A Time to Chill
This is the weirdest straight night around!"
This is how local house DJ Champa Moore describes "Tastylick @ The Davenport," the weekly shindig that goes down every hump day at the Davenport Lounge (2117 Richmond). But don't misunderstand Moore's choice of words; he's referring to the puzzler of how a night of straight house music could attract such a wide array of spectators. "It's a very social environment," notes Moore. "You get people who don't really go out that much on the weekend out on a weeknight hearing some dance music -- and they start dancing." As Moore puts it, Tastylick is the kind of night where you may even find some Eskimos getting their martini on, just chillin'.
It's easy to see what Moore's talking about. Inside the kitschy Davenport, goth kids in leather and vinyl mingle with single white females who look to have stepped from the set of Sex and the City. Industry types cool off after a hard day's work, one potent White Russian at a time. Meanwhile, a rotating lineup of DJs sit on a couch, in what can best be described as a "den," working the wheels from a coffee table as a videotaped fireplace crackles nearby.
But it's not just the atmosphere that makes this night unique. Tastylick may be the first Houston example of a local record label putting on a weekly event featuring its own electronic dance music. Sure, Spundae Recordings dispatches in-house turntablists as well as special guest DJs to Hyperia (2001 Commerce) on the first Friday of every month, but they're based in San Francisco and send artists to clubs all over the world. Tastylick is a homegrown movement.
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Moore, Sean Carnahan, Vishnu and DJ Mir are the artists and founders of Tastylick Records. Their label/recording studio/production company prides itself on hashing out the most energetic progressive, garage and house grooves this side of the -- uh, what big ocean are we closest to?
"Three years ago, I wanted to have a studio -- a real studio, like I see when I go play out of town all the time," says Carnahan, who later built that studio at downtown's Houston House Apartments.
With a home in Houston House, the crew started looking for a way to take their house to Houston. Opportunity came knocking in 1999, when house veteran Jason Graeber came up with the concept for a deep house, trip-hop, two-step (the kind from London, not Pasadena) night at the Davenport. He called on nightlife DJ/ promoter Carnahan to hype it up and co-spin. But as Carnahan invited more of his Tastylick potnas to join in the fun, Graeber began to feel squeezed out.
"It went from two-step, garage, deep house to, you know, garagey vocal house, hard house and nu-NRG house," says Graeber. "The whole vibe of the night had changed." Graeber has since found a new gig at Boaka Bar (1010 Prairie). Carnahan and his posse bumped him off the Davenport about a year ago.
The Tastylick Four eventually started using the Davenport the same way its regular drinkers and thinkers do: as a place to chill. But the evening is not just about mellow house music; it's a rare chance for solitary DJs to revel in camaraderie.
"You have four guys that get together, that do work together, that play together," explains Vishnu, "so it's just everything that happens together is under one umbrella, regardless if it's playing out at Davenport or putting out tracks on the label, it's all under Tastylick."
The Tastylick night is also the DJs' weekly excuse to experiment, whether they're dropping the latest releases they've recorded under the Tastylick tag or testing out the mixes they'll unleash at their weekend residencies. The Tastylick Four do not cram their cars with vinyl copies of their brand-spanking-new compositions and go to the club looking to sell a few. (Carnahan says that if you like what you hear, you can always head out to the Montrose triumvirate of Atomic Music, Chemistry Records and Soundwaves.) Instead, the boys let their music hook hip audiences on the live experience.
Davenport owner Duane Bradley (no relation to the new KPFT station manager) is wowed by what the boys have accomplished in his little drinks room. A once-slow night is now booming, relatively speaking. He believes it's the music, along with the intimate environment, that brings people back to Tastylick. "Here, they can talk to the DJs," says Bradley, who recently opened another Davenport in San Antonio. "They're not up in a DJ booth. They can sit on the couch with 'em and really get more involved in the whole, um, genre of deejaying."
P.S. This Sunday the Tastylick Four will play a special St. Patrick's Day set. Green beer and leisurely house music -- that's not such a bad combination.
The Elbow Room (5757 Westheimer), a bar/restaurant/live venue in a Galleria-area strip mall, marked its first anniversary on March 1. The owner, a bar veteran known only as Sheriff, gave the place its name because he was "hoping it would be elbow to elbow" with patrons. So, has the Elbow Room been brimming with attendees? "We're not quite elbow to elbow," Sheriff says, "but we're working on it." The lawman and his deputies are trying to bring in the thirties-to-forties crowd by tempting them with soulful live music six nights a week (local acts like the Next Level Band and the Grateful Geezers have graced the Elbow's stage), a $5 weekend cover charge and some scrumptious steak dinner specials. Sheriff, who has a big anniversary blowout set for Wednesday, March 20, says his place is a hideaway for the seasoned and sophisticated. "We don't normally cater to the young crowd who likes cheap beer," he says. And that goes for all you old cats who like cheap beer, too.
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