Don't look now, but Wednesday is one of the hotter musical nights these days, not that there isn't something for everyone almost every night if you've got your nose to the ground. Here's a brief report of what's catching Rocks Off's attention lately.
1. Puffabelly's (in Old Town Spring): If you think you'll just drop in to some open-mike night and see what happens, skip that and head about 15 miles north of downtown to Old Town Spring and catch the longest-running songwriter night in the area. Yes, that's right, the longest running. Every Wednesday for ten years, honky-tonk hillbilly traditionalist badass Davin James has hosted some of the finest - and beautifully obscure - singer-songwriters anywhere.
The program primarily consists of Texas singer-songwriters, but James is also known to pluck some obscure gems and seasoned vets like Keith Sykes. This is as good as it gets on short notice. Can't say that we recommend the food at Puffabelly's - the few times we've eaten there it's made Cracker Barrel seem gourmet - but between Wunsche Brothers or the monster burgers at The Track Shack nearby, you shouldn't go hungry if you make this short trek north.
Here's a fine example of what happens at Puffabelly's: Jubal Lee Young and James working out on a new lyric Young wrote a week before the show that, frankly, kills. Tonight's songwriter guest is Houston Marchman.
2. Mango's: Robert Ellis and the Boys hold down a Wednesday night "don't you think this Outlaw bit's done got out of hand" residency - and believe us, it has - at this lower Westheimer dive/former pizza joint. For someone so young, Ellis has a sure hand for picking country classics from George Jones to the Rolling Stones, and this evening is the first boys show since he recently returned from his post-Summerfest solo tour.
For a late Wednesday night in Montrose, this is as raw and old-school as it gets, especially with pickers like Kelly Doyle and Geoffry Mueller in the band. We've been there late several Wednesdays the past few months and the vibe is always cool, the food and beer fast and cheap. Pizza is king. Yes, we know, they need a better sound system.
3. Under the Volcano: Pete Mitchell, soon to reopen Leon's Lounge in Midtown with an all-vinyl album-sides music program - he's been pondering whether to make Little Joe Washington's new vinyl version of Houston Guitar Blues the first album played on opening day - has been snagging smart, top-quality shows and catching a music-savvy audience that mixes West U./Rice Village/Med Center Ph.Ds with citywide music aficianados on the prowl for the latest thing.
With solid residencies by off-the-radar Houston and Austin acts like the Shinyribs, Jungle Rockers and Mike Stinson augmented intermittently by smart mid-week coups with national acts like Chuck Prophet, Cordero, Anne McCue and Pistolera, the Bissonnet saloon has presented an impressive lineup since Mitchell began booking bands on Wednesday nights two years ago. Rumor has it Prophet will return in late October.
Stand by for news while you drink a frozen screwdriver, the it's-a-meal Bloody Mary or the always popular strawberry-basil margarita. Tonight there's a Bastille Day Party featuring Greg Harbar and The Gypsies.
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4. McGonigel's Mucky Duck: It seems like the Wednesday Celtic jam has been going on at the Duck since the Middle Ages. The most surprising thing about this virtual Houston musical institution is that it consistently draws not only an avid group of both pro and amateur players -- sometimes there are a dozen instruments on stage -- but also an avid group of respectful repeat listeners. High quality ales, Scotch eggs, and shepherd's pie are givens.
5. Blanco's: We aren't particularly fond of open-mike nights, but Blanco's Wednesday night all-comers open mike night affair has been around ... well, for a long, long time. The program begins with a 45-minute set by the host band, and this can be good to oh-my-god... well, if not bad, terribly average.
LOM isn't going to lie - sometimes the food, cheap booze, waitstaff and ambience are better than the music, although the occasional gem sees the light of day. For our money and Wednesday-night bar crawl tastes, Blanco's has some of the best quick-and-dirty - and easily affordable - Texas bar food we've encountered in a honky-tonk. Try the burgers, nachos, or tacos, you can't go wrong. Muy bueno.
Hats, boots, Wranglers optional. Snit's Dog and Pony Show function as the house band tonight.