Albert Rowan, better known as DJ Bizz, is in a rueful mood. After a year's absence from the local house scene (he'd retreated to the more esteemed DJ booths of San Francisco), Rowan has come home and faced the facts. "Man, you know what?" he says. "Those days are long gone. They ain't never coming back."
The glory days he's referring to are the Wednesday nights he spent spinning at "Trippin' tha Love," the randy, mid-week house party he headlined for a couple of years. It was a night to be proud of: "We had the best DJs, the best flyers, the best people, we had everything," Rowan remembers.
As reported in this column two weeks ago, "Trippin' tha Love," as well as Club Upscale's Thursday-night dance playground, "COMMunity" (5851 Southwest Freeway), have both closed their doors. An early hint that the party was winding down came when the organizers of these weeklies dismantled their drum-and-bass rooms earlier this year. Since both events lasted a considerable time ("Trippin'" for two years; "COMMunity" a year and a half), house enthusiasts are upset to see them go. "It took a big punch out of the scene," says DJ/promoter John "Kung Fu Pimp" Tran.
Many feel his long-running "Friday Night Karma" showcase at Club Space (799 St. Emanuel), along with the house nights over at Hyperia (2001 Commerce), may now have to pick up the slack for "COMMunity" and "Trippin'." "It's pretty bad when the scene doesn't have those two strong nights to start off the week," says Tran. "Usually the week starts off with a lot of people on Wednesday checking out a good DJ. On Thursday, they check out some good house or drum-and-bass, and then Friday, you do the 'Karma' thing, and Saturday, you do the Hyperia thing. Now, it's totally different. It just feels weird now."
While the defunct events differed in aesthetic approach, they were both after the same thing: a weekly party for grown-up rave kids who still crave good house music. Despite its raunchy advertising tactics (to promote "Santa's Little Hookers" month last December, the organizers distributed flyers depicting Santa and a thong-wearing babe riding a giant candy cane) and even racier promotional stunts like wet T-shirt and thong contests, "Trippin'" did offer some decent house/D&B grooves from locals like Bizz, Cosmic Cat, Brotha Jibril and visiting deckers DJ Dan and DJ Funk. For its part, "COMMunity" could best be described as a funhouse for the underground dance junkie. Young patrons could wander through its warren of interconnecting rooms, getting tastes of different grooves from a vast network of residents such as Ethan Klein and Chello, as well as special guest spinners Julius Papp and Derrick Carter.
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The fall of "Trippin'" was precipitated by a change of venue. When organizer Dan Cusma moved the show from The Orbit Room (now The Axiom, 2524 McKinney) to Midtown haunt Rich's (2401 San Jacinto) last fall, attendance fell off sharply. Bizz believes downtown construction was to blame for the decline. "The construction messed things up so badly that streets they weren't even working on were affected," says Bizz, who also hints that the club's rep as a predominantly gay nightspot may have scared off some of the more sexually insecure clientele. Whatever the reason, in late January "Trippin'" stopped tripping.
"COMMunity," on the other hand, simply fizzled out. Even college-night promos and veteran hip-hop DJ Ceeplus couldn't reel in a consistent crowd week in, week out. "Nothing was really working," admits Klein. "We let it go as far as we could, and we just shut it down."
And ultimately, everyone involved with both nights realized that organizing house events is a young person's game. "COMMunity" leader Kelly McCann recently had a baby. Cusma got married last summer and reportedly plans to move to Vegas. Bizz and Klein are looking, independently, to start up a house/hip-hop night in Midtown geared toward mature clubgoers. But to put it bluntly, they're getting too old for this shit. "They're just kinda getting tired of dealing with the younger kids, and a new batch of kids will be coming in," says Klein.
The possibility of some young punks resurrecting that weekly house-party vibe is ever present, but it's still a shame to lose "Trippin' tha Love" and "COMMunity." They were more than just places where young adults could roll out during the week, and more than showcases for local DJ talent. They also brought many a revered out-of-town DJ to our neck of the woods. For Houston fans, house never had homes quite like these.