You hear it all the time: "Oh, this is totally the rage in London." But sometimes the hype is real. In London, hookah bars are everywhere, Arabic/South Asian music is practically mainstream, and if you don't know who Aishwarya Rai is, then you might as well move to Swindon. Gawd. We digress. Houston's also getting hip to the South Asian/Arabic scene -- just consider "Moksa," a new recurring party at Licor Lounge. Moksa is the Sanskrit word meaning "release" or "freedom," which is what one typically achieves with a little hookah smoke and a cocktail or three.
Don't worry about culture shock, though: The music will be a blend of Top 40 hip-hop, Arabic and house with a South Asian tinge: Think remixes of Bollywood soundtracks transitioning into 50 Cent (strangely, it works). Eventually, organizers Ash Seth (a.k.a. DJ Boombai) and Robin Mathew hope to incorporate live percussionists and monthly special guests, but for now the young party has slimmer aspirations. "We're just trying to do something new," says Boombai.
Licor Lounge is a pretty intimate place, and Boombai and Mathew aren't looking to have sweaty, spinning crowds spilling out of its swank environs. "We're going for a little more upscale, mature crowd," says Boombai. So Miller Light connoisseurs may want to party elsewhere, but anyone interested in $3 apple martinis and a little shisa can check in from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays. 2204 Louisiana. For information, call 713-654-0869 or visit www.licorlounge.com. Call to reserve a table if you want to smoke. Free. -– Julia Ramey
Shay McElroy's Pernod and Water
I was just getting ready to leave town for a few days when I learned a close friend's wife had passed away. So I missed my flight and stayed for the service and a somber lunch back at the house, thinking I'd hop on the next plane out. Then a friend I hadn't seen in months called to say she was coming through town. ("It'll be more like a drive-by" were her exact words.) Well, I never did board that plane. After the lunch, a small group of us piled into a car and roared off to the first dive bar we could find. With cold shots of Jägermeister, Lone Star beer and Waylon Jennings songs as our sacrament, we toasted our good friend. Unfortunately, it didn't stop there. At some point, I ditched my car and stopped in at Shay McElroy's Irish Pub (909 Texas, 713-223-2444) to have one last Pernod and water. The place was empty, and the quiet helped put everything in perspective. Sometime after 11, my friend got to town and showed up to get me out of there. We spent the night talking until we fell asleep. The next day, she helped me find my car and kissed me good-bye.
2 ounces Pernod
Splash of water
Measure out a healthy shot or two of Pernod and top off with water. Best consumed without car keys. -- J.W. Crooker
He's basically the U2 or REM of his genre, garnering "living legend" praise and enjoying the status of an electronica demigod. Paul Oakenfold has been around, having blossomed in a time when electronica was perceived to be glorified ecstasy music. "Music and drugs have always gone hand in hand," Oakenfold once said. It's "more a question of what was the drug of the generation; whether it's marijuana, cocaine or E." Now his trancey tunes have landed film scores (Swordfish, Matrix Reloaded), solo records (the star-studded Bunkka), innumerable dance compilations (Ministry of Sound) and a Grammy nomination. The legend visits town at 9 p.m. Friday, April 1. M Bar, 402 Main. For tickets and information, visit www.77002.com. $25. -– Travis Ritter
The next time you're about to call someone "the Man," please take a moment to remember that "the Man" is and always will be Marvin Gaye, and the guy you're talking about is in no way as cool. Sorry. Celebrate the Man this weekend at Club Roxy, where local jazz musicians will fete the late crooner. Stretch Entertainment's Jimi Davis will emcee as local jazz musicians, including saxophonist Kyle Turner, funk guitarist Corey Stoot and vocalist Melanie Covington, cover Gaye's greatest hits. Bring your sweetie, 'cause you'll be ready to get it on at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 3. 5351 West Alabama. For information, call 713-850-7699 or visit www.stretchent.com. $25 to $40. -– Julia Ramey