A slice of New Orleans right here in Houston, White Linen Night in The Heights is the type of street bash where a random stranger holds a sign offering free hugs, dogs on parade are just as fashionable as their owners and the cacophony of battling bands is consonant against the hum of the amicable chitchat of residents and guests taking in the scene.
Hot and humid? It's Houston mid-summer — what else would you expect? Though anyone making a fuss about Saturday's temperatures obviously did not experience (or remember) last year's unbearable heat wave.
Yes, the sixth annual White Linen Night was cooler, though the gentle breeze wasn't the only thing different.
That the event's alcohol permit didn't come through (with a healthy dose of drama, read about it here), disappointing some carousers who had to get their fix directly from restaurants, refocused the throng of 40,000 away from the bottle toward the businesses, organizations, vendors, artists and performers lining the streets.
And with the addition of the monthly First Saturday Arts Market booths, the tenor "Local Faces, Local Flavor and Local Fun" was on display in full force.
That's a good thing, so they say.
By day, indie graphic artist Harland Pray Dodge manages a busy car wash operation downtown. But by night, he drafts tattoo-like colorful patterns and images onto fabric shoes, hats, bracelets and paper.
Among the locals was caricature artist Bonnie Blue, aka "The Rock Lady," whose mobile art car boutique travels around the country showcasing vibrant custom painted boots, greeting cards, Winey Women wine stemware and rocks with faces painted on them, something she's done for celebrities like Bill Murray and Ellen DeGeneres — because they rock.
"Nothing makes me (more) happy than hearing other people describe my work as happy," she says.
Tucked away in an alleyway adjacent to The Heights Theater was Livingston-native indie graphic artist Harland Pray Dodge. As suggested by his high school counselor, he relocated to the city four years ago to find a market for his wearable art.
By day, he manages a busy car wash operation downtown. But by night, he drafts tattoo-like colorful patterns and images onto fabric shoes, hats, bracelets and paper. Each creation is autographed.
Layers of bold solids atop loud patterns were in vogue at the main al fresco fashion show emceed by KTRK Channel 13's Sonia Azad. Wearables by Replay on 19th Street, Langford Market, Wind Water Gallery, Casa Ramirez, Jubilee and Houston Junior Forum mixed and matched timeless and vintage styles.
Across the street from 6-year-old Gateway and 13-year-old Hotshot — a couple of amicable longhorns striking a pose for photo opps (for cash) — NiaMoves' hula hooping playpen welcomed anyone brave enough to gyrate for good health. It's quite a work out.
Adjacent to all that action were two performing art entrepreneurs hustling for their upcoming shows. Mildred's Umbrella Theater's Jennifer Decker tempted with the company's Museum of Dysfunction V (Aug. 9-18) and Stark Naked Theatre Company's husband-and-wife team, Philip Lehl and Kim Tobin, worked the crowd on behalf of their production, Body Awareness (Oct. 25-Nov. 10).
Bra Pong, just like beer pong but with sassy undergarments, challenged festival goers to aim for a different kind of cup.
With a piano on a dolly, a rolling chamber ensemble from Houston New Arts Movement, led by Adam Vincent Clay, performed Terry Riley's In C. Over on the Fiesta Mart Entertainment Stage, a different musical show took place with Cavernous, The Tyburn Jig, Poor Pilate and Runaway Sun.
Nearby, Fiesta volunteers offered T-shirts and chatted about the many "pink" charities educating about breast cancer. Some, like the American Cancer Society, opted for tongue-in-check games to lighten up the mood. Bra Pong, just like beer pong but with sassy undergarments, challenged festival goers to aim for a different kind of cup.
A stone's throw away on White Oak Drive, blues mamma Kristine Mills and her musical cronies shook things up blues-style on the Fresh Arts' Arts Pavilion. Then, Suchu Dance confused and surprised — what else is new — by taking its piece into the parking lot, where walkers could almost be a part of the movement.
The New Movement Improv went beyond that by calling on more than 20 audience members to partake in an off-the-cuff line dance. Kiki's Sordid Sideshow's put forth a naughty unicorn (Y.E. Torres) and a burlesque devilish dame dressed in only ribbon and white balloons. Pop one and out came a prize — and a maniacal cackle. Keeping it all together was The Smooth Operator, aka Jeremy Keas, spinning tunes between sets.
The tradition of post-White Linen Night private parties was surely alive and well. A drive through residential streets proved that though the festival came to an end around 10 p.m. — an hour later than previous years — the reveling continued through the evening.
Some went well into the morning, just in time for a Bloody Mary — or two.