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.
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 In a region where "jazz" is almost universally considered either slick background music for a steak dinner or outdated New Orleans brass party jams, Dove's recently rechristened DLI (formerly the Pauline Oliveros Foundation) has done a great job bringing important current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.
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.
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.
On almost any given weekend, close to 20 Houston-area start-up punk, emo, ska and/or all-of-the-above bands show up to play no-age-restriction shows in a nonalcoholic environment. Sure, the place used to be somebody's house, but heck, that's appropriate -- many of these combos are taking their first baby steps out of the garage (notwithstanding the occasional bewildered national touring act that passes through). In a town where heinous pay-to-play policies have reared their ugly heads in the past, here's a place where a young band can test its mettle without fear. Besides, a lot of these kids are too young to get into a regular club, anyway.
Readers' choice: Continental Club
No, all karaoke nights are not created equal; some are populated by Houston's most shameless hipsters. Grooving on the irony of doing something as magnificently unhip as performing off-key renditions of hackneyed hits, members of the cooler-than-you set make just as big fools of themselves as we mere mortals when they get up to sing. Whether you're here to try out your own rusty pipes or just marvel at the sight of someone even geekier than Trent Reznor trying to sing a Nine Inch Nails tune, a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

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