"I don't really know how to put this, but I guess it's like Houston really kinda needed an enema," says local record-spinner Albert Rowan, better known as D.J. Bizz. "It needs to be washed out and it needs to be reconstructed."
The metaphor is apt: 2002 was a washout, high-colonic kind of year for the local dance scene. National legislation all but killed raves. Federal investigations into an international ecstasy ring stuck Spy (112 Travis) and The Hub (312 Main) in limbo -- and their owners in the most scalding of hot water. And local construction/devastation took care of much of the rest.
With raves on the endangered species list, DJs were forced to scramble for an ever-dwindling supply of club residencies. Venerable theme nights like Club Upscale's (5861 Southwest Freeway) "COMMunity" and Rich's (2401 San Jacinto) "Trippin' Tha Love" evaporated in the middle of the year. Major club closings included Neil Heller's underground-dance haven Hyperia, Main Street's Eurotrashy nerve center Prague and Club Space, where Kung Fu Pimp's "Friday Night Karma" once reigned supreme. And then there was the Spy/Hub hubbub. Reasons given for all the shutdowns ranged from the fickleness of clubbers to the flip side: the staleness of the clubs themselves. Clubgoers flocked to lower-profile areas like Washington Avenue and Montrose or even -- gasp! -- the Richmond-Westheimer strips, where they learned that the southwest side has many of downtown's problems, only without the trendy, glamorous pretense.
But has this bowel-cleansing left the scene healthier? For deep-house spinner Gracie Chavez Cardenas, yes -- in some ways. The end of this go-go, bigger-is-better era has, she says, prodded some DJs and producers to go back to their studios armed with a renewed dedication to their music. And with grandiose raves out of the picture, some deep and soulful house music has started popping up at small bars and lounges. "In spite of seminal clubs like Hyperia closing, social gatherings have become more intimate," says Cardenas. "It's time for change, innovation."
As for Bizz, all he wants for the new year is for people to realize what they have and build on it. "I just wish that we could grow up," he says. "I wish our scene could grow into this massive thing that it should be."
It will have its first chance to do that on New Year's Eve. That night, 626 Productionz and Crossfade are hosting the "Hawaiian Tropic New Year's Eve Bash" at the 40,000-square-foot Lone Star Arena (5515 South Loop East), a Texas-sized throwdown that will feature former Hyperia spinner Michael DeGrace and Austin's Chris Specht along with Bizz, Cardenas and 13 other local and regional DJs.
To talk about this event, the Nightfly met up with 626's Jason Trahan and Tony Kennedy and Crossfade's Kerry Coorpana and Danny Duckworth at the Kirby Hooters restaurant. So, a corporate-sanctioned event for the 18-and-up crowd with a lengthy roster of dance DJs Wait a damn minute here -- isn't that a rave? "Raves were fun, but they don't happen anymore," clarifies Trahan. "But this is the newest version of it." Clearly, these guys have picked up on the fact that you can throw any kind of party as long as you brown-bag the dreaded R-word. The Scooby Doo Crew, which is doing the exact same thing on the exact same night, knows the drill, too. Their annual "Mystery Machine 2002" party at the International Ballroom (14035 South Main) is being called a "new-age multimedia concert" this year. Enema or no enema, rave or "new-age multimedia concert," some things remain the same.
Houston nightlife does have plenty of good points. More specifically, it has its good people. So in the spirit of People magazine's 25 Most Intriguing People, let's finish out the year by naming the 25 people that made going out at night not such a bad thing to do in 2002. And if your name is not on this list, remember -- I had room for only 25, and there's always next year:
1. Spy manager Bobby Stark: so cool he should have a Ben & Jerry's flavor named after him.
2. Mike Snow: the most bullshit-free DJ in town.
3. Kung Fu Pimp: for always being there.
4. DJ Sun: for always being there -- to bust my balls.
5. DJ Ceeplus: That Henry Mancini track you wove into the "Dynamite Lounge" set was cool.
6. Catherine Burnside: for playing that 2Pac melody on her violin at Cabo (6025 Richmond).
7. and 8. DJs Chicken George and Melodic: for giving me something good to listen to with my Paradise Soup at Café Compliqé (1525 Westheimer).
9. and 10. DJs Joe B. and Soul Free: for bringing old-school beats into the new millennium.
11. Sarah Fern: for being the flyest fly girl in town.
12. and 13. Chris and Gracie Chavez Cardenas: the Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager of Houston DJs.
14. SDF.3: the lovably relentless drum-'n'-bass advocate.
15. Crystal Lee and Lotus Lounge (412 Main): for inviting new things into their club.
16. Helios (411 Westheimer) owner Marianna Lemesoff: who always helps a brotha out.
17. Concert promoter Jeff Messina: Thanks for all those October hip-hop shows at the Engine Room (1515 Pease).
18. John Yeager: the spinner of many a delicious Prague tale.
19. and 20. Reginald Rhodes and Sedrick Brass of I-10 Media: for raising the bar for black nightlife.
21. David Edwards and the Mercury Room (1001 Prairie): for letting me be a power-mad doorman for a night.
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22. Kenneth Richardson and all the bouncers at Spy: for their playa-playa tutelage.
23. Yvette Perez and her unnervingly gorgeous Butterfli Divas team: for being unnervingly gorgeous.
24. John Finlay: who always knows the skinny.
25. Last but not least, Sean Carnahan and his Tastylick Records crew: Whether you believe it or not, it's interesting having you guys around.