Conventional wisdom tells us that, generally speaking, any Midtown bar that opened in the past few years is apt to be filled with young, shiny pricks — and that these days, DJs generally take the path of least resistance.
Conventional wisdom, it would appear, ain't necessarily so.
Meet Fernando, single-named DJ of 15 years. Fernando, whom you may have also heard referred to as Soultower 606, is a regular Saturday-night DJ at Midtown's three month-old Community Bar (2703 Smith).
Today, he's got our undivided attention because a) in lieu of the expected MacBook, he's opted to cart out actual decks and LPs; and b) he's spinning a soulful acid-jazz set that briefly includes a bit of Al Green, a clear violation of Midtown's statute that allows only blaring house and Top 40 mash-ups to be mixed together.
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"You know what it is?" admits Fernando when asked why many DJs have abandoned the traditional tools of their past. "Laziness. I'll be honest: It's laziness.
"You see all this shit I have to carry?" he adds, gesturing towards two turntables and a few bags of records.
"I call him DJ 6'6"," interjects Bob Covington.
Mind you, we didn't ask Bob what he calls Fernando, but if you've ever met Bob — and if you've been to Etro Lounge (1424 Westheimer), Farrago (318 W. Gray) or the now-defunct 8.0, just a few of the places he's worked, chances are you have — then you know that's not really an impediment for him to start up a conversation.
Covington is a longtime card-carrying member of the Houston Nightlife Guild, with roots set down deep in Montrose soil. And while he may not be the owner of Community Bar — that'd be first-time entrepreneur Chris Armitage — he's played just as big a part in helping establish its persona of a neighborhood bar for adults.
"I'm from around here; most of us are," says Covington. "Back then it didn't matter, we were all younger and hanging out at Emo's and stuff. We didn't worry about anything, but now we wanna drink out of glasses, we want clean restrooms."
When asked why they're visiting, or even how they came to know about CB, "I'm here because of Bob" is the default refrain for already-regulars like filmmaker Kevin Squyres and investment banker Beth Carmel.
Despite being mostly completed, the bar's official grand opening is still a week or two away. The space itself is small — 1,500 square feet, alleges Armitage, although it feels smaller. But Community Bar is well put-together.
The exterior is currently sign-less, save a generic marquee and a chalkboard sign to the right of the front door that's nearly impossible to see from the street. Inside, terrazzo-tiled floors, muted neutral-colored walls and black accents vouch for the bar's coveted grown-folks vibe. As do the patrons, most of whom are between 30 and 40, mostly white but occasionally Hispanic.
Armitage says a typical night at Community Bar is laid-back and adult-oriented. We know he's telling the truth, too, because when he says it he's wearing a pair of Converse-like shoes and sweater sans collared shirt underneath. Also, attorney Amanda Jones vouches for him, and attorneys are always trustworthy.
"Mellow Austin hipster," is how she describes it, "with an urban hot ginger spice edge," noting CB serves food (made from scratch) until 2 a.m.
If you're paying attention, though, a couple of tell-tale signs hint at a racy past beneath the mature veneer of some CB patrons. Near the bathrooms, a chalkboard wall available for customers to mark up at will contains only five messages, one of which is a drawing of a penis. Old habits die hard, it seems.
Back out front, green curry coconut chicken dishes are balanced by $2 Lone Stars, and slick weekend DJ sets are offset by Monday's live acoustic performances, currently highlighted by Calvin Stanley, frontman for Houston rockers Pale.
But it's an interesting idea to consider, a non-trendy (and thus trendy) Midtown adult neighborhood bar, because it opens the venue up for rebuke from both sides. Those who frequent the likes of Citizen Lounge (4606 Washington) or The Drake (1902 Washington) may find it not hip enough, while those who regularly visit bona fide neighborhood taverns may find it inching towards too much glitz. Eventually it will probably lean heavier to one side than the other, but for the time being, we're quite certain Chris and Bob will be happy to have you stop by.
"When we first opened, I thought we were going to be a gay bar," says Covington. "I was like, 'Fuck it,' I'll tell the DJ to throw some disco on. It doesn't matter to us."
Word on the hipster street is that Midtown is already in the very early stages of its inevitable fall from the beautiful people's fickle graces. We bring this up because we'd hate for you to be embarrassed when your friends ask which places to hit up and you say something soooo last year — like if someone asks you which movie you'd like to go see and you say I Am Legend. That shit is already on HBO, yo. Until further notice, the following spots are officially classified as HBO venues: Zeppelin (3101 San Jacinto), Epic (3030 Travis), Swivel (2621 Milam), Rich's (2401 San Jacinto) and Status (2404 San Jacinto). As for alternatives, try Block 21 (2420 Washington), Reign Lounge (4105 Washington) and Blue Label (4500 Washington) — though Washington itself is well on its way to becoming a similar douche-laden minefield.
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