For a lot of Houston’s live-music fans, the scene stretches no further north than Fitzgerald’s — and not that far south of Walters, either. Though it feels like we’ve been complaining forever about how spread out it is, the all-caps Houston Music Scene is generally accepted to reside inside the Loop, where the biggest shows happen and the heart of Houston nightlife beats. But putting a border fence around what constitutes an acceptable live-music venue in this town is just a tad limiting…and Houston is the City With No Limits, after all. Fact is, there are plenty of quality jams being kicked out from Galveston Island all the way to Huntsville...you just have to know where to look. That’s why we've done you the solid of putting together this handy list of stages for those days when a downtown skyline view simply ain’t in the cards. Most of these joints ain’t fancy or hip, but that’s part of their charm. People go to them in order to sip a few drinks, catch a few tunes and just be themselves. We like that.
So open up your mind for a minute, and make sure your ride is all gassed up. Some of these places are a bit of a haul. Trust us, they’re worth the drive.
10. MO'S PLACE
Lookin’ to line-dance in Katy? How ’bout a little karaoke? Mo’s Place has got you covered. Sure, there’s plenty of quality live music — country legends like Merle Haggard and Ray Price have worked this stage, not to mention regional acts like Chris Salinas and Chris Stapleton. But sometimes the amateur karaoke can be just as entertaining in this sprawling suburban joint. The DJ isn’t shy about throwing some hip-hop into the mix when the dance floor picks up, either, so whether your footwear of choice is cowboy boots or vintage Jordans, stop by if you’re ready to cut loose in the Big K. (21940 Kingsland Boulevard, Katy)
9. 19TH HOLE GRILL AND BAR
On its website, the 19th Hole bills itself as the “Home of the Ice-Cold Jager.” That should tell you most of what you need to know about the place. This biker-friendly dive on the outskirts of The Woodlands likes to play it hard and dirty, and for decades, it’s been an important outpost for Texas garage bands and polished pros alike trying to stretch their fanbases north of the Beltway. There’s loud rock and roll onstage there every Friday and Saturday, and the Thursday night blues jams are a badly needed outlet for weeping Fenders from all over the region. The 19th Hole has cheap wings, too, if you’re hungry. (202 Sawdust Road, Spring)
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8. KATIE'S BAR
If you find yourself in Bacliff for reasons you can’t fully explain, there’s pretty much one choice when it comes to ferreting out quality live tuneage: Katie’s Bar. The watering hole is housed by a former post office within sniffing distance of Galveston Bay, and it’s the place to go south of Houston to see top regional blues acts like the Mighty Orq and Luther and the Healers. This place is a labor of love by blues fanatics Bob and Katie Emmons, and it’s treated as such by the regulars. So if you stop by, try not to spit on the floor. (315 Grand Avenue, Bacliff)
7. BFE ROCK CLUB
The name of this place kind of says it all. Possibly the loudest joint in Bum Fuck, Egypt, this outside-the-Beltway rock palace plays host to open-mike nights when it's not showcasing touring acts live Saving Abel or Koffin Kats. On Friday, Texas hard-boogie supergroup Honky takes the stage here, featuring members of Butthole Surfers, Down and Dixie Witch. You can also catch the occasional rap show here, or even midget wrestling, if that’s inexplicably your thing. (11528 Jones Road, Houston)
6. 18TH STREET PIER, BAR & GRILL
18th Street Pier is infused with the easygoing vibe you’d expect from a bar so close to the beach. But this place is hardly lackadaisical when it comes to booking talent for the stage. From ’90s survivors like Puddle of Mudd and Orgy to Southern rap legends like Lil’ Keke and 2 Live Crew, the Pier is serious about bringing real draws down I-45. Accordingly, its waterfront patio is often packed with folks just a little too country to make the drive into Houston. (101 18th Street, San Leon)
5. ACADIA BAR & GRILL
Inner Loop metalheads are sometimes surprised to behold the large and enthusiastic crowds of headbangers drawn way out in Cypress by Acadia Bar & Grill. The rock dive ain’t much to look at, tucked away as it is in its suburban strip-mall setting. But there’s a nice, big patio out front, and the stage within is home to its own scene of hard-rockin’ bands and their fans. Acadia also has an open-mike night on Wednesdays — always a crucial stepping-stone for musicians trying to get some stage time under their belts. (3939 Cypress Creek Parkway, Houston)
4. REDNECK COUNTRY CLUB
No venue in the Greater Houston Area wears its conservative bona fides on its sleeve quite the way Stafford’s Redneck Country Club does. Founded by talk-radio shock jock Michael Berry, the RCC is up front and in your face about its celebration of military ordnance, American flags and Tennessee whiskey. Once you get past the Duke Boys’ General Lee parked on the Astroturf lawn, it’s also a heck of a spot to hear some country music. Everybody from Shinyribs to Willie Nelson to Bret friggin’ Michaels is booked here in the coming weeks. If you’re really drinking to forget, don’t be shy about ordering up a jar of Berry’s very own moonshine at the bar. (11110 West Airport Boulevard, Stafford)
3. MAIN STREET CROSSING
Considered by its fans one of the region’s best-kept live-music secrets, Main Street Crossing in downtown Tomball is the intimate sort of place where you can sip a beer just a couple of feet away from headliners like Roger Creager, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jesse Dayton or Reckless Kelly. Maybe it’s the good old country and folk music, or maybe it’s the abundance of Shiner Bock on hand, but either way, this place feels like home to quite a few people up Highway 249. (111 West Main, Tomball)
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2. OLD QUARTER ACOUSTIC CAFE
Galveston’s got a pretty impressive musical history, but these days there’s no bigger live-music gem on the Island than the Old Quarter. Operated by former Townes Van Zandt sideman Wrecks Bell, this tiny, old spot on the outskirts of Galveston’s downtown has seen its fair share of rootsy acts over the decades, from Dusty Hill to Hayes Carl. It’s a weird, unpretentious little place, much resembling Galveston Island itself. If you’re in the mood for some quality tunes after a day at the beach, the Old Quarter should be your first stop. (413 20th Street, Galveston)
1. SCOUT BAR
Don’t let the address fool you: Scout Bar is the reigning king of suburban rock clubs in Southeast Texas. Though sometimes maligned by Inner Loopers for its distance, its pay-to-play shows and its general un-hipness, Scout Bar nonetheless has carved out its own scene in the Clear Lake area — and its own sound. It’s the top spot in the region for late-’90s rock bands like P.O.D. and Saliva, but it also offers up treats like Deadhorse, Shooter Jennings and Lupe Fiasco to draw folks south on I-45. Always home to superb lighting and sound, Scout Bar has also upped its game significantly in recent years when it comes to beer selection and sporting events. Love it or hate it, its regulars ensure that Scout Bar is here to stay. (18307 Egret Bay Boulevard, Houston)