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Club 26Ten Looks to Spend Its Way to The Top

Galleria Glitz

We are not fans of house music. And heck, while we're throwing lightning bolts around, we're not particularly fond of Top 40 either. They provide two of music's most fruitless experiences, usually little more than the blatantly obvious: Yes, we see your glowsticks, and no, you cannot be our hero, baby.

When played at separate times, house and Top 40 are only slightly unbearable. One might even be forgiven for accidentally purchasing Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" cassette single in 1998. Mash the two fields together, though, as so many swanky club DJs are currently doing, and the douchedom multiplies exponentially. It's an unholy amalgamation somewhere between twin frat brothers and ground effects on a Mazda Miata.

Credit is due where credit is due, though, and today DJ Manu — who's shamelessly mixing the aforementioned genres at Club 26Ten (2610 Sage) — is, quite simply, doing the damn thing.

Manu has a clear affinity for slipping hip-hop into most songs and, musical prejudices aside, is doing so quite impressively. (He shines brightest when he lays lyrics from the Killers' "Mr. Brightside" over an instrumental of Rick Ross's "Hustlin'.") His rap-laced mix is somewhat unexpected, given that 26Ten's demo is well-off young professionals — over-­thirties tend to congregate upstairs — but it's hardly the only surprising thing about the club.

Not much can be gleaned from looking at 26Ten's exterior. It's located on the end of an otherwise innocuous strip center across from Macy's Galleria and displays little more than a sign, some fake flowers directly outside the doors and a cadre of valet parking attendants. Even the club's MySpace page is devoid of anything terribly revealing, save some lip-puckered photos and a phone number. Inside, though, it quickly becomes clear where ownership decided to spend its money.

Two crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling above the bar, Cantoni seating occupies the commons area and Roche-Bobois lounges (with their $15K price tags) are found inside the first-floor VIP room. There's even a real, actual wine bar in the back that blots out the music (which is loud, but not stupid-loud) pretty well and features solid marble tables to complement its nearly 500 types of wines.

26Ten is a two-story venue, but upstairs is limited to the area above the bar, VIP room and wine bar, creating an impressive 30-foot ceiling above the lounging area and dance floor. Normal strip-center flaws are masked as much as possible by ceiling-to-floor drapes and boxed speakers, but if you squint, you can glimpse the club's office-space origins.

And despite its usually boisterous dance floor, the second floor is where 26Ten tries to distinguish itself.

"It's not like other clubs where you can just walk upstairs," says general manager Jale C., who requested her last name not be used. "You can't even get upstairs here unless you've RSVPed, are part of a party or are a member."

Yep, you read that right: a member. Club 26Ten offers memberships.

To become a member — which grants you access to the four upstairs VIP rooms, a small cubby to place your favorite beverages in and use of a back-door entrance — you'll have to part with some cash. $1,000 a year gets you the aforementioned goodies, while $2,000 adds free valet ­parking (!).

So far, ownership says more than 230 people have already joined, and the number is trending upward. One of the abovementioned VIP rooms, by the way, is a Versace-themed billet replete with certified Versace chairs that are secured to the wall. (Rich people steal too, apparently.)

With 14 hotels surrounding 26Ten, the crowd can skew more international than at similar Midtown hangouts, but most all of the club's pop is of the fairly established, English-speaking variety. It's also not hard to see that, given each floor's near-sovereign status, each has a different vibe (first floor = younger, shinier; second floor = older, richer).

All things considered, 26Ten is certainly one of Houston's nicer (and pricier) venues for an evening out. It might not have the understated elegance or intimacy of Hotel Zaza's Monarch Lounge (5701 Main), but the accommodations push it well beyond other buzzy haunts. The owner, who also asked that his name not be used, seems to agree.

"I don't think any other club in Houston offers a true wine bar, a real VIP [area] and a real dance floor," claims one Alper S. "I think we have done here what hasn't been done in 25 years: provided a true five-star place."

Last Call

We want to take just a second to plug Zin, the Kase and anyone else involved with KPFT's (90.1 FM) Sounds of Soul radio show, which airs 3-5 p.m. Wednesdays. Centered around prog-hop/world-beat/backpacker jam and the like — in other words, anything pertaining to underground rap — it's easily one of the most slept-on radio shows in Houston right now. Lots of people complain about the quality of music on the radio, but these guys are doing something about it. Live-stream Sounds of Soul at www.kpft.org.

 
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