Houston’s Live Music Scene Deserves More Credit—Here’s Why

In February, the Houston Chronicle published an article titled “Houston is one of the worst U.S. cities for music lovers, according to one study.” The story, based on research from Clever, a real estate site that “helps people make smarter real estate decisions and save money,” caused a small stir online for local music lovers. 

It prompted the question: Why is Houston still considered undervalued as a place for the arts, even though music is a core part of the city’s cultural reputation? Suppose a list judges a city’s live music capabilities primarily on the presence of major music festivals, as the Clever research does. In that case, Houston is out of the running for one huge reason: the heat. It is hot here most of the year, with unbearable-in-the-day and carry-over-into-the-night humidity. But if there’s anything we do have, it’s space. 

So Houston gets its live music fix in other ways, with a deep, rich network of local DJs and various venues focused on all types of music. In the past, spaces like Sam Houston Coliseum welcomed close to 10,000 Houstonians to watch acts like The Beatles, James Brown, and Jimi Hendrix. (It was also one of the last places John F. Kennedy spoke before his assassination.) The Southern Star Amphitheater sat inside the AstroWorld theme park and saw a variety of acts from Bob Dylan to Weird Al Yankovic. A former liquor warehouse on McKinney Street became the home of Houston’s rock scene between 1987 and 1992; during that time, The Axiom hosted appearances by Nirvana, The Flaming Lips, H-Town locals Sugar Shack, and other notable bands from the punk, metal, funk, and hardcore world.

In other words, Houston has always been a major part of the national music scene, even if it seems like the city is often overlooked. And while some of the historic venues have disappeared, new places are picking up the torch and making ample space for live music.

 White Oak Music Hall’s sprawling lawn, indoor concert space, and rooftop have welcomed acts like Khruangbin, Rare Americans, and Big Freedia. One of Houston’s newest hubs for culture and events, 713 Music Hall, has already seen numerous sold-out shows in its 5,000-capacity facility, including artists like Tobe Nwigwe, Denzel Curry, Giveon, Alkaline Trio, and Coheed & Cambria, and the venue’s upcoming schedule is packed with even more. The Bayou Music Center has undergone a few name changes but continues to bring big acts like COIN, Alan Walker, Teyana Taylor, and Kehlani to fill its 3,000 seats; it even has a club dubbed 40 Below bunkered beneath the main hall, where guests can play pool and enjoy a good after-show vibe.

The Southern Star Amphitheater may have disappeared along with its AstroWorld location. However, NRG Park welcomes the biggest rodeo in the world and still boasts performances from Beyoncé, Guns N’ Roses, Taylor Swift, and The Rolling Stones. And while stadium-packing acts like Kendrick Lamar, Bad Bunny, and Tyler The Creator fill Minute Maid Park and the Toyota Center, there are plenty of smaller locations where Houstonians can experience live music. New and old venues like Warehouse Live, the House of Blues, and the Smart Financial Centre continue to bring rock, rap, gospel, electronic, and everything in between. Those who can brave the heat and humidity can sit on the lawn at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion or enjoy an always-free show at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Smaller, more intimate shows showcasing local talent continue to flood Last Concert Café, The Secret Group, and Wonky Power. 

If there were some names here that you didn’t recognize, good. Go check them out. But please, in the future, use real estate sites to find insights about houses, not concerts. 

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