Nice Knowing You, Mango's

Photo by Chris Gray
This sign is part of the new mural at Mango's completed last month.
One of Montrose's most distinctive and colorful live-music venues is not long for this world, signaled by the "for lease" sign that appeared on the side of Mango's earlier this week. For close to a decade, the building has welcomed local bands from across the musical spectrum, who learned to begrudgingly tolerate the club's difficult parking situation and sometimes unusable bathrooms. But after talk began circulating on the Internet, Tuesday afternoon the owner confirmed that he has decided to step away.

"I've been doing this for four or five years, and I've been trying to find a way to find something else to do," says Eduardo Lopez, adding that he owns several other businesses and wants to spend more time with his two young children. "I've got quite a bit on my plate, and I don't want to kill myself and wind up paying bills in the hospital from working too many hours in the music business until 3 o'clock in the morning."

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Houston's 10 Best Singer-Songwriter Stages

Photo by Jay Lee
Neil Young at Jones Hall in 2010
Definitely one of the fanciest places on our list with its wall-to-wall red carpeting and fine wine bar, Jones Hall is the permanent home of the Houston Symphony Orchestra and the Houston Society for the Performing Arts, as well as a venue for popular contemporary musicians and other artists. Some have criticized the theater as being dated, but the seats have been comfortable and the room has sounded great when we have visited.

Jones may not be a place that up-and-coming performers get a chance to play, but it can be a good place to catch some big names; Neil Young stopped by during his 2010 solo tour with the late Bert Jansch opening, as did Young's friend and sometimes musical collaborator Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam for a 2012 solo show. Currently the venue has several Christmas programs scheduled, but Sarah McLachlan does drop by on March 1.

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Houston's 10 Best Dance Clubs

Photos by Marco Torres
Note: this article originally appeared on July 24, 2014. Happy Black Friday!

Grooving to the beat is all well and good and all, but sometimes when the music burrows deep into your veins, there's only one way to unleash that energy...and that is to get down on it, shake your bombon and boogie. Houston is filled with a plethora of dance meccas, where our fellow citizens go to forget the stress of life and get sweaty on the dance floor, one club anthem at a time.

In order to create this list, we pulled from our own experience of covering the nightlife scene in the H, and also surveyed our social-media friends for their input in order to create a more well rounded selection. Thus, we present to you Houston's Top 10 Dance Clubs 2014.

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Houston's 10 Best Bars for Out-of-Town Guests

If you don't recognize this register, we're glad you're here. How long are you in town?
Note: this article originally appeared on October 3, 2014. Happy Thanksgiving!

So you've got out-of-towners coming in -- old friends, relatives, business prospects from Minneapolis, Titans fans in for a hit-and-run NFL weekend, or whatever. Now the burden is upon you, the local-scene guru, to show them the town. You've told them how great Houston is, how much you enjoy living here, and recently every national publication on the planet has supported you in this assertion.

So it's put up or shut up time. Whether they're sophisticates from Boston, San Francisco or L.A.; denizens of uber-cool bike-friendly enclaves like Seattle, Portland, Santa Fe or Brooklyn; or just your long-lost cousins from farms in Iowa or Kentucky or oilfield burgs like Midland or Tulsa, the pressure is on to show your guests that Houston isn't a swampy version of Sodom and Gomorrah or some sizzling, humid, un-zoned urban hellhole where we drive down Main Street firing semi-automatic assault rifles on the way to our oil wells and cattle ranches.

So here are some tips. First of all, unless they are the straightest, most boring, megachurch-attending Stepford people ever or here with an unlimited expense-account/"business promotion" boondoggle, don't take them to trendy new upscale places where the ice in the drinks costs more than valet parking, and valet is the only kind of parking you'll find. Your money would be better spent drinking a can of cheap Sofia Coppola champagne out of a hooker's high-heel shoe on Irvington Blvd. at 4:30 a.m.

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Walters Heir Zack Palmer Counts His Blessings

Photos by Chris Gray (except indicated)
Zack Palmer outside Walters Downtown the afternoon of November 20
Zack Palmer says it wasn't long after he became the proprietor of Walters Downtown that he understood the place was his. It was just a matter of hours, he recalls.

