Levon Louis was enjoying a cushy career as a cinematic and video-game sound artist, as well as an electronica producer and performer. But when he watched the images of the Asian tsunami, he suddenly had different priorities. "When friends and family got together for New Year's Eve, we knew we had to do something," he recalls. The next day, together with his girlfriend, Adrian, Louis had a new fund-raising gig. The effort is called Houston Tsunami Relief, for which a community of musicians, producers, media and industry professionals are coming together, says Louis, "to assist these people who are going to be hungry and sick for a long time to come." Plans for events throughout the spring are in the works, the first being a kickoff event this Sunday at Numbers. The lineup features performances by Houston's most famous original gangsta, Scarface, along with blues and soul legend Gloria Edwards, the Neutral Sisters, Dubtex and Guy Schwartz and the New Jack Hippies. DJs including Chris Anderson, Levon Louis, BMC, Steve Swift and Numbers resident Wes Wallace will spin between live sets.
"Scarface is real excited about the show," says Louis, who adds that the rapper has been practicing some guitar work. Louis won't say if Scarface will break out his ax for the show, but that, along with the obviously good cause, would be worth the price of admission. 4 p.m. Sunday, January 23. 300 Westheimer. For information, visit www.houstontsunamirelief.org. Free; $10 suggested donation. - Steven Devadanam
STIRRED AND SHAKEN
China Garden's Absolut Mandarin & Soda
A friend of mine took me to the China Garden Restaurant (1602 Leeland, 713-652-0745). After navigating through a few out-of-place tables, we climbed onto a couple of barstools. It felt like we were the first people to actually sit at the bar. The omnipresent TV was playing stupid Monday-night sitcoms, but overall it was a nice place to have a beverage. The girl who brought our egg rolls seemed baffled by our drink orders, so she sent over a guy named Richard. "Oh, you like the expensive kind" was all he said when I asked for an Absolut Mandarin and soda. "Do you want a lemon with that?" But the wedge of fruit he put in my drink looked like it had an identity problem. When I asked him about it, he said, "You know, with the price of lemons fluctuating so much, we decided to plant a lemon tree behind the restaurant." I imagined how much effort went into planting a tree when the only thing a good martini required was a simple twist. "But somehow," he went on, "it got crossed with an orange tree." With that, he walked away. The egg rolls tasted so good, we got four more. I chewed thoughtfully, wondering about that tree.
1-3/4 ounces Absolut Mandarin vodka
3/4 ounces soda water
Wedge of "lemorange"
In an old-fashioned glass filled with ice, measure out the vodka. Top off with soda and add fruit. - J.W. Crooker
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Go ahead: Feel superior. After all, you'll be drinking Mot & Chandon champagne in an exclusive downtown lounge, entered only through unmarked doors and a staircase. At "Higher," a new monthly party at Up Lounge, expect sleek twentysomething professionals. DJ Larose will spin hip-hop, R&B, reggae and old-school classics while guests lounge on leather couches, nursing $3 martinis and discounted champagne. The event happens the third Thursday of each month, but you'll want to say you were there the first night, this Thursday, January 20, at 9 p.m. 312 Main (above the Hub). For information, call 713-224-8880. $10. - Julia Ramey
Female celebs are wearing fur (real and fake). Guys like Nelly are sporting mint-colored Topsiders. That's hip and all, but nothing quite beats getting dolled up Great Gatsby-style for a night out. Now the chic and the folks who stalk them have a new after-hours hangout, courtesy of "Vintage," held, rather fittingly, at Dean's Credit Clothing. After you've done the NoDo thing Saturday night, saunter in for DJ Ric DeBarros's beats in the Main Room or watch Jessica Lozano spin in the Groove Lounge. The stylishly superior can mingle in their vintage threads (strongly encouraged) or even show 'em off on a runway. 3 a.m. Sunday, January 23. 316 Main. For information, call 713-227-3326 or visit www.deanscreditclothing.com. $20. -- Steven Devadanam