After hundreds of cancelled shows and a slew of virtual performances, the slumbering Houston live music scene is showing signs of waking after a long hibernation.
Several live music venues across the Bayou City are opening their doors this weekend to actual, real-life, in-person performances, but they will look much different from what audiences are accustomed to seeing. They kick-off amidst confusion among club owners over which guidelines to follow.
Last weekend, Axelrad Beer Garden put on the first live show since March, a sold-out, drive-in concert with music fans watching local indie bands play on the roof of the Midtown venue from parking lots across the street. This week, other music hot spots will dip their toes in the musical waters by inviting patrons into their spaces.
Venue leaders are emboldened by Gov. Greg Abbott's softening of business restrictions, allowing bars to reopen at 25 percent last Friday, even with restrictions including table-only seating with bar tops blocked off, bar stools removed, and parties limited to six people.
There has been mixed messages from local government officials with orders requiring live performance spaces to remain shuttered. After dealing with months of lost revenue and mass layoffs, it's the state guidelines that many live music spots are following, instituting new seating layouts, and drink service measures to maintain patron safety.
Live at the Warehouse
For rock fans willing to venture out, Eado venue Warehouse Live will return on Friday, May 29, with the aptly named "The Show Must Go On" in its ballroom space featuring Queen tribute act, Queen Legacy, Foreigner tribute, Double Vision, and Police tribute, Syncronicity. Doors will open at 7 p.m. and tickets are free with some VIP tables carrying a fee.
Marketing manager Ashly Montgomery tells CultureMap the staff is taking "every precaution" to follow the state's orders and Center for Disease Control guidelines, especially after last weekend when other Houston venues and clubs seemingly showed little restraint, forcing Mayor Sylvester Turner to call the fire marshal to enforce the 25 percent capacity rule.
"Our GM sent out emails to the Governor's office just to clarify that we were able to open under the guidelines of the bar scenario," Montgomery says. "The setup will look different — it looks like the most intense game of chutes and ladders, it looks crazy, but it makes sense. If you look at the orders, it says you have to have tables and chairs with people sitting, so we have everything marked out, we have hand sanitizers and disinfectant everywhere. No concern is too small for our staff and customers."
Shows at Warehouse Live will be cut the capacity of 1,750 people to only 200 seats with tables situated throughout the venue and no general admission standing room. Patrons are encouraged to wear masks, staff will be required to wear personal protective equipment and anyone who enters the space will have their temperature checked. Those with temperatures over 100.1 not allowed to enter. Once patrons enter, they will be designated a particular spot on the floor from which they and their group — limited to six people — may not move into another attendee's space, a measure that will be strictly enforced by security.
"We're excited to be open and back into the swing of things, even if we have to do it a little bit different," Montgomery said. "It's reassuring because it's one more step towards normalcy."
The Rustic is back
Country singer Pat Green's downtown honky-tonk, The Rustic, hosted it's first show last weekend and will continue offering live music from a variety of artists and genres throughout the weekends. The venue is well situated for social distancing guidelines with a cavernous space that can easily be modified for smaller crowds. All shows are free admission.
Goode to see you
Goode Company's Armadillo Palace is geared up for weekend live performances suited for country fans with Houston based retro country act Broken Spokes this Friday evening and four-time Texas Female Vocalist of the Year Bri Bagwell with Bo Brumble doing an acoustic song swap. Shows are scheduled Thursday through Saturday evenings throughout the summer.
Scouting a return
For harder rock fans, Scout Bar in Clear Lake is booking local and regional acts, most of them at a reduced ticket rate.
A secret no more
The Secret Group in EaDo has been hosting comedy acts, but will start offering seated DJ shows, including this Saturday's Dial-Up: 90s and Y2K Party.
Duck in for a good show
Those into lower key, acoustic fare will have their chance for a live music experience at McGonigel's Mucky Duck next week when the Kirby spot starts up its concert schedule with Adam Hood on June 4.
Other venues are taking a wait and see approach, whether its due to financial reasons or the fact their space doesn't work with social distancing guidelines.
White Oak Music Hall doesn't have a performances scheduled until June 20 but a source at the popular Heights venue promised noteworthy events on the horizon.
Storied Main Street space, The Continental Club, is also being cautious with live shows, with Damien Jurado on June 24 listed as the first show back. Instead, it has been been hosting virtual shows every week from its stage with popular standbys, including country singer Luba Dvorak with his Wednesday night "Luba's Quarantine Ramble Live Stream" series, and '60s Liverpool Fab Four inspired act Beetle on Thursdays.