It's 2:15 on a Sunday, and Club La Noche is filling up quickly. Several members of the band, the cumbia-spouting eight-piece Grupo Rayon, are swinging side to side. Their energy spills out onto the dance floor.
People are dancing and drinking and laughing and talking. A few people are eating. Security is stationed at each of the club's two entrances, their expressions alternating between stern glares and smiles. There are men, women and babies inside.
Not metaphorical babies like the beautiful babies Vince Vaughn obsesses over in 1996's Swingers. These are real, legitimate, Pampers-clad babies. The age range at La Noche is literally from a few months to 50-plus years. One infant is even dressed exactly like his papa, in matching jeans, boots, vest and cowboy hat.
There are other kids, too, some playing video games and others piddling around on the pool tables upstairs. Nobody cares.
You see, Club La Noche, a warehouse attached to the Houston Indoor Flea Market (6116 Windswept Ln.), is an all-ages venue. And on this Sunday, it's 2:15 in the afternoon.
Outside, the sun is high and bright. Club La Noche, which ironically translates to "nightclub," is a daytime-only venue.
A line of kids waits to ride ponies in the parking lot at $5 a ride, or $8 with a picture. A large group of people mills around a tent for Spanish radio stations 98.5 and 103.3 FM, and hundreds move back and forth across Windswept Lane, shopping and bargaining and generally being merry.
Houston Flea Market has been open for more than 40 years. According to its employees, the building that houses Club La Noche has hosted live music for more than two decades. Any number of regionally famous Spanish artists have stopped through.
Known within the music business as "regional Mexican," this kind of music is generally either accordion-heavy Norteño (think Ramon Ayala); Duranguense, Norteño plus a synthesizer and sped up some; or Tribal (or Trival) Guarachero, a variation that is especially popular with the younger crowd. Each is different from the others, but they are all rich and vibrant.
La Noche itself is cavernous, easily capable of holding several hundred people. It's mostly empty space, though, because at its peak it does exactly that — holds several hundred people.
There is a large stage at one side of the room, a large bar at the other and a dance floor between the two. A few neglected video games are shunted off to the side, and a handful of pool tables are scattered upstairs. Seating dots the second-floor balcony and the area around the dance floor on the first.
There's never a cover or a dress code. Folks simply wander in and out, some looking for a reprieve from the Houston heat, others for a Corona.
"I like the music," says Miguel Coronel, a 35-year-old construction worker, when asked why he bothers to go clubbing during the day instead of at night.
"It's safer to go out during the day than at night," he adds. "At night, people drink more and it's dark and there are more cops."
La Noche's hours mirror those of the flea market; it opens at 10 a.m. and closes by 9 p.m.
Juan Murillo, 26, captures perhaps the venue's greatest appeal in a tidy 14 words: "I like going to eat, buying stuff at the flea market and then dancing," he explains.
"It's basically a one-stop thing," Murillo continues. "I have to work early in the morning. This way I can go and have fun and still go to work."
As the day moves forward, La Noche flexes its muscles, rivaling anything any other club that operates at night can offer in terms of music and atmosphere. It's an exciting, enjoyable way to work a Saturday evening into a Sunday afternoon, even if it is a bit weird seeing stroller traffic in a club.
I mean, have you ever even seen a baby in a cowboy hat? That shit is undeniable.
Of the three forms of regional Mexican music listed above, Norteño, the most traditional, is our favorite — it's what our parents listen to, and what we're most familiar with — but Trival is definitely the most exciting. It's essentially house music for Latinos, like someone really wanted to know what it would sound like to blend Kumbia Kings and Kaskade. It's energetic and fresh and new, coming to prominence a little before the turn of the last decade and playing a significant role in the rise of the Latino hipster. If you have no idea what any of this means, download some music by Toy Selectah, DJ Erick Rincon, DJ Mouse and DJ Alan Rosales, then go read www.chuntaritos.com. It's like Look at This Fucking Hipster, except with melanin.
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