Gypsy Tea Room
Winner for: Live Music Venue
There's no fun, no poetry, in writing about a building; nice bricks, eh? During the day, it's an empty bar (two, actually) with wooden floors and a barren stage (two, again), a place not so different from any other anywhere. The Gypsy Tea Room has become the yardstick by which all other comers (should) measure themselves, which is why it wins by a mile each and every year. Still, though it's a two-headed beast--with its cozy side and family room (meaning, Willie Nelson and the Family, who packed the place not long ago)--it's still just a club, just a spot where people congregate most every night to pour down a drink, pull on a smoke, pick up a stranger, tune in a band.

But it will forever remain a constant winner as long as its doors stay open--and as long as it maintains a booking policy that lures in the big-top acts, the young comers and the 'tweeners tired of looking for love in all the wrong spaces. Whenever it's announced a band like Wilco or Gomez or the Flaming Lips or The New Year's gonna play around, you know it's going to be in the Tea Room's ballroom, where sight(lines) and sound are topped by no one else in town. And even those acts once relegated to the likes of Poor David's or, jeez, Billy Bob's are moving in: In coming weeks, bluesman John Hammond, folkie Dar Williams and honky-tonk diva Deana Carter are booked to play the intimate Tea Room, which feels like home. And the newcomers are never turned away; at this rate Eisley's going to get its own wing. --R.W.

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