Backdoor Comedy
Nothing incites more painful cringing than watching someone really go out on a limb, make four times the required effort and fail miserably. This is simultaneously one of the best and worst things about live stand-up comedy, depending on your propensity for schadenfreude. Comics and comedy venues alike are prone to the sad fate of trying too hard to cater to everyone, which is why the Backdoor Comedy Club is such a relief from the same old shtick. Intimate and unassuming, Backdoor is run by two of the funniest women in town, Linda Stogner and Jan Norton. Each weekend, eight or more comics are featured per night, from local favorites to new faces trying out material in the tiny theater. The crowd's always appreciative and manageable for the waitstaff, which means prompt service and less of a chance you'll want to pummel the heckler in the front row. For a city prone to taking itself far too seriously, Dallas is lucky to have had Stogner and Norton's weekly doses of funny for 15 years running.
Metrognome Collective
Rising gas prices be damned, bands from across the country still fill their van tanks with enough unleaded to reach our city's rock clubs. But with no money left over for a booking agent, how's an upstart band supposed to find a decent place to play? Surprisingly, the area has a few booming do-it-yourself venues that are happy to accommodate, and the hands-down leader of the rising D.I.Y. scene is the Metrognome Collective. This isn't just some barren room with a single speaker and a guy banging on an oboe with a spoon; the space is a complete artistic statement, from its large art gallery to its stellar reputation for netting some of the best twee, avant-garde and garage-rock bands that even local hipsters haven't heard of yet. Just make sure to visit the venue's Web site for directions, or you'll blink and miss the location...they don't call it D.I.Y. for nothing.
No, not that kind of horizontal, you perv. We mean the kind of horizontal involving a picnic blanket, a sack lunch and a lazy afternoon nap in the sun. Grab your honey and stake out a spot on the east shore of White Rock Lake with a prime downtown view. Bring the dog for a little Frisbee, or just ask that guy over there if you can borrow his. We're sure he won't mind, since folks chilling out at White Rock are of the most agreeable demeanor. Just be sure to give the pooch back before your sundown mug-down with the aforementioned honey, otherwise you're just being tacky.
At a time when restaurants, music venues and other generally sane business owners were running with tails tucked between legs away from Deep Ellum (or being shuffled out by landlords owed back rent), the Art Prostitute Gallery bravely took up residence in a ground floor loft on the east end of Commerce. Mark Searcy moved his gallery south from Denton, and the despairing Dallas neighborhood thanks him for it. His openings are legendary, the cavernous space echoing with the sounds of a good DJ who knows his indie rock and hip-hop, and booming with the plentiful laughter of all kinds of art fans. Shoulder to shoulder, the sunglasses-indoors types schmooze with Goths and gutter punks. Thanks to Art Prostitute's fearless shows of edgy pop and modern art, hipsters are now going where no hipsters have gone before--or at least not gone for a very long time.
You don't exactly head to Ye Olde Cineplex for the eye candy, do you? Sure, the popcorn vendor kid isn't bad-looking, except for that weird lip piercing, but all in all, there's just not much to look at. Not so at the Belmont Hotel's "B-Reel at the Belmont" movie night out by the pool. The Oak Cliff hotel's got a swingin' retro style happening, and the rectangular pool is the very definition of "too cool for school." But the best part is the long-range view of downtown Dallas from your lawn chair. Sure, the movie's probably pretty interesting, since B-Reel plays only the finest in B-movie gems, but you just might find yourself following the skyline more than the plot line.
Many a single gal in Texas between the ages of 15 and 50 might find comfort for the lovelorn heart in spot-on Mexican food with the girls. And copious amounts of sangria. Of course, nursing loneliness with alcohol and delicious tacos Pacifico is fine, but how 'bout some preventive measures? Say, for instance, a trip to Caf San Miguel's ladies room (stick with us here). The super-clean lavatory is painted with giant rose petals and tiled in a beautiful red. But the real kicker is the shrine to St. Anthony (Antonio in Latin cultures) above the sink. You know, St. Anthony, often recognized as the marriage saint--patron saint of "find me a husband!" Along with a statue of the holy matchmaker (appropriately standing on his head until he delivers) are tin-framed illustrations and prayers for mates to come. Of course, our secret is now blown. Our friends just thought the caf's pomeritas (pomegranate margaritas) went right through us--they didn't know we've actually been praying over the porcelain god.
Normally, we'd log onto MySpace.com before we'd pick up our PlayStation 2 controller, but that's just because we're bored with our games. We've played them a hundred times over, and we're typically too lazy to pull out the DDR mat. But we've discovered something that tops surfing bulletins and hoping you have a "New Messages!" alert: Kewlbox.com. Blockdot, the Dallas-based "advergaming" firm, has provided us, the bored and technologically obsessed, with something to do that isn't quite so self-involved. We'd even go so far as to say the 100 or so free games (most available for online play with an option to download, and covering action/adventure, puzzle/strategy and arcade/fun) might be a healthy alternative to MySpace. Topsy Turvy keeps the eyes active, Fowl Words works the vocab and even advergames such as summer's Luck of the Straw for Sonic make brainwashing terribly fun and stress-free.
Sunday nights aren't for Desperate Housewives and a reasonable bedtime. Granted, you probably think the good music ends when Josh Venable signs off from the Adventure Club on KDGE at 9 p.m. Not so. There are pints and Brit pop to be had with Mr. Adventure himself downtown at the Stone Street walkway-accessible Thomas & Leggitt Tavern from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. There's no cover, and the crowd varies week to week. The outdoor patio might be packed with canines and their companions kicking back, or inside it may be a full-on sing-along if the timing is right and Venable busts out something along the lines of Pulp's "Common People," an old Chomsky favorite or an Elvis Costello classic. If the audience is five or 50, Venable never disappoints, so reclaim Sunday night and choose your own adventure.
Stone Street Theatre
A night out at this new downtown theater might find you in the middle of an adult clown act or an evening of Cole Porter. Comedy and cabaret rule at this small, elegant theater tucked between Campisi's and the Thomas and Leggitt Tavern on Main and Stone Streets. While Stone is more of an alley than street, you walk in as if you've discovered something no one else knows about, despite the crowded dinner patio next door. But that's just it. With a minimal advertising budget, Stone Street is struggling to find an audience. And while it wants to cater to the downtown denizens, most of the patrons come from elsewhere, according to artistic co-director John Davies. Discover this performance space now, before a small jewel in the big city is lost. And take a friend. In fact, take several.
For three months every summer, stingy but smart 20- and 30-something couples pack a picnic and a bottle of wine and head to White Rock Lake for the free concert series, Cool Thursdays. Actually, the series is not exactly free and it takes place at the Dallas Arboretum, but you can hear the bands just fine on the freeloading side of the fence right next to White Rock Lake. Typically, it's quite the scene. Perhaps there's some sort of honor-among-thieves camaraderie going on, but the moochers seem more eager to strike up a friendly conversation with complete strangers than the stuffy customers who see nothing wrong with spending the $14 ticket price on an Eagles cover band and other like-minded acts. Adding to the festive atmosphere of the free concert seats, sailboats from the nearby marina drop by to hear a song or two before floating away into the sunset.

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