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Diamonds and Pearls

Faces Ultra Lounge is Third Ward's go-to spot for ­quality R&B.

Logan Houston may never dominate an NBA game. As a matter of fact, at 5'5", 125 lbs, he probably wouldn't dominate an under-14 AAU game. But tonight, right now, Houston is as big as a Tyrannosaurus rex.

Houston is a singer, and a very good one. Behind him is a four-piece band called The Show, and before him is a growing swarm of women, each in her own grade of swoon. Right now he's singing Prince's "Adore," his favorite song to perform. Even if he's never told you that, it's still pretty clear.

His eyes close almost as soon as the intro trickles out of the speakers. A quarter of the way into the song, Houston is entirely wired in, swaying towards the microphone stand with each crescendo. Halfway through, his performing partner Anzeo David — himself a talented singer you may have seen on American Idol — peels Logan's jacket off and hands it to one woman who is paying extra-close attention.

A minute or two later, Houston has almost abandoned the lyrics entirely. Instead, he ad-libs and vocalizes — "YOOWWWWW!!!!" — as he pleases. By song's end, the room is his. He crawls through the last minute, mimicking Prince's squeals and squeaks; someone at the bar shouts, "Take your time, baby, take your time."

This is apparently just another Wednesday at Faces Ultra Lounge (5104 Almeda).

Faces is a hangout on the periphery of Third Ward, not to be confused with Spring Branch's Faces Club (1453 Witte). The Ultra Lounge is basically a large rectangle with a bar plopped down in the center, and some faux wood pillars and a tiled ceiling that give the interior a streamlined atmosphere.

There is a medium-size patio at the rear that is impossible to anticipate, just about always a wonderful surprise. The lounge functions as a regular bar on slower nights, which is vital for a place that pulls a large portion of its customer base from the surrounding neighborhoods.

Faces opened last July, and this spring started doing live music on Wednesday and Friday nights. The shows are mostly R&B and mostly awesome, a guaranteed good time.

There aren't many places in the greater Houston area to see live quality R&B, so Faces has already built a strong, loyal following. In one 30-minute spurt tonight, Anzeo, Houston and local rapper The Show flowed from Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, The Throne and Fugees covers to a hyper sexy Ginuwine/Jodeci medley. The venue buzzed with excitement at the beginning of each song.

"Faces is a place to go when you're tired of clubs and want a more relaxed atmosphere," says Jennifer Lawson, 29, here with two of her girlfriends. "We come here on Wednesdays and Fridays. I would say we are definitely regulars. We know the band. Loving and following live music, you end up seeing the same group of people, so it feels familiar."

"It's just a feel-good place."

"I drive about 25 minutes from the Westchase area to get here," says Carla Horton, a 28-year-old nursing-home rehab technician. "The people that come here on Wednesdays are here to relax. The Friday crowd seems to come to dance — there's not really a designated dance floor, you just dance where you can."

We could go on about all the stereotypical reasons to stay out of Third Ward, such as not wanting to get robbed at knifepoint. But Faces is a big mark in the neighborhood's plus column.

Oh, and there's also a man stationed outside selling barbecue from the smoker pit on the back of his truck. Malibooyah.
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LAST CALL

In addition to his duties at Faces, Logan Houston also performs on Saturday at Grooves (2300 Pierce), another noted R&B hangout that is, more often than not, a bit clubbier, and Mainstage on Main (2016 Main). Go check him out at least once. Guys, cuff your women tight. Girls, make sure you take those birth-control pills. Follow Logan on Twitter at @LoganPDA and Anzeo David at @AnzeoDavid.

 
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