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River Oaks Racketeering at Capone's

Wednesday night, minus Robert De Niro

At Moodafaruka's regular Wednesday night show at Capone's (4304 Westheimer), Highland Village's eight-month-old bar and oven, three things are readily apparent:

1. Mooda is in beast mode tonight. Every song they collectively jam through seems to forcibly pull people to Capone's impromptu dance floor, even the guy dressed head-to-toe in matching denim. Matching Denim Pants and Shirt Guy never dances.

2. Emily has fake boobs.

3. Some loud lady has touched them, and probably shouldn't have.

The first is a given. Moodafaruka — which, we disappointingly learned, is not a variation on a certain 12-letter epithet — has established itself over the past nine years as the world/fusion band to see in Houston. The music is thoroughly infectious, the band always draws a crowd and said crowd always dances. Capone's managing partner Danny Barcus confirms as much.

The other two, though, speak to the success Capone's has garnered thus far, because we don't have a clue who this Emily is or why Loud Lady has touched her boobs.

See, on a typical Wednesday night it's easy to discern who said what at a nightlife venue, because it's at most one-­quarter full and hardly raucous. Pretty much all you've gotta do is open your eyes.

In a situation like that, Nightfly would have easily identified the responsible party, wandered over, sat down, gotten the backstory then regaled them with witty bons mots about why Journey is the greatest power-ballad rock band ever. Name a better workout soundtrack than 1988's Journey's Greatest Hits.

But we can't do that this Wednesday, and it's boring a hole in our head. We know the boob-touching statement was made — the Cocktail Party Effect made sure of that — but have no idea who said it. Too many suspects.

The Cocktail Party Effect is a psychological phenomenon that explains how a person is, either consciously or subconsciously, able to hone in on a conversation despite a cacophony of other noises. It's why whenever The Hills' Spencer Pratt is at a crowded party and someone in the background inevitably says, "Spencer Pratt is such a d-bag," he hears it. Always.

Your brain is always processing incoming information, and when it picks up something you should know about, like your name being slandered or Emily's fake boobs being touched, it has a hard time orienting on anything else.

In Night World, this biological phenomenon is normally reserved for bustling Friday- or Saturday-night outings, but for an otherwise mundane Wednesday, Capone's is surprisingly populated and thoroughly engaged.

The granite-topped bar, which seats 15ish and provides a front-row seat to the wood-burning brick oven — serving hot grub until 2 a.m. — is at capacity. The main hall, wherein lie the stage and the bulk of the tables, is also replete with 45-year-old River Oaks locals, alternating between dancing, sipping Mojitos and throwing away $100 bills because they're not crisp enough.

There are even a few people sneaking around in The Hideout, the connected backside offshoot of Capone's that draws a decidedly younger, more industry-related crowd. DJs provide the Hideout's music, while saxman Kelly Dean, harp hustler Tommy Dardar and scene mainstays Luther and the Healers often occupy the front room's big-boy stage.

Considering Capone's name, which won out over "CBDB" — a play on the initials of managing partners Craig Bloom and Danny Barcus, and nod to legendary NYC punk stomping ground CBGB — and "The Roosevelt," you'd reasonably assume the place would be stocked with goon memorabilia. Smartly, though, Capone's leans only slightly on its hoodlum underpinnings — but a few of its dorm-style posters have no doubt been glimpsed in the abode of some rapper or basketball player on MTV Cribs at some point.

For the time being, Bloom and Barcus may have finally found a venue built to last in the tony environment of the 77027 ZIP code. Prior to being Capone's, the location was nine or ten other establishments in as many years.

It's thoughtfully decorated, unexpectedly buzzy and catered to suit the interests of those who were probably super-pissed about the stock-market plunge. With yet another large retail/residential development on the way, Barcus expects Capone's to continue trending upward.

"The location is great," he says. "They're building a W Hotel back behind us where the old Ford Dealership is. Build-out is late next year. Some people did okay here, they just didn't have the right type of place. We do. We're prime real estate here."

Last Call

If you hadn't made it out yet, Discovery Green Park (1500 McKinney) is offering free concerts each Thursday until November 20. This week's artist is Texas Music Hall of Famer Paul Minor and his Texas Tycoons — lots of Doug Sahm, Roky Erickson and so forth. This weekend features a production of Oedipus Rex by Prairie View A&M's Charles Gilpin Players. Oedipus Rex is usually lame, but the CGP present Sophocles's tragedy via spoken-word, making it incalculably more impressive to a girl if you take her there on a first date.

 
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