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Community Chest

Club Upscale brings the world of dance music together under one roof

Most club events boast names that suggest more than they deliver -- Starlight, RhythmFresh and our favorite, Trippin' the Love, which appears to promise both sex and drugs. But when it comes to truth in advertising, no moniker seems more dead-on accurate than Community's.

Just look at a recent Thursday night: In the main room ("Mainfloorhouse"), DJs Baby C and Sincere Hogan, better known as the Souldaddies, are playing what is to be their farewell performance. (Baby C has since moved to Arizona.) The patrons and spectators show their gratitude by -- what else? -- dancing. Farther down, in the ballroom ("Hiphopfunklab"), a team of breakers contort themselves to DJ Ceeplus's old-school hip-hop numbers, which serve as a launching pad for their frenzied, impromptu moves. Right next door, in the lounge ("D&B Loungelab"), Chris "G-Wizz" Cardenas plays the UK dance genre two-step while folks get their mingle on.

This is what the average patron has come to expect from Community. Since opening last June, Community, held every Thursday in the southwest compound Club Upscale (5851 Southwest Freeway), has been regarded as a funhouse for the local house-music fan. A mini-rave for folks too damn old to be seen at raves, if you will. Community's first anniversary last week inspired its creators and co- conspirators to ponder a pertinent question: Have they succeeded in what they originally sought to do?

Their goal was "to expose Houston with music from all over the U.S. and all over the world, for that matter, predominantly house music, hip-hop and drum 'n' bass," says promoter/record wrecker Kelly McCann.

Well, have you?

"Definitely, yes."

The soft-spoken McCann, along with members of his Scooby Doo Crew, created this Community as an evening where kids, inching into young adulthood, can enjoy decent underground dance music without having to wonder if the guy or gal they're bumping and grinding with is over 18. (The event is for those 18 and older.) Of course, it's also one of the few recurring events to spin music that's rarely played in other clubs. The DJs who have come on board certainly feel the vibe. "We all have a vision, a type of music that we all support," says DJ booth regular Chello. "It varies a bit with the different DJs, you know. Some people are a little more vocal than others. But it's all a positive, uplifting sound that a lot of people in this city are not really, I'd say, used to yet because of the domination of the radio…all the music you hear on [Top 40 stations] 104 and 100.7."

Community has also hosted visiting DJs (such as Canadian Julius Papp, Chicago's Mark Grant and San Francisco's DJ Buck) and has served as a clubhouse for local spinners who feel their work isn't respected at other venues. Before jumping on the Community bandwagon, Chello, along with partner-in-crime Ethan Klein, had their own weekly residencies at two downtown clubs: the long-departed Lava Lounge and the recently migratory Club Waxx (see "Club Waxx Wanes…," May 24). When the men severed ties with those establishments, they were notified that they had a home at Community. Klein wouldn't have it any other way. "The music -- honestly, I've been to other clubs, downtown and wherever, and I just don't find another club that plays this kind of music: strictly house in the main room, real hip-hop in the back room, and we have such a diverse crowd," he says.

Although McCann and other crew members think the event hasn't reached its full potential because of other parties they produce and promote, the evening is still drawing a respectable number of people. And according to McCann, these people get the concept. "It seems to attract the people who were going to raves and…grew up and want to hang out with people their age and quit hanging out with people with pacifiers in their mouths and glow sticks in their hands."

Last Call

For those who have recently walked into Spy(112 Travis) on a Wednesday night and felt like they stepped into the Have a Nice Day Cafe(544 Texas Avenue), don't fret. On Wednesdays, the club transforms into "the ultimate '80s trash bash." Dubbed Pop Muzik, the spot features timeless Reagan-era music as well as pop-cultural artifacts (Tiffany posters, video games, etc.). "We made it more of a commercial-style '80s night," says DJ Mark Snow. "Before, whenever we tried to be really underground with it, it seemed like there was only a few people who got it." Some may remember Snow tried to go that underground route a year ago when he left Spy to become the spinmaster at Metro, an alternative '80s night he established at Rehab(709 Franklin). "We did it for about six months there, but I was hoping for a little more support, you know, from the club, as far as advertising or anything like that," says Snow. But now, he's back over at his old stomping grounds, playing one-hit wonders from Level 42 and Soft Cell for folks who crave a little retro once in a while. "We're playing the hits of the '80s," says Snow, "as opposed to playing a bunch of really obscure stuff that nobody has ever heard of."

 
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