What's better than sex? Sex and a cigarette, evidently. At least that's implied in Stereo Hogzz's catchy "Sex and a Cigarette," a spacey, digitized, Trey Songz-ian sexing-up of your ears.
The Hogzz are a five-man Houston R&B group. They've been together for a year or so and do complex dances in unison. All five are thin and handsome, and dress cool relative to R&B groups: They wear scarves and vests and sunglasses when it's dark.
Not surprisingly, Stereo Hogzz enjoy the company of many females when they are out. Tonight they're one of the performing acts at the second installment of the "A Muse Abused" party series at Midtown's Plush Lounge (2700 Milam).
Like the Hogzz, Plush has been around for about a year. The bar opened in early July 2009, shortly after the property's tenant for the previous five years, Bond Lounge, closed.
Plush kept Bond's big ten-by-ten-foot projection screens, and still emits an L.A.-ish vibe. The restrooms are still pretty bad, and it's still marketed as a shiny, energetic, dancetastic place for shiny, energetic, dancetastic people.
One thing that didn't carry over, though, is the "They Only Let White People In" stigma that always seemed to dog Bond. Tonight, for example, the crowd is almost exclusively black. Most nights, it edges towards being more than 50 percent Hispanic.
"We aren't racists," jokes Plush's affable manager and self-proclaimed best bartender in Houston, Kashmir Cortave.
Imani Rose, who organizes A Muse Abused, cosigns.
Rose is a former celebrity assistant turned party planner/promoter. You might recognize her name from the "Live Color" events at The Flat (1701 Commonwealth) this past April.
A Muse Abused is a three-part party series aimed at "reigniting some spirit of culture."
"It was disheartening to go out and hear MCs saying misogynistic things and seeing women clapping for it," says Rose. "Basically, people are out there exploiting people's ignorance. That's not okay.
"A lot of people recognize the music of Tupac or Kurt Cobain or the work of Andy Warhol," she continues. "But they don't recognize the impact it's had on our culture."
Each event spotlights a few artists Rose feels are connected in some way. At the end of June, the first A Muse Abused paid homage to Marilyn Monroe, Warhol and Edie Sedgwick. The next one will string together Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears and Rihanna.
Tonight, Cobain and Shakur are the guests of honor, with flannels and bandannas in abundance. One artist's music plays while videos of the other stream onto the screens.
People drink and talk and stand around.
Every 30 to 45 minutes, a local artist performs a song or two, most often choosing to cover something from Shakur's catalog. Best Impersonation goes to Montana of rap duo ATW for his rendition of "Ambitionz Az a Ridah." Not only is he wearing a version of 'Pac's iconic white bandanna with the knotted end on the forehead, but Montana seems to have taken the time to learn all the song's lyrics. Preparation, kids.
Most in attendance seem to have a proper good time. Some plan to come back.
"I went to the first one," says 23-year-old Alisha Collins. "It was fun, but I came late so I didn't get to see much. I'll come to the next one as well. [The performer] doesn't matter — I just want to support something fun and artistic."
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That's certainly nicer than some of the things people were saying about Bond.
"A Muse Abused"
This time, three acts performed at Plush: Montana, Stereo Hogzz and Ricquo Jones. Though the Hogzz were easily the most enjoyable performance to watch — any time you see five guys dance like robots at the exact same time is a winner — all three were pretty fly. And wouldn't you know it, they're all out there on the Internet: Montana at www.facebook.com/montana.atw; Jones at www.myspace.com/sentfrommars; and Stereo Hogzz at www.myspace.com/stereohogzz.