5. NUMBERS Numbers fell off. Numbers ain't what it used to be. No one goes there anymore. Blah, blah, blah. Sure, the venue may be a far cry from what it was during its heyday, when the likes of Iggy Pop and Henry Rollins were stomping through town and nearly tearing its walls down.
But Houston, as a whole, looks a lot different than it did back then, and Numbers still has some charm to it. These days, Numbers is much more of a dive with cheap drinks, a relaxed atmosphere, decent tunes and an assorted audience ranging from people wearing skinny jeans and lens-less glasses to black boots over black leather pants and black T-shirts covered in chains and piercings. Oh, and there are lasers, and always Wes Wallace's "Classic Numbers" Friday nights.
300 Westheimer 77006, 713-526-6551, www.numbersnightclub.com
4. MANGO'S Driving down Westheimer, as drivers come to a stop at the light at Taft, they'll likely hear heavy thumping coming from inside Mango's, as punk, metal or, well... really whatever the artists inside the confines of this Vegan eatery feel like playing.
Music blares through the cracks under the doors, as musicians and fans inside hang from the rafters, munch on PB&Js and sip cheap wells. Thumb through the venue's calendar, and you'll see that it has an allure all its own, thanks to an openness to any and all genres.
403 Westheimer, 713-522-8903, www.mangoscafehouston.com
3. LAST CONCERT CAFE In 2005, Playboy named Last Concert Café the best place in Houston for people watching. We haven't kept up with Playboy (not the articles anyway), but LCC is arguably still the best Houston establishment in which to do just that. Tejano, jazz, indie and even electronica are all welcome genres inside this little gem's doors... If you can find it, that is.
Two years ago, the venue got shut down on a Friday night for being over its official capacity, which, at the time, was just 49. The capacity has been increased during some recent renovations that also have been pulling in some pretty big jam-band and R&B/funk names, but if you've ever been to LCC, you know the party was never tiny.
1403 Nance, 713-226-8563, www.lastconcert.com/
2. FITZGERALD'S Fitz's has made nearly every "best-of" list that I've written this year, but can you really argue against its validity? This place has become a hub for music lovers of all breeds, and it continues to grow. Thirty years since its inception, and under new(ish) management, Fitz's is thriving like never before.
National acts make their way through the venue's doors on a regular basis, but cheap drinks, local acts, up and comers on open-mike night and an overall atmosphere of cool keep the regulars coming back week after week.
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2706 White Oak, 713-862-3838, fitzlivemusic.com
1. WALTERS Best of Houston winner, 2012: At this point Walters seems almost invulnerable. Pam Robinson's club spent the last half of 2011 in limbo as Robinson had difficulty moving into her new quarters near UH-Downtown. But now that it's all smoothed over, the newly rechristened Walters Houston (no more apostrophe) is even more of a melting pot of music that's beloved but not popular, an array of subgenres from thrash and hardcore to shoegaze and emo.
The former auto showroom is bigger, but with the same open-door booking policy and endearing "don't be a dick" attitude. Walters broke out both a new Web site and parking lot this summer, and updates its Facebook page often enough to keep up with what's going on. One of the most fun events is turning out to be Walters Bazaar, a combination concert/swap meet on the last Sunday of the month, where people are welcome to bring old records, clothes and anything else they want to sell for a sort of flea market while enjoying some late-afternoon live music.
1120 Naylor, 713-222-2679, waltersdowntown.com