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Hippie Hour Scene: Last Concert Cafe

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The Place: Last Concert Café 1403 Nance 713-226-8563 The Deals: $2 draft beers, $3 margaritas

The Hours: 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays

The Scene: This Monday, Houston's (alleged) longest happy featured one kind of draft beer (Shiner, ran out about 10:30 p.m.) and some mix-heavy machine margaritas on discount. Regularly priced bottles are a little pricey - this place doesn't pass the $2 Lone Star test, not even close. And maybe it's the longest Monday happy hour, but a few places have all-day specials that run longer than 11 hours.

But Last Concert's primary draw isn't the booze. The cantina-looking building is tucked up under 1-10 on an anonymous north downtown street. There's Tex-Mex food and music at night, the kind of music that attracts a community of jam band and reggae and rock and roll fans, among others. You usually have to knock to get in. The expansive patio and backyard stage area gets pretty, well, fragrant. If you don't understand, sorry - I can't describe particular specifics any further, and I will not speak into your shirt collar.

The last time I was there was a couple years ago to meet a friend. The patio was packed for a hippie-ish bluegrass band, and the bar waived cover for anyone who brought a drum. People played them in circles. Great, if that's your thing. We didn't stay too long.

The time before that was more than a decade prior; I ended up at Last Concert as a 16-year-old, for what reason I can't recall. I accompanied a slightly older friend and his girlfriend, a pill-addicted pharmacy student whose vices eventually cost her a career, and whose decision to proposition me in front of my close friend on that back patio helped send their relationship into a death spiral. Didn't stay too long that time, either.

So my memories of Last Concert haven't been the best. The third time, though, was a significant improvement. No drum circle, no being forced to stifle a 16-year-old male sex drive. A couple friends and I showed up around 9 and drank cheap Shiner (while it lasted) on the back patio while an unusually tight open mic group played a little original country rock, John Prine-style stuff, throwing in some covers of Solomon Burke, Creedence and the Buzzcocks. A dozen or so folks watched in the area between the patio and the main building, and a few danced during a Ronettes cover. A female singer who did time in Los Angeles helped belt out a fairly sexy Sam Cooke song.

An hour or so into the night a regular sat at a table next to us. He told us two rules to life: One, be happy. Two, always follow rule one. Some cornball advice, to be sure, but it came from the heart, I think. He passed out tortoise shell guitar picks with "LAST CONCERT CAFE" on them and went back to his table.

If this kind of scene is where you feel at home, you probably already know about Last Concert. If it isn't and you don't, it's still worth checking out on a Monday. You'll probably need fewer than three tries to actually enjoy yourself.


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