Houston's 10 Best Open Stages

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10. TE' HOUSE OF TEA Open-mike happens at Te' House of Tea every Monday from 7:30 to 11 p.m.; some customers come out specifically to watch while others who have ventured out to grab some tea stumble upon it. You will often see some interesting instruments brought in by the participants, like banjos, musical washboards, and ukuleles in addition to the usual acoustic guitars. This is a fun laid-back night with some unusual musical performances and performers. When you come out, be aware that Te' has more than 130 different teas to choose from, and the food menu is vegan and vegetarian friendly; meat lovers don't worry, they have some items for you to enjoy as well.

1927 Fairview, tehouseoftea.com

9. ACADIA BAR & GRILL If you are a hard-rock or metal musician and looking for a gig to play, head on over to Acadia Bar & Grill in north Houston by yourself or with your entire band on Wednesdays starting at 9 p.m. for Houston progressive-metal band Color Chemistry's Open Jam. Bring your guitars and drumsticks with you, and Acadia has you covered with a 4-piece drum kit and amps that you can use. This is a fun night out for people who want to go out and watch a good rock show, perform in one, or do both. Starts at 9 pm.

3939 Cypress Creek Pkwy., facebook.com/AcadiaBar

8. JP HOPS HOUSE JP Hops House is way outside the loop but worth the Sunday-night trip for open-mike at 6 p.m.; a lot of talented singer-songwriters from the Houston area and around the country show up to try out their new material. At 2 p.m. on every second Sunday of the month, the Houston Songwriters Association holds their monthly meeting, which consists mainly of critiquing songs that members bring in with the goal of helping each other improve their songwriting skills.

Not a songwriter? No problem, come on out and be a part of the audience and drink a few of the beers sold here; the selection includes more than 150 brews in bottles and 27 on tap from the U.S. and around the world.

2317 S. Highway 6, jphopshouse.com

7. LAST CONCERT CAFE Last Concert serves tasty Tex-Mex cuisine, but hanging with the free-spirited, good-natured patrons and staff and enjoying the live music is the real reason to come. Come on out Monday nights for open-mike hosted by Texas music stalwart Jimmy Lee Deen starting at 7 p.m.; Wednesday nights rock group PotRoast performs at 10:30 p.m. followed by a drum circle at midnight; and Sundays starting at 10:30 a.m. is the weekly acoustic jam, with all skill levels welcome. Drop in and perform during one of these weekly events or join in with the regular patrons dancing earnestly to the music.

1403 Nance, lastconcert.com

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6. THE HIDEAWAY ON DUNVALE Let's face it: Tuesdays are usually dead in Houston as far as nightlife goes. That's why we are grateful for the weekly Big Ass Blues Jam hosted by Rick Lee & the Night Owls every Tuesday starting at 9:30 p.m. on the west side at The Hideaway On Dunvale.

A lot of great local blues musicians show up to jam with Lee, who gets things started with his impressive guitar playing, singing, and over-the-top showmanship; often playing his guitar with the leg of a chair he has picked up, a beer bottle, and even his tongue. Don't expect Lee to stand still onstage; in fact he often jumps off to go for a walk around the bar during a performance and hops up on patrons' tables as well. To top things off, Tuesdays here are also Steak Night, and there is never a cover.

3122 Dunvale, hideawayondunvale.com

5. OLD QUARTER ACOUSTIC CAFE The Old Quarter Acoustic Café down in Galveston has two weekly open-mike nights that each start at 7 p.m. The venue's Web site says that Wednesday nights are hosted by "Neil Down" and "Fiscal Cliff," while Thursdays are hosted by "new Country Legend, Kitty Litter." Got to love owner Wrecks Bell's sense of humor, eh?

Bell opened this "new" Old Quarter in 1996, carrying on the tradition of the legendary Old Quarter in downtown Houston where Townes Van Zandt recorded one of his best albums, 1973's Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas. This new location has become legendary in its own right and a lot of talented up-and-coming musicians are drawn to the open-mike nights; do go check them out.

413 20th, oldquarteracousticcafe.com

4. AVANTGARDEN Since opening, AvantGarden has always provided a creative outlet for local artists and musicians; Singer-Songwriter Open-Mike on Tuesday nights here is just one of the many diverse weekly music events. Started in 1996, the open-mike here is open to all local and visiting musicians with AvantGarden only asking that performers play original music. There are plenty of other venues throughout the city to hear cover songs, so it's nice to see a night of original self-expression like this, both for performers and audience members alike.

411 Westheimer, avantgardenhouston.com

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3. BOHEMEO'S The Artform Show, an open-mike night hosted by hip-hop spoken-word artist SCEF at Bohemeo's on Monday nights is currently on hiatus, we have recently learned. Hopefully this Houston institution returns soon, but in the meantime, don't fret; head on over to Bohemeo's on Wednesday nights starting at 8:30 p.m. for Beatles open-mike, where locals come out and play the best from Lennon and McCartney, as well as a fair share of Harrison and Ringo tunes as well. There is a 3-song limit and you can opt for an acoustic or electric performance, as Bohemeo's provides drums, a bass rig, and guitar amp; sign up at 8 p.m. if you want to play.

708 Telephone Road, bohemeos.com

2. THE BIG EASY SOCIAL AND PLEASURE CLUB Drop by here every Wednesday night for the legendary Big & Easy Blues Jam. This event is currently hosted by the Big Easy house band with Jonn Del Toro Richardson, who play a smoking blues set from around 9:30 to 10:30 p.m., after which they are joined onstage by the many talented local musicians throughout the night who have signed up for the jam.

It's kind of amazing to see all of the different performers greet each other, chat for a few seconds, and then go into a song with everyone on the same page, like they have been playing together for years. Also be sure and check out the equally great National Zydeco Foundation Jam and Houston Blues Society Blues Jam, both held at the Big Easy once a month.

5731 Kirby, thebigeasyblues.com

1. MCGONIGEL'S MUCKY DUCK Houston's best singer-songwriter stage is open to anyone who wants to perform at its Monday open-mike nights; arrive by 6:30 to sign up for your 15 minutes of fame (or three songs) onstage. Seriously, a lot of talented people perform here each week, so this might be your chance to see a future headliner in the beginning of his or her career. According to Mucky Duck's Web site, comedians, poets, jugglers, and mimes are also welcome to perform. Or, if you're like us, you can just sit in the audience and enjoy the show, which starts at 7 p.m.

2425 Norfolk, mcgonigels.com

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