Source: Houston Chronicle, By LINDSAY PEYTON, CHRONICLE CORRESPONDENT
Residents of The Woodlands do not have to travel far to hear live music.
In fact, the area has become a destination for music lovers - whether they want to hear classical music, a big name rock band or a jazz trio. Residents attend free concerts along the Waterway and at Northshore and Central parks. They also frequent area bars and restaurants, like Baker Street Pub or the Goose's Acre, that offer live music.
Ervin J. West owns Martinis & More, a lounge located on Sawdust Road. He makes live music his top priority and is always searching for R&B and Motown bands to entertain his clients. "I'm saving people a trip to Houston," he said. "There's a need for live music in the area. It's amazing how many people get on the dance floor." West said he loves music and so do his patrons. "If you don't show up early on a Friday or Saturday, you won't be able to find a seat," he said. "People come for the entertainment. You can get an up close and personal experience with the music."
It all started with the Pavilion, according to Courtney Galle, marketing and public relations manager for the performing arts center. "The Pavilion opened in 1990. At that time, it was pretty much the only live music venue in the area," she said. "It's been 22 years and we're still going strong." Galle said the Pavilion's creation was based on a vision of the late Cynthia Mitchell. Mitchell wanted area residents to have a location for the classical performing arts, but the space quickly expanded to include more contemporary acts.
"The Woodlands and Montgomery County are really lucky to have a performing arts space right there in their own backyard," Galle said. "It's really a central point for the whole county." Galle said that live music boosts the economy. She said concert attendees come from the greater Houston area, and some even travel from across the state to see a band. "It's a big draw for tourism," she said. Galle said music is important for the residents of The Woodlands as well. She believes music brings the community together. "Music spans generations and demographics," she said. "There's something for everyone, whether it's the symphony or Kid Rock."
Two years after the Pavilion opened, the Millbend Coffeehouse was established. This nonprofit venue, dedicated to acoustic and folk songwriters, is hosted by Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church on the second Saturday of every month.
Co-producer Teresa Allen said Millbend Coffeehouse places an emphasis on quality instrumentation and interesting lyrics. "Our performances have a sparkle," she said. "We've brought in some of the most amazing acts, and people can really hear the lyrics." Allen said the coffee house appeals to residents, as well as people from outside the area. "We actually have people who drive quite a distance to see our shows," she said. "This is a place where you can actually chat with a performer."
Steve Said, owner of Dosey Doe Coffee, agrees that smaller venues are bringing visitors to the area. "Houston has never thought about coming north, except for the Pavilion," Said said. "Now we're becoming a destination in the county." He also believes people are searching for entertainment that is close to home. "With the price of gas and economy overall, people are cutting back," Said said. "But they still want to have a good time." Said opened his coffee shop and restaurant in 2006. His background was in the music industry, and he was convinced that The Woodlands needed more concert spots. "I love music, but I always found myself not wanting to go anywhere," he said. "The venues were all too far away."
Said also wanted to provide a space that would please musicians. He had heard touring artists complain about the acoustics and other shortcomings of their stops on the road. "The task became to create a venue that singer-songwriters would appreciate," he said. "We want to honor their craft." Said's vision centered around perfect sound – from every seat in the house. "I wanted every corner of the room to sound the same," he said. "That turned out to be more difficult than we thought." He hired two sound engineers to help him create the proper acoustics, considering how every detail would affect the sound. "It paid off way beyond my imagination," Said said. Then, Said raised a barn around those specifications. He purchased a 150-year old barn from Kentucky and brought it back to Texas in pieces. Contractors then reconfigured the hand-hewn beams into the tavern. "We wanted to have something that was unique," he said.
Said said musicians now call him and ask to perform at Dosey Doe. "These are names that would never play at a 290-seat venue," he said. "They want to play here because of the acoustics in the space."
Since its opening, Doesy Doe has hosted a number of musicians, from local artists to popular songwriters like Richie Havens, Clint Black and Leon Rusell. They offer a variety of styles, including country, rock, jazz, blues and soul. "People think we're just country, because we're in a barn," Said said. "But we're all over the music map. It's really cool how diverse the music landscape is here."
For Said, music is not only a lifelong love, but also what makes his business fun. He always enjoys feedback from satisfied customers and comfortable musicians. "Music is one of those things in life that can lock in a memory," Said said. "People will remember the night because of the music."