The howls and whistles of approval are deafening, causing a temporary lapse in drink-ordering at the overcrowded bar. Somehow the floor at Blur Bar has cleared enough for an impromptu dance-off to Beyonce's "Single Ladies," and these men are working it out, honey.
It's barely 10 p.m. on New Year's night, but the massive Montrose club is hopping. Everywhere we turn is a dance party, dance floor or not -- of the few hundred people packed upstairs, nearly every single one is dancing. Blur's nondescript exterior obscures just how big it really is.
As weeknight first-timers to Blur, we weren't sure what to expect when climbing its rickety stairs, but the line curving out the door and onto the sidewalk should have clued us in. The entrance leads directly onto the dance floor, which is fitting. Blur welcomes dance-minded clubbers -- gay, straight, and any gender -- but making our way through its gyrating throngs of couples, it became apparent that not everyone comes here to throw their hands in the air.
Hidden from sight by the club's foreboding wooden facade, the winding staircase in the back leads to multiple outdoor patios that offer a perfect respite to the cardio workout of Blur's dance floor. These trellised nooks beneath the staircase even make us feel a little voyeuristic: patrons who head that way are not looking to practice their one-two step. They're content to chat and drink, tucked away from the madness.
Blur sits in the heart of the "gayborhood" around Pacific Street, which is full of places to practice your twerking. There are also dark, seedy spots like Montrose Mining Company and the Miami Beach-themed granddaddy of them all, South Beach. And as we found out, they were equally packed with people celebrating the arrival of 2014.
Eventually we landed a few blocks away at the ultra-posh F Bar, which feels like Blur's more distinguished cousin. The moment you step up to the muscled, tanned bouncer, you could be at a club on the West Coast: every detail is meant to make a statement. Posh fire pits line the spacious outside patio, dazzling chandeliers hang over a smaller dance floor, and the bar proudly displays top-shelf bottles as a reminder of its mission to draw a more grown-up clientele.
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All those details keep F Bar on the top rung of Houston's gay scene. Owner Irwin Palchick opened the doors in 2011 to much fanfare, and has since stoked the flames of interest with nightly events and a weekly drag show best described as bananas. He's become a Montrose celebrity in the process, ruffling feathers through actions like staffing F Bar largely from the ranks of establishments owned by rival Charles Armstrong, aka "The Mayor of Montrose," places like South Beach and nearby video lounge Meteor. But controversy sells, and Palchick's tony formula had F Bar's dance floor nearly as packed as Blur.
We headed toward the posh leather seating without throwing any elbows, a task that would have been impossible in Blur. F Bar's dance floor as much a place to chat as it is to shake what your mama gave ya, and patrons -- including a surprising number of straight couples -- preen and pose as much as they dance, perhaps because they're too pretty and poised to risk breaking a sweat. F Bar is really for watching: people-watching, drag shows, or simply checking yourself out in the mirrored walls behind the bar while ordering a fancy cocktail.
And sometimes just watching is okay too, especially with the Montrose scene such a sight to behold.
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