It's 11:45 p.m. on a Saturday evening at Washington Corridor's phonetically correct nightclub Ei8ht (5102 Washington), and it's utterly packed.
Actually, the word "nightclub" feels inadequate to describe this place, which is less than nine weeks old. Rich's (2401 San Jacinto) is a nightclub. Despite its name, so is Pandora Lounge (1815 Washington). Ei8ht feels more like a nightlife factory. Though not nearly as big as Hush (15625 Katy Fwy.), it dwarfs just about every other WaCo venue.
Did we mention it's utterly packed? It's prettymuchlikethis wherever you go. Management insists today's attendance is "closer to 430," about average for a weekend night.
The dance floor is too dense for actual dancing. Most people are standing there, pretending like the only reason they aren't dancing is that it's too crowded. They bounce up and down when house music is playing, and sway back and forth while doing that "put your hand in the air and pump it up and down" thing when hip-hop is on. Otherwise, they're trying to slither through the crowd so they can get to another spot on the floor to stand, bounce, sway or slither again.
Not to dwell on it, but the dance floor is so full that it goes beyond being frustrating and becomes kind of astonishing.
The energy inside Ei8ht is palpable. At times, it's even transformative. The DJ pumps "Swagga Like Us," a T.I./Jay-Z/Kanye/Lil Wayne super-track largely derided on music blogs as underwhelming, but in this context, it's every bit as compelling as it should have been. (We went home and listened to it on the computer, and it sucked again.)
Ei8ht has a few tawdry elements — the entrance is a Hollywood-style red-carpet walkway, which a closed-circuit camera broadcasts inside the club — but all in all, it's refined. One of the smart things the owners, the same guys who brought you Pub Fiction (2303 Smith) and Shot Bar (2315 Bagby), did when designing the venue was accentuate the DJ.
Rather than tuck him (or her) away in a cubby or out of sight in the corner, the DJ is prominently displayed at the head of the dance floor, which encourages the party atmosphere. Fewer big new clubs seem to be using this method, so it's neat to see it work outso well.
"This is definitely a step up from the mainstream nightclubs that I've been to in Houston," says Nancy Ortiz, a 24-year-old student at Texas Women's University in Dallas. "Bond, Europa, it's better than those types of places."
The VIP areas are set up either near the dance floor and DJ area, where the club's meeker patrons can properly bask in the high rollers' splendor, or they line the edges of the room. Those alcoves also feature nifty little curtains for added privacy.
The club's two patios offer revelers at least some relief from the packed conditions inside. One, at the front, has a mildly fashionable water fountain that gradually fills up with bottles and cups as the night progresses; the much smaller one, on the second story, features its own tiny bar.
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Even near 2 a.m., Ei8ht's crowd does not wane. It's likely the closest thing Houston currently has to a total "nightclub" experience.
Take that as an indictment if you're allergic to all things glitzy, but there's no denying an evening here crackles with the undeniable buzz of the "It" spot — which, at the moment, Ei8ht absolutely is.
DJs are an integral part of the nightlife ecosystem, but for a while, the lesser-known spinners were getting a real crotch-punch with regards to the limelight, which is why we were so glad to see Ei8ht positioning its DJs so prominently. We think Danseparc — the spastic DJ superduo seven years strong — would absolutely shine in such a setting, but Danseparc's Shu Latif doesn't. "I mean, yeah, it's good to be able to see the DJ," she says, "but I'm not really down with putting them onstage like an act, [because] there's not much to really see." Fair enough. Happily anonymous Danseparc spins once a month at Numbers (300 Westheimer) or online at danseparc.numbersnightclub.com.