Houston is America’s fourth largest city and the largest in Texas. Yet when it comes to music, it is often compared unfavorably to its much smaller neighbor, Austin. It’s unfair in a way, but Austin’s reputation as a music hub is well defined. You usually know what you’re getting when you go to Austin.

Is that a good thing?

Part of what makes Houston’s music scene so interesting is its lack of a strong definition. The scene’s diversity is reflective of the city’s diversity, as Houston is one of the most racially diverse cities in the nation, outpacing even large costal immigrant hubs like New York and Los Angeles. However, the Houston music scene’s nebulous nature and massive size can be daunting to someone who is just beginning to discover it.

Let’s provide a starting point. Here are a couple of Houston’s best music venues and how to have a great experience at any one of them.

White Oak Music Hall

White Oak Music Hall

This venue has worked hard to establish itself as Houston’s go-to music venue, and it’s been quite successful on that front. The venue offers three different experiences including a smaller upstairs venue with a clubby lounge vibe and a large theater-style room on the ground floor for a major concert feel.

The real draw is the lawn outdoors. A balmy evening spent on the lawn, listening to a band you’ve just discovered, is the quintessential Houston music experience.

It’s also right around the corner from The Raven Tower, a bar and a quality music venue in its own right, which is open until 2 AM most nights for your late night activities.

There’s also another late night place in the opposite direction from White Oak Music Hall called Oui Eats that specializes in Vietnamese eats.

Houston is very much a sprawling car-centric city so driving and parking is an option. However the city was also the first city in Texas to bring in ride sharing, so there’s a strong infrastructure there. Light rail is also an option, as they’re just a 5-minute walk north of the Quitman St stop on the Red Line.

White Oak Music Hall: 2915 N Main St, Houston, TX 77009

The Raven Tower: 310 North St, Houston, TX 77009

Oui Eats: 2645 N Main St, Houston, TX 77009

Warehouse Live

Warehouse Live stage

This venue serves an eclectic mix of different styles of music, and by that I mean you might get whiplash from seeing a death metal act there one night and a burlesque show the next. Of course, it too is a great showcase for Houston’s diversity and has something for everyone across two spaces, a more intimate space and a larger ballroom space.

There are several bars in the immediate vicinity of Warehouse Live that are open until 2 AM, including Lucky’s Pub that boasts a 250 beer selection and Neil’s Bahr, which has video games and comic books.

The venue is also a block away from BBVA Compass Stadium, the home of the Houston Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise, and is great for sports fans who can catch an afternoon game and roll right into a show at Warehouse Live.

Located in the up-and-coming St Emmanuel District, while some residential development has gone up in the area, it’s mostly still a warehouse area, which means plenty of street parking. The closest stop on the light rail is the same as the one for the stadium EaDo/Stadium on the purple and green lines.

Warehouse Live: 813 St Emanuel St, Houston, TX 77003

Lucky’s Pub: 801 St Emanuel St, Houston, TX 77003

Neil’s Bahr: 2006 Walker St, Houston, TX 77003

BBVA Compass Stadium: 2200 Texas Ave, Houston, TX 77003