Stiff drinks, hand-crafted snacks and dim lighting are par for the bar-course when it comes to things Dallasites demand in their nightlife, but they're hardly staples at comedy clubs, where overpriced booze gets served up alongside lukewarm nachos and some hack's life story. To the rescue: improv comics Amanda Austin and Clay Barton, who opened the Dallas Comedy House last year in an increasingly vigorous Deep Ellum. Offering high-quality improv classes on the cheap and stand-up comedy and variety shows seven nights a week, the Dallas Comedy House has brought in all kinds of folks searching for a spare meter along Commerce Street. Despite plentiful seating, the black-box DCH remains cozy, and the deceptively large stage supports a troupe of improv-ers or a lone stand-up with equal ease. But quality booze and service aside, the comedy at DCH hardly requires even a little funny bone-lubricating buzz.
There's church, and then there's The Church. Can you spot the difference? Both take place on Sunday and both rely on camaraderie. But at one, people sport leather-bound Bibles, while at the other people sport leather-bound booties. The latter takes place at the Lizard Lounge every Sunday and Thursday, where people put on their least-safe-for-work garb and gather for an all-night celebration of their individualism. The Church isn't for everyone, though. Unless you have a penchant for stomach-churning performance art pieces, gothy/dance musical performances and older men flaunting nipple rings and leather girdles, you might want to stick with old time religion. But more spiked-collar-clad people turn out for these weekly events than one might expect, despite it being an alternative club.
The trick here is that the Cool Thursdays evening concerts at the Arboretum aren't supposed to be free. It's 10 bucks a head plus seven more for parking for these pop concerts, April through July, none in August, then a fall series throughout September and October. But you can hear them all without paying a nickel and also enjoy a very eclectic scene simply by paddling or sailing your small craft to the foot of the Arboretum, just off E. Lawther Drive near the Garland Road entrance to White Rock Lake. Call the Arboretum at 214-515-6518 for concert information or look on their Web page at dallasarboretum.org/concerts.html. If you do speak to them, ask about all their prices and then be sure to say the Dallas Observer told you it would be free if you came in your kayak.
The first interfaith meditation center in North Texas also turns out to be a superbly silent place for prayer, meditation, reflection and just...being. At last, one spot on the planet where no one's cell phone goes off. Brother Chi-Sing, the center's young and cheerful lead instructor, teaches classes in various forms of meditation (Buddhist-based and not) and hosts several weekly groups that offer mind-quieting focus practice via chanting, singing and breathing. The center also has classes in yoga, qigong, Christian meditation and other paths to mindful living. Participation in all activities is by donation.
One of the most beautiful things about being human is our ability to communicate with language and build beautiful, inspiring things. But what's the fun of creation without its far more satisfying opposite, destruction? Truly, the makers of childhood favorite Jenga knew this—build it up and watch it topple, over and over again. But the kiddie Jenga-smiths weren't allowed to supersize the blocks and give you beer and cigarettes to consume during play. The Bryan Street Tavern, however, encourages patrons to construct massive, teetering towers while hopped up on alcohol and nicotine in the bar's lovely and spacious back yard. And before you say it, yeah, we know Barcadia offers a similar game. But if you don't want to be chewed out for accidentally spilling beer on some jerk's $130 T-shirt because your tower took a tumble, we suggest sticking with Bryan Street.
There's something perfect about the marriage of the blues and a well-stocked drinking establishment. On one side of the room, people express their anguish on guitars and other folk-based instruments. On the other side, patrons drink their woes away. Thing about Pearl At Commerce, though—everyone seems to be having a good time, and their burgeoning music scene is a reflection of that. The concert calendar features a nightly rotation of the area's top blues performers as well as national touring artists. While you can still get well-oiled on strong cocktails, the overall feeling here is happiness, which is somewhat at odds with the idea of the blues, but the folks at Pearl like it that way.