Like the simple joy of meeting a friend in a crowded coffee shop or the comforting feeling of huddling with family over heaping plates at a bustling restaurant, gathering with a group, shoulder to shoulder, for a festive day of live music can offer a thrill unlike any other. While the “new normal” can, at times, feel anything but — after all, shoulder to shoulder is limited to six feet apart these days — Houston is cautiously pivoting to allow visitors access to live entertainment in a safe and appropriate way.
Over the past six months, many establishments have made the necessary adjustments in the way of sanitizing surfaces and reconfiguring furniture to offer clean, well-spaced out dining rooms and patios for social distancing. Pair that with limiting capacity and adhering to the proper CDC guidelines, the journey back into Houston’s dining and entertainment scene has been a gradual one. And for those who prefer to play it safe, many restaurants and live-performance venues offer virtual experiences as an option to bring the fun into the home.
In Downtown, the famed House of Blues concert hall has rescheduled or canceled a number of its previously planned shows after Covid-19 cases continue to fluctuate across the country making it difficult for bands to tour. However, live music lovers can still partake in the fun of something new with the addition of Greensky Bluegrass: The Leapyear Sessions, a series of virtual concerts offered every Friday in September by rock ‘n’ roll band Greensky Bluegrass who incorporate instruments like the banjo and mandolin into their show. The weekly shows, presented in high definition complete with the high energy of lights in a true concert venue, come as a result of the band’s 3-night run postponement at Red Rock Amphitheatre and the longing to play as a group together again. Tickets for each show are $14.95, which guests can live-stream from the comfort of their own living room.
Though some can argue it isn’t quite the same to watch from home, the silver lining of viewing a concert virtually is that the music of the world can be brought directly to you. On September 5th, the Houston Symphony presents POPS Live from Jones Hall: Best of Broadway, a live-stream show given by singers from Houston’s Theatre Under The Stars and musicians from the Houston Symphony. No travel to New York City necessary! Featured will be hits from Waitress, Les Misérables, Jekyll and Hyde, Frozen and Ragtime. The one-hour show begins at 8:00 pm and tickets can be purchased in advance for $20.
In the way of venturing out of the house though, there are plenty of venues to rediscover. Downtown’s The Rustic is offering free music to go along with its menu of casual comfort fare and frozen drinks. Andy McCarthy takes the stage on Thursday, September 3rd, Daniel Holmes and Max Flinn on the 4th and JB Barnett plays on Saturday, September 5th during the Talk Derby to Me Kentucky Derby-themed “Jam & Toast” brunch.
In Montrose, longtime standbys Avant Garden and La Grange have resumed business as usual with live music on their respective patios. Avant Garden’s scenic courtyard and lush gardens sets the stage for a rotating list of DJs and live local talent. Down the street, La Grange also offers a pretty patio to parlay on and enjoy coastal Mexican cuisine with cocktails. The Wednesday steak night with John Egan gives guests the opportunity to pair live music by local talent from 7 to 9 pm with a $17 special featuring an 8 oz butcher’s cut, two head-on Gulf shrimp, asparagus, rice and garlic butter.
Then, the weekend brings Dem Roots Music to the patio every Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm, performing for a festive Sunday Funday crowd.
Houston nightlife veteran, Scott Gertner is living proof that the rhythm is going to get you, and invites visitors to indulge at his newest concept The Rhythm Room in the Bayou Bend neighborhood off of Memorial Drive. A day-to-night lounge, bar and patio offers a full kitchen, cocktails and live music Wednesday through Sunday with local talent manning the mic and turn tables. On Saturday, September 5th, R&B singer Melanie Covington will host an all-white soiree (guests are encouraged to dress in all white) in honor of her birthday, followed by an after party by DJ Rich Kidd, with doors opening at 6 pm. Guests can wine and dine while they dance the night away — the menu places a spotlight on Gulf Coast cuisine and classic cocktails like spicy Bloody Mary’s and frozen watermelon daiquiris.
Visitors to Hermann Park or the Museum District may want to duck into Monarch at the ultra-trendy Hotel Zaza as Music on the Drive resumes on Friday, September 11th from 6 to 10 pm. The inaugural evening will kick off with the Kelly Peters Trio, a band who covers all genres including modern classics. Guests can make a night of it as the menu from Monarch which features fine dining with a Texas twist and libations will be available. In an effort to maintain social distancing within the intimate space, reservations are required.
Live music and fresh seafood are a regular weekly occurrence at buzzy River Oaks District hot spot Loch Bar, where talented singers and bands can be found performing for guests Wednesdays through Saturdays from 9 pm to 1 am in the main dining room. During the month of September, Little Terry and the Bluesbirds will take up residence every Thursday and Saturday, while Stevie Matthews covers Friday nights. The restaurant’s kitchen is open until 1:30 am on weekends, so kicking back with an order of Maryland crab cakes or a seafood tower and gin martini is recommended.
New to the scene, in Uptown, Turner’s is the latest concept from the highly coveted Berg Hospitality Group (B&B Butchers, BB Lemon). Located beneath iconic Houston restaurant the Annie Café & Bar on Post Oak and hidden in plain sight with just a subtle letter “T” posted on its awning, this grandiose venue gives new meaning to the phrase “dinner and a show”. Fitted with a single mahogany baby grand piano, guests can pair intimate performances from local pianists amidst a backdrop of vintage décor with a sophisticated menu curated by executive chef Robert del Grande. Upscale from start to finish, menu highlights boast king crab terrine, escargot and braised oxtail ‘en croûte’ and Lobster Thermidor with a broad-ranging wine list, reaching upwards of $10,500. Labor Day weekend finds pianists Alex Navarro (Thursday, September 3rd), Gilbert Sedeno (Friday, September 4th), and Barry Sames (Saturday, September 5th) performing with reservations available in the main dining room, and bar seating available, first come first serve.
Live-performances and virtual concerts may look a little different, and they may feel a little different, but there is a lot of heart behind each note played and each song sung. There is no doubt things will continue to change as the year goes on… but for now, there is plenty of great live music being played in the city, and even more great food and drink to go along with it. For Houstonians, by Houstonians — the beat goes on.