"I had just got the keys to the bar and turned the lights on," Palmer told us one afternoon last week, standing behind the bar as members of Canadian pop-punk trio Courage My Love set up the stage for that night's show. "I had brought my tape player and was playing tapes over the PA. I was just in awe of it. This bar means the world to me."

The bearded, twentysomething Palmer has alert, dark eyes and an easy laugh. Beside him on the bar was a hefty leather-bound organizer stuffed with bar-related paperwork, which he says he's been referring to often. The previous night was the first time Walters had been open since the club's founder, Palmer's mother Pamela Robinson, was laid to rest at age 55. After some legal maneuvering to get the remaining permits transferred to his name, which took about three weeks, Palmer was handed the keys November 18.

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Houston's 12 Best Bars Open on Thanksgiving

Big Woodrow's opens at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Note: List is in alphabetical order.

This Galleria-area icehouse is opening up at 4 p.m., and they will be showing the LSU at Texas A & M football game at 6:30, as well as the Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers at 7:30; they plan on closing down early after the games. Aggie fans take note: this place is LSU and Saints headquarters, but will make you feel welcome anyway. Do try the Cajun food while you're there.

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Houston's 10 Best Bars for People-Watching

Photo by Ed Schipul via Flickr
Note: List is in alphabetical order.

A converted turn-of-the-20th-century house, AvantGarden is a bar, community venue and gathering point where creative and artistic people throughout the city come for poetry readings, live music, theatrical productions, independent-film premieres, art exhibits, improv comedy, cabaret, and more. The patrons here are sometimes described as hipsters, but the mostly friendly, non-pretentious people we have encountered here do not exhibit the more negative stereotypes of that sometimes pejorative label.

However, many customers here indeed have a flair for style and can dress pretty flamboyantly. For some serious people-watching, the best times to come are the customer-appreciation nights on Thursdays, when cheap drink specials bring in large and diverse crowds who gather in the patio/courtyard out back, which is illuminated overhead with sparkling lights, putting out a festival vibe.

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Deep Undercover at the YMCA's Beyoncé Fitness Class

Photo by Robin Harper/Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment
All hail the Queen.
Nykema Brown has just seamlessly executed a dance move that looks like a cross between something from a Qing Gong flick and a Crossfit burpee -- and she's managed to make it look sexy. She then whips her head back to the beat.

"...5, 6, 7, 8!" she shouts with a smile.

It's a Wednesday night and I'm dancing with the best of 'em at the Houston Texans YMCA (5404 Griggs Road), drenched in sweat in what could easily be touted as the fiercest dance class this side of the Mason-Dixon line.

Brown, the teacher, offers a modification to the next move in the routine, which looks physically impossible. I ask for a modification of the modification, and the class erupts in laughter.

The class consists of 25 women and myself, the lone wolf who might have gotten himself in a little too deep this time around.

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Studying "Tiki 101" at Lei Low, Sunset Heights' Rum-Happy Oasis

Categories: Night Life

Photos by Sean McManus
Have one more of these and this guy starts talking back.
"Try this! No, seriously...try this!"

That's how most conversations start at Lei Low, a traditional tiki bar in Sunset Heights, for good reason. This place makes some serious drinks.

I'm here on a hot Saturday night to get exotic and learn the ways of island life.

Bartender Stephen Caronna suggests a Mai Tai, which I've had here on several occasions; it's time to graduate from "Tiki 101" and start the next semester. He suggests a "Balinese Room #2," a boozy mix of lots of things I've never heard of: Barbados rum, Dimmi, Yellow Chartreuse and Peychaud Bitters.

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Cowboy or Club Roxy, Galleria Nightspot Had Quite a Run

Photo by Alexa Crenshaw
Now only memories: Club Roxy in the foreground, 2014
Quietly, the Roxy shut its doors several months back after billing itself for years as Houston's "longest-running nightclub." Whether that statement is true or not, an extensive, eclectic history lies within the now-empty space near W. Alabama and Sage Rd.

Personally, I remember the Roxy's teen night, where around age 14 I went with a group of gals, hating everything and being stuck in a crowd so thick I couldn't move. I lost my purple-and-black striped jacket that night, and to this day wish I could somehow find it. If you know where my jacket is...

Never mind. The point is, most Houston kids ended up at the Roxy -- or one of its many other iterations -- at one time or another.

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