Night Life

The Cowboy Way

Two-stepping is not parallel parking or buying birthday gifts: You can't be "okay" at it — you're either brilliant or you're a train wreck. Consider Todd Yarbrough brilliant, then.

Yarbrough, 43, has been two-stepping nearly his entire life. He doesn't explicitly say it, but watching him dance at Rebels Honky Tonk (5002 Washington), we're certain he two-stepped right out of his mother's uterus. He's a solid gold Porsche on Rebels' dance floor, spinning and turning and racing counterclockwise.

You know the famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? It used to be the famous floor of the Sistine Chapel. But one day there was a party there, and Yarbrough showed up and two-stepped across it. The Pope ordered the floor be excavated and used as the ceiling so nobody else could ever place their feet on it again.

Yarbrough actually first visited Rebels a little after it opened its doors. He was immediately impressed with the place — "It was 99 percent awesome," he says — but thought some little things could be changed to make it even more ideal. Using the club's Web site (, he sent them an e-mail saying as much.

Yarbrough expected little more than a "thanks for your response" autoreply. Shortly thereafter, Rebels head honcho Joe Applewhite was on the phone, inviting Yarbrough back out to discuss his ideas in detail.

"I've been out dancing at all these country bars," says Yarbrough, who's been back to Rebels several times since that meeting. "I mentioned about not letting people drink on the dance floor or stand around on the dance floor. It seems like that's been changed. I think it's great."

Several successful variations of urban honky-tonks already exist in Houston. Goode's Armadillo Palace (5015 Kirby) is a proper good time. Firehouse Saloon (5930 Southwest Fwy.) is always right for live music. Even Mo's (21940 Kingsland), Katy's Walmart-ized version of a country bar, is enjoyable so long as you don't mind the smoke.

So it's easy to assume that Rebels might get lost in the shuffle, particularly when you consider that the premise of the whole "Cowboy Bar on Washington" situation feels like the plot of The Cowboy Way.

But Rebels is really the first of these types of places to assimilate into glitzy nightlife. The previously mentioned bars rely on the "more is more" mentality, utilizing just about anything they can find as decorations. Rebels leans in the opposite direction.

There are a few neon-light signs on the wall, and even U.S. and Texas flags, but the rest of the interior basically consists of a large dance floor, two separate bars, a few scattered seats, a big mural of an Old West saloon and that's it. More to the point, everything inside is new and well kept.

Rebels has coupled the trendiness of a Washington Avenue club with the earnestness of a relaxed C&W bar to form what might be the most interesting social amalgamation on the strip.

It's still a honky-tonk at its core, so a few fun novelties accompany its existence. For example, it shares a paid parking lot with neighboring nightlife Mega-Lo Mart Ei8ht (5102 Washington), which makes it possible to see someone dressed like Wyatt Earp park next to someone dressed like they just got finished shooting an episode of Jersey Shore. And the DJ booth is quarantined off with that same chicken wire that the Double Deuce had to put around their stage before Dalton showed up in Road House.

But it's fairly obvious that Rebels has devised and executed a business model that will keep it relevant for a good long bit. They might even convert a few Washingtonians along the way.

"Maybe it's going to start getting people more into country dancing," says Yarbrough. "There's a stigma I think that steers people away. Like, if I didn't grow up on a farm I shouldn't be doing that. Maybe it'll help change that."


About two weeks ago, we mentioned Dan Green, the smooth-talking, friendly-eyed Jedi Master of doormen. At Rebels exists his counterpart, a man so frightening we refuse to write his name out of fear he'll materialize before us. This Monster must be 12 feet tall and 900 pounds of mean. He was like a mountain with a cowboy hat placed on top, all swollen muscle and heavy jawline; the Ivan Drago of security guards.

When we walked up to the entrance, he barely moved, instead making the international "show me your ID" with his forefinger and thumb. We did. He looked at it, looked straight through us, then handed it back and pointed to a gentleman sitting behind a cash register. He didn't say one word. He just pointed. And we could do nothing but hurriedly oblige. He could've pointed at a pigpen full of broken glass and angry pit bulls and we would've walked right in.

That's the kind of power we want to have someday.

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Shea Serrano