Montrose has always been a good place to rubberneck, what with the punks, the goths, the trannies and the street kids (most of which are punks, goths or trannies). But the Art League Houston upped the brake-slamming quotient big-time with Inversion, Dan Havel and Dean Ruck's magically surrealist installation in the organization's former digs. Havel and Ruck stripped the building's outside of its wood and then made a burgeoning tunnel on the inside; it grew from about two feet wide in the back to around 30 in the front. The public response to this work was astounding, and nary a day went by that dozens of people couldn't be seen snapping pictures and crawling through it. Call it middlebrow art: the perfect synthesis of fine-art sensibility and "Gee, that's cool."
When Yolanda Gibbs takes the stage, watch out. She dances like she owns the place, gobbling up space with her downright generous style. Gibbs possesses a rare quality in a dancer, in which her technique serves her artistry. Her pure, natural grace is evident in everything she does. With long limbs and an uber-flexible body, Gibbs elongates movements to the max, appearing to stretch space to its limits. Every move looks larger than life, and her keen sense of rhythm and timing enlivens any choreographer's work. Some dancers wear movement; Gibbs inhabits it. She joined the Sandra Organ Dance Company in 2001, where she is now a full company member.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema-West Oaks
If you're going to be bombarded by yet another Hollywood blockbuster with computer-generated effects and a lame plot, there's no better way to do it than with a couple of beers and a burger at Alamo Drafthouse. The setup is comfortable, the service is fast and friendly, and the burgers and sandwiches are sure bets. There's also an impressive wine list (heavy on Francis Ford Coppola's label, of course), and the desserts are great. The Drafthouse also often indulges in goofiness. Before the movie starts, you might see a vintage Spider-Man or Batman cartoon, or get treated to some terrific vintage ads for beer.
Readers' choice: Angelika Film Center
Neighborhood joints don't get very much more down-to-earth than this spacious, unpretentious quasi-shitkicker sports bar located on a lonely stretch of two-lane road in Highlands near Baytown. The staff is friendly, the TV screens are viewable from anywhere in the place, and the jukebox is great. The place is such a rarity in the area that the clientele all behave as if they've just crawled into a wonderful dream and they're afraid to disturb anything for fear of waking up.
Cadillac Bar
Photo by HP Staff
There's no equivalent to this place in heaven or on earth. Graffiti on every wall, chairs attached to the ceiling, zero regard for personal space. If the Cadillac Bar didn't exist already, somebody'd have to invent it. They've got liveried waiters in the dining area, taciturn bartenders in the tightly packed "lounge" and hordes of regulars ready to induct you into their secret society. Think Cheers as directed by Tod Browning. "One of us, one of us."
Dave Dove has a mission: to bring avant-garde and improvised music to our hallowed city. In a region where "jazz" is almost universally considered either slick background music for a steak dinner or outdated New Orleans brass party jams, Dove's recently rechristened DLI (formerly the Pauline Oliveros Foundation) has done a great job bringing important current international sound pioneers like Han Bennink, Marilyn Crispell, Tom & Gerry and Joe McPhee to town. It's a largely thankless task, but for Dove it's a calling, and his dogged dedication is a godsend to all sonically adventurous Houstonians.
Cecil's used to be one of the stickiest places around, and we loved it for that. And then that baby burned to the ground. Three months later it rose from the ashes with a new look, one we were quick to dismiss as being a little too clean (see "We Want the Funk," April 22, 2004). But all it took were a few spilled beers and abandoned butts to wipe off the sheen and get the party started again. And once owner Kimberly Blythe expanded the bar in the opposite direction of the fire damage, making way for new pool tables and dartboards, it wasn't long before some of the joint's fabled shooters and flickers returned. Congrats, Cecil's. Here's to many booze-filled nights to come.
Last Concert Cafe
Every day at this place might as well be smack-dab in the middle of the summer of '69. Jam bands such as the Hightailers rule the roost, noodling the night away while tie-dyed revelers kick it at wooden tables and flop around in front of the stage with their eyes closed. Baby boomers and college kids are the two groups who perpetually inhabit this ongoing lovefest, and there are plenty of both at this joint. Once the music starts bumping and the smoke rises toward the stars, you too will feel like you're in the middle of a field in upstate New York.
The Barn
Barnevelder may be named after a chicken, but there's nothing chicken about managing director Louie Saletan's brave leadership of this blossoming dance venue. In 2003, when Saletan declared his goals for the multi-purpose spot, with its sloping floor and the lack of heat and a/c, it was easy think this guy had a bad case of arts optimism. Well, here we are in 2005, and Barnevelder has become the premier venue for local dance. The 150-seat theater boasts new lighting equipment and an upgraded sound system. Several dance companies rehearse there. And this past June, Barnevelder hosted the third annual Big Range Dance Festival.
This year the folks at Infernal Bridegroom Productions conjured the ancient Greeks to help them create the most extravagantly intelligent and wonderfully original production of the season. Euripides's Medea, about a woman who kills her children to get back at her unfaithful husband, is one of Western civilization's oldest and most deadly love stories. But the ancient tragedy was rendered totally new in the IBP production, thanks to the wild imaginations of everyone involved. Musicians, artists, dancers and actors came together to create some wonderfully contemporary gestures that somehow felt completely organic to this hallowed story. Grainy video, performers from Jennifer Wood's Suchu Dance, a Greek "chorus" filled with pot-smoking creepy creatures and the superhero Batman (of all things) wove themselves around Tamarie Cooper's raven-haired, mad Medea, rendering this story of blood-curdling revenge into mind-blowing modern theater.

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