of the smaller troupes in town, ever on the edge of financial ruin, can't afford to take too many chances. But for seven years, Masquerade Theatre, near the Heights, has consistently put on terrific, low-budget productions of risky but rewarding shows such as City of Angels, Sweeney Todd, Floyd Collins and A New Brain. The resident acting company all have fine voices, and director Phillip Duggan tends to make the most out of the cramped space that serves as home. The only drawback is the sparse musical accompaniment -- there's no swelling of strings or blasting horn sections here -- but if Masquerade had to pay for a large orchestra, they'd compromise the edgy shows we admire.

Masquerade Theatre Musical theater doesn't get too adventurous in Houston. TUTS revives the usual suspects of Broadway warhorses; Broadway in Houston tours the safest current hits; and most of the smaller troupes in town, ever on the edge of financial ruin, can't afford to take too many chances. But for seven years, Masquerade Theatre, near the Heights, has consistently put on terrific, low-budget productions of risky but rewarding shows such as City of Angels, Sweeney Todd, Floyd Collins and A New Brain. The resident acting company all have fine voices, and director Phillip Duggan tends to make the most out of the cramped space that serves as home. The only drawback is the sparse musical accompaniment -- there's no swelling of strings or blasting horn sections here -- but if Masquerade had to pay for a large orchestra, they'd compromise the edgy shows we admire.

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