Cheap drinks; friendly bartenders; pool tables; an expansive patio; an old-school juke with Muddy Waters, Elvis Costello and Outkast; a laid-back crowd; the occasional laid-back dog: We're generally pleased if a bar has one or two of these things, but it's downright kick-ass when they're all rolled into one. There are trendier bars in Montrose, but if you want a break from craft beer and mixologists and just want an ­honest-to-goodness bar, pull up a stool. You're here.

This year's winner for Best Festival, the Houston Art Car Parade, is actually a weekend-long party that includes the parade; a ball; an awards ceremony and brunch; and other, slightly less official events. True to the parade's Orange Show beginnings, the celebrations are all weird, eccentric and decidedly offbeat. The procession of art cars, art bikes and what are best described as tricked-out contraptions remains the centerpiece, with more than 300 entries from across the country and an audience of 250,000 spectators at last year's parade.

Painter Justin Garcia calls himself an abstract expressionist. It's a more accurate label than simple artist, he says. Garcia is currently enjoying success with both collectors and critics. In today's fickle art world, that's rare. Rarer still is Garcia's drive to blend his artistic endeavors with good business sense. Putting good work on the canvas isn't enough. His self-imposed job description includes getting those canvases in front of an appreciative — and buying — public.

If you're looking to pump up the volume...and the hairspray, Etro Lounge is the place to be. The Montrose hot spot blasts '80s pop and underground to the always-ready-to-party crowd. Some come dressed in their regular attire while others deck themselves out in the decade's finest. Spandex and neon and teased hair, oh my! Join the fun Tuesday through Sunday, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. With Etro's multiple bars and drink specials on school nights, we can promise your hangover will be right from the '80s, too.

The Lobby Lounge is exactly what it sounds like: a tastefully appointed lounge just off the lobby inside the Four Seasons hotel downtown. You can valet your car for only $6 and head inside for one of the best whiskey selections in town, along with a nice array of craft beers, wines and small bar bites prepared by chef Maurizio Ferrarese (whose cuisine at upstairs restaurant Quattro is noted as some of Houston's finest Italian food). Live music is on offer Tuesday through Thursday nights and there's never a cover charge, which means it's usually pleasantly busy.

Now in its eighth year, Latin Wave: New Films from Latin America is bigger and better than ever. Standout hits from the 2013 festival included emerging Argentine writer/director/producer Carlos Sorin's Días de Pesca (Gone Fishing). The family drama about a man searching for his estranged daughter received a Special Jury Prize at La Habana Film Festival. This is the second Latin Wave outing for Sorin, who made a splash at the first year's screenings with El Perro. Juan de los Muertos (Juan of the Dead), sort of a Shaun of the Dead zombie comedy set in Cuba, was also on the schedule. Latin Wave is produced by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Fundación Proa (Buenos Aires) and Tenaris.

The Silo is such an alternative venue it's barely even open. In fact, the converted rice mill deep in Fifth Ward is open to the public only on rare occasions, such as when the Art Car Ball (almost) got rained out earlier this year. Billing itself on Facebook as "the place where the improbable becomes the possible," the Silo's seven-acre spread is home to an automobile graveyard, urban farming, film productions and screenings, experimental theater and tribal performance art, as well as the more traditional weddings and massive dance parties. But nothing about this place is traditional, really. If you ever want to get married in a backdrop that could have come from The Road Warrior or are looking for somewhere to hold an event that involves the words "Let's Burn Some Shit" on the flyer, then the Silo is the place you want. That almost certainly makes it the only venue of its kind in town.

On the first and fourth Fridays of the month, this is totally the place to get your geek on. Joystix, which adjoins the neighboring 1820 Bar, is a veritable nerd-fest in its own right, and when they open those doors and allow for open play while you sip on stout drinks from next door, it's a gamer's utopia. From the sweet old-school pinball machines and classic arcade games like Pac-Man and Galaga that line the walls, this place is a rad trip down memory lane, only this time you're old enough to drink while playing Centipede.

Red Cat Jazz Cafe is the kind of place you'd imagine a jazz club would look and sound like, and it now looks even more chic since recently moving into its new quarters a block or two from Buffalo Bayou. With crimson walls and tablecloths, ebony accents and Neimanesque pastel portraits of past jazz greats, the Red Cat is an ideal spot to see regional jazz talents such as Theresa Grayson or Stephen Richard, or occasional out-of-town ringers like HSPVA-reared Grammy winner Robert Glasper. Needless to say, it also makes a damn fine date spot.

Following her spectacular performance in Stanton Welch's La Bayadère earlier this year, Caracas native Karina Gonzalez was promoted to principal dancer of the Houston Ballet. It was just one of a long string of successful performances Gonzalez has enjoyed over the three years she's been with the company. Along with principal roles in Welch's Indigo, Divergence, Clear and Tapestry, Gonzalez recently appeared in the world premiere of Edwaard Liang's Murmuration, a work specially commissioned for the Houston Ballet. Delicate and lithe onstage, she performs with great emotion and technical prowess.

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