Houston's 10 Best-Sounding Music Venues

Listening is not necessarily the strong suit of Houstonians who frequent live-music venues. But for those who do choose to silence themselves and their phones for live performances (or those drowned out by the sound system), there are certain places around town that are built for great sound. These venues, be they large or small, find ways -- either through acoustics, great sound systems or both -- to generate sounds that are pleasing to the ears even if the bands aren't.

On this list, we have purposefully left off the big venues like Cynthia Woods or Toyota Center. So many of these larger venues are not built for sound and what fans do hear is largely reliant upon the sound engineer and system provided by the touring artist, it is unfair to include them here. Suffice it to say big traveling acts rarely sound bad, but that is not always the case with locals, so having great venues is even more of a blessing when you can't afford a great sound guy or PA system.

10. THE BIG EASY This dive-y blues bar on Kirby is still one of the best places to see the blues in Houston. Its cozy confines and the regularly full dance floor provide just the right acoustics for the artists who take the stage nightly. There's a kind of magic to this place, and the sound is almost always perfect.

9. SCOUT BAR Say what you will about venues featuring bands that aren't current and cool, but places like Scout Bar still cater to a willing audience. And, when they do, they understand the value to making it sound good. You might need earplugs on many occasions, but the sound, while deafening, is virtually always clear.

8. CEZANNE The great thing about jazz music is that it rarely needs more than the musicians to make is sound amazing, but when the venue happens to have nice, intimate acoustics, like this venerable bar above the Black Lab on Montrose, it's all the better.

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7. ANDERSON FAIR Much like jazz clubs, folk venues rely almost entirely upon the room and the voluntary participation of patrons. In the case of this legendary establishment, both come together in a way that is unlike any other music venue in town. Not only does the place sound fantastic, with its high ceilings and smallish room, but music fans know this is not the place to get rowdy. That respectfulness is as much a part of the venue's charm as the club itself.

6. HOUSE OF BLUES Big, chain venues like HOB better sound good. After all, they put thousands of dollars into making their clubs look and sound great. In the case of the Houston version, they got their money's worth. Not only do virtually all bands sound fantastic inside the confines of the HOB, but the system in nearly always loud enough to override the nattering fans who seem to care more about chatting with friends than watching a show.

5. CONTINENTAL CLUB The best thing about the Continental Club is that it is perfectly shaped for music. There was a reason venues were called "music halls" for many years -- their long, narrow shape provided perfect acoustics. The raised stage and longtime sound man at CC ensure that everything sounds great every time.

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4. WAREHOUSE LIVE While touring sound engineers are often responsible for the sound at this, one of Houston's best live music spots, it doesn't hurt that it was well designed. The acoustics of both the big and smaller rooms at Warehouse make going to see even the loudest bands -- thank you, Dying Fetus -- somewhat less than painful.

3. FITZGERALD'S A lot about one of Houston's oldest venues has changed over the years, but one thing has not: the combination of the raised stage and the wood-framed house (never mind the wood floors) makes for a warm, wonderful listening experience upstairs. It also helps that the new sound system and engineers keep things humming right along without ever being ear-splitting.

2. RUDYARD'S Very few guys can stand to work in one place as long as Joe Omulchuck, let alone a sound guy at a live music venue, but Omulchuck is the reason for the amazing sound at this pub in the Montrose. Musicians will tell you they love playing there and Omulchuck is the main reason. It can get a tad loud, but it is never out of control and no matter how questionable the band, the sound is killer.

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1. MCGONIGEL'S MUCKY DUCK It's amazing to think the owner of this folk/Celtic bar off Kirby routinely sets the sound and walks away, but that is frequently the case. The combination of bands remaining under control -- at least volume-wise -- and the bar's clear, responsive sound system makes this one of the finest listening rooms anywhere.


The Ask Willie D Archives Top 10 Bars, Clubs & Ice Houses On the Northside Top 10 Bars, Clubs & Ice Houses In the Galleria Area The 10 Lamest Bands of the '90s

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