Houston's 10 Most Unusual Venues

Toyota Center, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Bayou Music Center and other major venues in Greater Houston that book prominent national touring musicians have their place and play an important role in bringing music and other entertainment to the people in our fair city. The venues on this list, however, play an equally important role in the lives of many Houstonians who frequent them. Some of these places you no doubt have visited, and others you may have never had any knowledge of; go check them out and you are sure to have an interesting night.

Note: This list is in alphabetical order.

ALMOST AUSTIN HOUSE CONCERTS Almost Austin House Concerts in Pasadena is not a traditional music venue; it is located in a residential house and hosts talented singer-songwriters in an intimate, up-close-and-personal setting. The music starts at 8 p.m. on show dates, but part of the fun is to arrive early at 6 p.m. for the pot-luck dinner before the music starts and share some food with the other attendees.

Parents can bring their kids with them to the shows as long as they can remain quiet during the performance; this is a listening room. Check the AAHC Facebook public group page for upcoming performances; a $20 donation is requested by all those who attend, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the performers.

2202 House, facebook.com/AlmostAustinHouseConcerts

AVANTGARDEN A converted turn-of-the-20th-century two-story house, AvantGarden is a bar, community venue and gathering point where creative and artistic people from throughout the city come for poetry readings, live music, theatrical productions, independent-film premieres, art exhibits, improv comedy, cabaret and more. The venue even hosts weddings and other private events, with the patio/courtyard out back providing a beautiful location for ceremonies and receptions.

Check out some of the weekly events here like singer/songwriter open-mike on Tuesday nights, where local and visiting musicians perform original music, not covers. According to AvantGarden's Web site, Houston billionaire tycoon Howard Hughes played at the house when he was a child, back when it was a private residence; we are pretty sure this is the only venue in Houston that can make that claim.

411 Westheimer, avantgardenhouston.com

BLACK BARBIE This East End DIY venue has been hosting quite a bit of live music as of late; in the past, Black Barbie has also hosted special events including art shows, painting, yoga, dance, sculpting lessons, silent auctions and recording. If you have not heard of the place before, it's possible you might have driven right past it and not realized what it was; signage from the building's previous occupant, El Mante Taqueria & Minimarket, is still up on the building.

We aren't sure if Black Barbie's owners added the painted smiling face on the side to it or not. Recent musical acts tend to lean toward indie rock, electronica, hardcore, garage and metal.

3621 Canal, facebook.com/BLACK-BARBIE

EASTDOWN WAREHOUSE Eastdown Warehouse's expansive warehouse-district space was originally home to a furniture-delivery business before being converted into a live-music venue that also houses a small gallery where local artists can display their work. EastDown is unique in the Houston DIY scene in that there is plenty of room for patrons to move about or dance when they come out to see a band play or a DJ spin records; the elbow room is much appreciated.

Eastdown hosts a lot of distinct events besides music, like burlesque shows, comedy acts and all-day parties that feature a variety of different types of entertainment and activities, sometimes with free food and admission. Check Eastdown's Facebook page to see what is coming up next.

850 Mckee, facebook.com/eastdownwarehouse

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NOTSUOH Owner Jim Pirtle's iconic, avant-garde downtown bar, music and art/performance venue Notsuoh ("Houston" spelled backwards) has by this time achieved a legendary, almost mythical reputation for weirdness. Notsuoh is an interesting place both visually and aesthetically; through the darkness, just some of the wonders to behold include nude female mannequins turned into works of art, a knight's armor and an old piano encrusted with assorted trinkets.

No two visits to Notsouh are ever the same; the place is certainly anything but predictable. Besides the often-eclectic and indie live music, poetry readings and comedy shows unlike anything else you can find in the city are hosted here.

314 Main, notsuoh.com

THE ORIGINAL OKRA CHARITY SALOON The Original OKRA Charity Saloon gives all of its profits to a different charity each month; patrons help decide who the money goes to by voting for one of four different charities, guests get to cast one vote for each drink they purchase. Members of OKRA, or the Organized Kollaboration on Restaurant Affairs, a charitable organization made up of local restaurant and bar owners, select the four charities each month from applications submitted to the bar's Web site.

Besides being a place where you can drink some beer, wine or cocktails that benefit a good cause, OKRA Charity Saloon hosts public and private events in its stunning historic location that originally opened back in 1882 as the Original Casino Saloon.

924 Congress, friedokra.org

THE SILO Converted from the remains of the old Comet Rice Mill in Fifth Ward, this indoor/outdoor venue established in 1999 has hosted live music, performance art, theater, raves, dance parties, video shoots, social functions, private parties and more. Winner of the Houston Press' Best Alternative Venue award in 2013, The Silo recently hosted fire dancers from across the city who came out and performed for a director making a music video; upcoming events include an Open House scheduled for 9 p.m. this Friday the 13th, the perfect time to go check the place out.

4601 Clinton, facebook.com/TheSiloHouston

THE SUMMIT Helping to lead the charge for DIY spaces in Houston in the 21st century, this East End venue hosts live music, movies, private parties, video-game tournaments, dining, art galleries, classes and workshops. Housed in a cool-looking older brick building, the building's name is as an homage to the old Houston Summit which hosted Houston Rockets basketball games, concerts and other events, which was later renamed the Compaq Center after the computer company bought the naming rights; it is now home to Lakewood Church. In addition to attempting to reclaim the name for the city, this new Summit's stated goal is to promote and preserve Houston's creative community in all forms, without being beholden to any outside interests.

3536 Navigation Blvd., thesummithouston.com

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SUPER HAPPY FUN LAND This East End all-ages venue books acts that often can be described as being out on the fringe; if you would like to go see some music that's unconventional, not part of the mainstream and sometimes extreme, this is the place for you. Unusual comedy shows, plays, performance art and other unique events are hosted here as well. Super Happy supports the local art scene and has an art gallery on site; be sure to check out the giant Cabbage Patch Kids, stuffed animals and other interesting knickknacks lying about when you visit.

Currently through March 25, SHFL is hosting its annual SXSW Overflow Festival, where bands that are traveling through the area to Austin for South by Southwest get a chance here in Houston to perform live, as well as food and a place to sleep and shower if they like.

3801 Polk, superhappyfunland.com

WHITE SWAN This DIY East End staple hosts some of the most extreme, brutal death-metal and black metal shows in town, along with punk, grind, noise and other forms of extreme music. It is sometimes difficult to nail down just exactly when the White Swan is open and hosting shows; its website and Facebook page are not always up to date and current, so you might have to join some Houston metal groups on social media or do a Google search to find out who's playing there next. Of course, if you live in the neighborhood, just drive by on a Friday or Saturday night, look for hordes of people dressed in black T-shirts and hoodies out front, and you'll know it's a show night.

4419 Navigation Blvd., whiteswanlive.com

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