Houston's Top 10 Unsung Music Venues
There's no other way to say this except to say it: Houston has a lot of music venues, a lot of music venues, but most of the high-profile shows around here get routed into a handful of places. This happens for any number of reasons, most of them financial: Very few promoters in town can afford to put up enough money for the kind of talent that draws big crowds, and they're either affiliated with the city's biggest music venues or own them outright.
Good old Anderson Fair.
But the Houston music scene hardly stops there, and this list is about those other places. It's not part of Rocks Off's "Rest of the Best" series, which will resume Friday. This category is even more subjective. Creature of habit that I am, I wanted to write this as a way of encouraging our readers -- and myself -- to go exploring a little more often. Looking over the list, a couple of patterns emerged. None of these places are terribly big. A few are downtown, but only on the very, very outskirts. The East End did well (and I could have included a couple more), but only a couple are in Montrose and the Heights. The majority have been around for years and years and years.
It was difficult to capture these places with just one word. They are definitely off the scene's beaten track, some more than others, but "underrated" and "underappreciated" didn't really fit. The people who do pay cover and play shows here seem to appreciate them just fine. So because it's also a musical term, I settled on "unsung." I think that works.
After its protracted move from Washington Avenue, and especially now that it has its own parking lot, Walters has settled quite nicely into its new spot at the tippy-toe of downtown. It might have been higher on this list, but its booking calendar is growing so crowded with both top-notch locals (Grandfather Child, Indian Jewelry) and touring acts (Deerhoof, Dysrhythmia) it's getting tough to call Walters "unsung" anymore. 1120 Naylor, waltersdowntown.com.
9. ANDERSON FAIR
Like Walters, Anderson Fair might be higher on this list if it hadn't already been plenty celebrated elsewhere, specifically alumni Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith and others singing the praises of the "retail restaurant" in the award-winning 2010 documentary For the Sake of the Song: The Story of Anderson Fair. These days local and regional singer-songwriters such as Shake Russell, Wendy Colonna and Matt the Electrician carry on the tradition, while Wayne Wilkerson and Ken Gaines host the long-running Thursday songwriters showcase. 2007 Grant, www.andersonfair.com.
Oh, Rudyard's. Besides one of the city's most competetive darts leagues (and that delicious burger), Rudz has been one of Houston's most important incubators of local bands for what feels like generations. Many of them come back long after they technically "outgrow" the cramped upstairs room, just to hear themselves mixed by sound engineer Joe Omulchuck's alchemic talents. 2010 Waugh, www.rudyardspub.com.