10. BFE ROCK CLUB
The 1960 area goes hard, thanks to this Jones Road bar that can pack more than 500 headbanging souls into its octagon to rock out with an intensity that inner-loop venues either can't handle or just don't want to. BFE books only the heaviest of the heavy Houston-area acts to go with national metal-leaning names like Straight Line Stitch, Surrender the Fall and Saving Abel — and, it must be said, also promotes the odd oil-wrestling event from time to time.
11528 Jones Rd., 281-894-1811, bferockclub.com
9. GRAND 1894 OPERA HOUSE
Though concerts make up a relatively small part of the Grand's schedule, it still has more than enough to land a spot here. Built during the second Grover Cleveland administration and deservedly listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, the Grand's luxurious Victorian-era décor and superior acoustics can elevate even an average performance to sublime, and the caliber of the bookings guards against many average performances. Simply put, the Grand is a spectacular place to see a show, adding a level of old-world sophistication almost impossible to find at any other Southeast Texas music venue.
2020 Postoffice, Galveston, 409-765-1894, thegrand.com
8. FIREHOUSE SALOON
This place almost doesn't count because it's literally a stone's throw from 610. But the Firehouse is still the Houston area's premier smaller venue for country music, and has been for a long time. Here you'll find all kinds of country singers warbling among the multitude of vintage beer signs, be they Western Swing revivalists, immortals like Rodney Crowell, Americana artistes and Red Dirt shitkickers who haven't quite graduated to the bigger dance halls.
5930 Southwest Fwy., 281-513-1995, firehousesaloon.com
7. MAIN STREET CROSSING
A rare music venue chartered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Main Street Crossing has been a cornerstone of Tomball's transformation from a remote outpost of exurbia to a cozy slice of small-town Texas still within commuting distance of downtown Houston. Seating a shade north of 100 people, the room gladly welcomes homegrown talent from the Conroe/Cypress/Magnolia area, while a growing number of Texas Country and Americana acts have found it an agreeable alternative to similar inner-loop listening rooms. Now the decade-old venue is asking supporters to return the favor in a campaign aiming to raise $50K in renovation money, starting with the air conditioning.
111 E. Main, Tomball, 281-290-0431, mainstreetcrossing.com
6. ARENA THEATRE
This in-the-round Sharpstown/Gulfton stage seats almost 3,000 fans and specializes in country legends, oh-so-smooth R&B throwbacks and fiesty Latin divas. Operating almost continuously since the late '70s, the Arena also hosts its fair share of wild-card rockers and hip-hop mavericks whose draw is just a little bit too big for the club scene.
7326 Southwest Fwy., 713-772-5900, arenahouston.com
5. STAFFORD CENTRE Not every live-music fan is under 35 years of age. That seems simple enough, but all too many venues chase the youth market so hard they can lose sight of the fact that older people spend money, too — and often have lots more of it. Now a decade old, Stafford Centre has taken great advantage of that loophole, often welcoming full houses to its superb facilities for oldies package tours and acts beloved by all ages a la Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. If that means a few too many bluehair jokes now and again, Stafford Centre is laughing all the way to the bank.
10505 Cash Rd., Stafford, 281-208-6900, staffordcentre.com