9 Places We'd Send The New York Times
Mark C. Austin Jandek (right) and trio at Rudyard's... who says we're not hip?
As we may have mentioned, Rocks Off was none too pleased when we read The New York Times' most recent article on Houston in this past Sunday's travel section and found exactly zero mentions of anything music-related. This is Houston, so of course we expected all that restaurant/museum/architecture love, but to read Denny Lee's article, you'd also think that the folks at Poison Girl, Max's Wine Dive and Marfreless carry on in total silence without even a jukebox or bartender's iPod for company.
But we Texans are friendly types, for the most part, so Rocks Off sheathed our long knives of sarcasm and polled a few of our regular writers to see where they'd take an NYT travel writer should they come back with the assignment to study Houston's music scene. (Hey, Dallas did it, so anything can happen.) And we hope they do come back... eventually.
Alice's Tall Texan (4904 N. Main, 713-862-0141): You want to show the Yankees how we really drink? Take them to Alice's Tall Texan off North Main for a few cheap-ass goblets of Lone Star and Shiner Bock. Make them listen to George Strait and Freddy Fender while they attempt to guzzle down a few glasses for added effect. Tall Texan is the kind of place where we will all end up after we tire of tequila shots and well bourbon in our old age and just want to be left alone to our own devices, watching the Astros lose while drinking the best beer our state has to offer. Did the Times folks even try a Lone Star, let alone a Saint Arnold's Summer Pils? We doubt it. Craig Hlavaty
Blanco's (3406 W. Alabama, 713-439-0072, www.houstonredneck.com): Though the musical lineup can be spotty, on nights when the right band is booked, Blanco's comes fairly close to the Urban Cowboy image that the whole world seems to still project onto Houston 30 years after John Travolta rode the mechanical bull at Gilley's. On the right nights, when dance bands like Jake Hooker, Davin James or Johnny Falstaff command the stage, and if you squint your eyes just right, the old River Oaks dive takes on an aura that reminds us of the vestiges of our rapidly fading cowboy culture when a cold beer and a two-step with a pretty lady or handsome cowboy were about all that was required for a successful Saturday night.
This is one place where out-of-towners will actually see people in cowboy hats and fancy boots in a town where that chic faded 20 years ago. We recently took a friend from Baltimore to a local bar where he was surprised to find that he was the only person there with a cowboy hat! Completing the cowboy honky-tonk trifecta, there's even a pool table, shuffleboard table and a stuffed buffalo. Throw in Blanco's "just the way your mama made 'em" burgers and fries or Texas-to-a-T tacos and nachos and you're set for a laid-back, enjoyable and relatively inexpensive evening.
You could never find a honky-tonk this legit in NYC, so even if you're not a dancer, this is a must see. And did we mention there's ample free parking? William Michael Smith
Cactus Music (2110 Portsmouth, 713-526-9272, www.cactusmusictx.com): If the Times is so intent on shopping, they might as well buy some music, right? Although from what we heard from one staffer or another one time, when Little Steven visited the store and called Cactus "one of the last truly cool record stores" in the famous Twitter update that's now been blown up super-size on one of the store's front doors, the Underground Garage guru mentioned that there are no longer any record stores in Manhattan proper. Sad. Besides, with up to four in-stores a day on some weekend afternoons, they don't have to buy anything at all - but once they get an eyeful of all that vinyl at the Record Ranch, they might want to bring an empty suitcase just in case. C.G.